The Butler and Racism in America

Big Red Car here.  If you haven’t heard about the new movie The Butler please go get a physical right away.  Haha, funny stuff, Big Red Car.

The movie is the “true” life story of a black butler — Cecil Gaines in the movie and Gene Allen in the real world — in the White House who served Presidents from Harry Truman to Ronald Reagan.  It is a racial road map of America and how its views on race evolved over a protracted period of time with a lens held up to the Oval Office.

It stars an interesting cast including Forrest Whitaker, Oprah Winfrey, Jane Fonda, Terrence Howard, Cuba Gooding, Jr, Robin Williams and the BRC’s personal favorite — Minka Kelly.

You may think that the BRC is goofing about Minka Kelly but you have to remember one important thang:  Friday Night Lights, filmed in the ATX.

The truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth

Well, the movie is “inspired” by a true story and it does take place in the White House but the truth?  Hmmm, not the whole truth.

The story — which is and was a damn good story in and of itself and arguably needed the addition of…………………..nothing — was adapted and twisted and made a bit more dramatic by the addition of characters and elements of the story that simply did not exist.

This would normally cause nobody any real concern, Hell movies are “made up” stuff anyway, right?

Well, Old Sport, where it makes a difference is that these additions seek to make the story more desperate from the perspective of race and drumming up racial tensions.  They tell the story in a manner that is infinitely more inflammatory and alarming.  The truth was bad enough.

The Jane Fonda element

So, Jane Fonda plays Nancy Reagan in the movie.  I suppose this is a publicity stunt intended to rile up that generation and get some buzz for the movie.  Yawn!  Jane Fonda is old news.

This, of course, resurrects the entire Hanoi Jane saga wherein folks may suggest that Hanoi Jane provided aid and succor to our enemies in North Viet Nam at the height of the Viet Nam War.

The Big Red Car thinks she was always an idiot so the notion that posing on an NVA anti-aircraft gun made her more idiotic is not really a stretch.  It’s no stretch of the truth to embrace the notion that she was a traitor to her country.

Of course, she has not done any PSAs for the Taliban or Al Qaeda recently, so who are we to really judge?

Some may say:  “Hey, Big Red Car, that is not exactly the high hurdles you’re erecting there, Old Sport!”  

To which the Big Red Car says:  “Play on, player.  Play on.” 

Nonetheless, it adds a bit of spice to the chowder.

The truth and its cousins

So, Big Red Car, what liberties has the movie taken that have you all upset on a Wednesday morning bright and early?

1.  The movie shows the Butler’s mother being raped by some white folks in the hood.  NEVER HAPPENED!

2.  The movie shows the Butler’s father being killed by some white folks in the hood.  NEVER HAPPENED!

3.  The movie shows the Butler getting started in life as a cotton picker.  NEVER HAPPENED!  In fact, the Butler grew up in Virginia and led a perfectly normal life of a black man of his times.  Normal does not sell movies, apparently.

4.  The Butler’s wife is a depicted as a drunken adulterer.  DID NOT HAPPEN!  Mrs Gaines was a perfectly sweet and nice person who lived a perfectly normal life.  Oprah plays this woman so maybe they had to rewrite the role for her big screen presence, who knows?

5.  The Butler’s son is depicted as having been killed in Viet Nam.  DID NOT HAPPEN!  He is still alive and kicking.  The Big Red Car would love to know the son’s view of this movie which simultaneously celebrates and savages his family’s story.

6.  The Butler’s other son is depicted as a Black Panther and a civil rights activist.  Problem?  THE BUTLER ONLY HAD ONE SON

So, you have to ask yourself, why?  Why with a perfectly good story at its foundation did the producer find it necessary to add the above racially negative incidents to tell the story?

The mustard on the hot dog

If the above are not alarming enough, the movie adds other fabrications which are clearly intended to attack Republican presidents and cast them in an unfavorable light.

1.  The movie suggests that the Butler left the Reagan White House enraged by Reagan’s attitude toward racial apartheid in South Africa.  DID NOT HAPPEN!  The Butler left with a hug from Reagan and a sincere thanks.

2.  The movie suggests that Reagan was slightly senile to boot — a fact that has nothing to do with the story and is a gratuitous shot at a great man.

3.  The movie suggests that Dwight David Eisenhower was an ineffective and clueless leader when the guy balanced eight straight budgets, kept the US out of war (his family business), initiated the Interstate Highway system and built the American nuclear arsenal all while admonishing the country to “beware the military-industrial complex”.  A damn good performance and an even better bit of advice as things have turned out.

Big Red Car wishes for a bit of Eisenhower effectiveness, but that’s a story for another day.

Impact on race

We have a black President.  OK, Big Red Car admits he is only half black but apparently he does not know that.  So, we have a half black President posing as a black President.

What this means is that observations about or in the Oval Office can now be made not by a Butler but by a President.  Is that progress or not?

In any event, that is a milestone in the history of our country.  It is very difficult to argue that this is not a step forward as it relates to race.  The Big Red Car fervently believes it to be so and applauds its reality.  Throw in a black Attorney General and the progress is undeniable.

The sad reality is that race is a more and increasingly divisive concern today than the day that President Obama took the oath of office.  Much of it comes from the White House itself.

One may recall beer summits, rushes to judgment, disastrous black unemployment, Trayvon Martin, failure to prosecute Blank Panther election intimidation and other racially tinged issues.

What is troubling is that many of these issues are just as theatrical as The Butler — theater intended to inflame and enrage folks based on untruths.  A source of racial tension.

When the President said that he could have been Trayvon Martin thirty years earlier — not so fast, Mr President:  You’re half white, you were raised by white folks, went to a white private school, lived a life almost untouched by any racial discrimination, were educated at Occidental/Columbia/Harvard and were elected State Senator, US Senator and President of the United States.

Sure, you smoked a bit of choom and sold a bit of cocaine making you an ally of Trayvon Martin — but your life and Trayvon Martin’s life the same or even close?  No way, Mr President.  Not even close.

What the President did is play the race card to generate personal sympathy and to play to his liberal base.  He did not heal or put a salve on the nation’s wounds — he poured salt into them and asked whether anyone wanted a second helping.

What’s your beef with The Butler, Big Red Car?

So, the Big Red Car’s beef is this — The Butler is a great story twisted to create a false narrative of excessive and untrue racial tension and drama.  There is enough fuel for a wonderful story in the truth itself without injecting into it fabricated rape, murder, cotton picking, fake deaths and wholesale untruths.

Get a life, Hollywood.  Get real, Oprah.  Stop fanning racism.

The truth is a lovely mistress and should be revered in story telling and in racial concerns.  We have enough work to do without playing the race card.

Shame on all of ya’ll!

But, hey, what the Hell do I know anyway?  I’m just a Big Red Car.

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • I have met some authors who’s movies are going to the big screen. Once they sign the book rights over, it’s game over on control. They can only hope the movie does the book justice.

    • LE

      Justice schmustice. Let’s just hope it makes money.

  • Thanks for the review. I am not shocked that Hollywood twisted the story but the danger here is that it serves to increase the racial division. Also surprised to read the bit about Eisenhauer as the man was a great president.

    Thanks for the history fact checking!