Hollywood Ignores the Founding Fathers
As we get ready to celebrate another Independence Day, I wanted to reflect upon just how thoroughly the entertainment industry has ignored both the general topic of our nation’s founding, and in particular the legendary individuals who were instrumental in establishing our independence.
Even as a youngster, I wondered about the dearth of old movies about the American Revolution. It’s hard to understand why none of the powerful Hollywood studios saw fit to film a bio-pic about George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin or any other Founding Father. There were multiple films about Lincoln, and British royalty was covered quite well, with everyone from Henry the Eighth to Queen Elizabeth accorded their own pictures. Even British politician Benjamin Disraeli had his life chronicled onscreen. There was a lengthy silent film about Napoleon, and a big budget 1938 extravaganza devoted to Marie Antoinette.
How do we logically explain this? Hollywood certainly never shied away from American heroes and legends. Thomas Edison had a bio-pic devoted to him. So did Mark Twain. Walt Disney discovered a gold mine in Davy Crockett. The Alamo has been an enduring favorite in Hollywood. Even a mediocre president like Andrew Johnson was given his own film, and there was another production revolving around a woman associated with President Andrew Jackson. Why nothing about Washington or Jefferson? Why no stirring film about the revolution itself, with dramatic scenes of the Boston Tea Party and Paul Revere’s ride?
When Mel Gibson starred in a major film about the War for Independence in 2000, The Patriot, it garnered an astonishing amount of criticism. The New York Times and other mainstream media outlets objected to the overtly negative depiction of the British in the film. British newspapers called Francis “The Swamp Fox” Marion, whose Gibson’s character was loosely based upon, “a serial rapist.” Clearly, the media was uncomfortable with the very issue of our founding, and objected to the way that those who tried to prevent it were characterized in one of the few movies to even venture into that historical era.
So why did Hollywood decide to pen epics about Annie Oakley, Charles Lindbergh, Woodrow Wilson and Buffalo Bill, while ignoring the most legendary names from our history? Was it because they desired to steer away from the topic of rebellion, the delineation of individual rights, which would inevitably arise in any accurate recounting of our nation’s birth? There is no “safe” way to present the stories of men like Thomas Paine, Patrick Henry or Thomas Jefferson. Their radicalism would shine through to audiences, and perhaps there was a fear that their revolutionary fervor might prove contagious.
It is an indisputable fact that, even during the period when patriotic fervor in America was at its peak, none of the greatest patriots rated their own film from Hollywood, nor did the story of their struggle. I find it impossible to believe that no screenwriter ever came up with such a script, or that no publicist ever advised any studio of how potentially lucrative such a film would be. Where was the Gone With the Wind of the American Revolution?
If Hollywood deals with the Founding Fathers nowadays, it’s to denigrate them, to dismiss them as dead white racists. The issue of slavery would be featured prominently, and their association with it would serve to discredit their timeless words about human liberty, and their epic battle for independence, for which they did indeed risk their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor.
Our Founders devised the closest thing to a perfect form of government. The beauty of the checks and balances, and the majesty of the Bill of Rights, are the cornerstone of our republic. The fact that these balances were long ago shifted, so that the legislative branch has become an impotent rubber stamp for the executive branch, and the judicial branch has usurped authority it was never intended to have, is all the more reason to grieve over what once was. Even sadder is the fact that none of the branches pay the slightest credence to the Bill of Rights any longer, and amazingly most Americans seem oblivious to this or even approve.
One of the most magical footnotes from American history concerns the death of Founding Fathers Thomas Jefferson and John Adams. Both Jefferson and Adams, by a coincidence of cosmic proportions, happened to die on the same day, July 4, 1826, the fiftieth anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Whether this was somehow due to Divine Providence, it remains a most remarkable historical reality.
If these Founding Fathers, scorned and neglected by Hollywood and our present-day mainstream media, were alive today, they would all be banished from polite society in short order. Even the most establishment figure among them- Alexander Hamilton, who is about to be replaced for politically correct reasons on the ten dollar bill- would be labeled an “extremist” and unwelcome in either of our carbon-copy major political parties.
They would not be in a celebratory mood, as they observed seemingly a new unconstitutional directive emanating from our leaders every week, an economy on life support, systemic corruption that has overwhelmed all our institutions, and a dumbed-down public that doesn’t even seem to notice, let alone care. They would realize all their efforts had been in vain, and they certainly wouldn’t stay around for the fireworks.