Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The real meaning of 'Lincoln'

At the risk of being entirely self-obsessed (the peanut gallery: a blogger? No!), I found myself thinking about  something I wrote the other day about the Lincoln movie:
The main focus of the debates back and forth was less about whether outlawing slavery was actually bad, and more about whether one should push ahead with bold civil rights initiatives that might have negative short-term consequences.
More than that, for a movie about the civil war, this had less action in the whole thing than most other civil war movies have in a given 3 minute period. Which leaves you wondering:

 -Why, when discussing the enormity of the civil war, would you focus almost exclusively on the messy politicking involved in passing the thirteenth amendment, rather than the much bigger issues of the war itself?

-Why focus relatively little on the question of the merits of slavery (unlike, say, Amistad), and focus entirely on whether it's wise to push ahead with a bold legal civil rights initiative that might have unknown short-term consequences, both political and social?

And then it occurred to me.

If you strip away the racial angle to the debates, the movie is an allegory for the passage of Obamacare. You have a bill that initially seems unlikely to pass, cunningly gotten over the line by a variety of questionable political wrangling and underhand tactics. You have a large majority of seats held by a party after a recent election, but a proposed bill that threatens to create internal divisions that the leader will need to win over. You have the bill's sponsors knowing that some folks will probably have to walk the political plank to get it passed. And you have Lincoln as Obama, the racial-healing figure not really getting involved in the messy debates, but working the crowd in the background to ensure things get passed. And sure enough, in the end everyone agrees it's a triumph.

Spielberg also donated $1 million to an Obama Super PAC, so you know that he definitely has an interest in the subject matter.

This hypothesis may sound wacky, but how else do you explain a movie called 'Lincoln', set in the middle of the Civil War, that has only 30 seconds of footage of battle, and even that as a scene-setting?

And if the 'Lincoln' movie isn't meaningfully about the Civil War, what else is it about?

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