« This Makes Us Happy | Main | Dude.... »

August 20, 2013

Hollywood Makes A True Story More "Interesting"

Shockingly, "The Butler" finds the authentic story of a black butler needs a bit of embellishment.

Well, OK. A lot of embellishment:

Born in 1919, Eugene Allen grew up in segregated Virginia, and slowly worked his way up the butler profession, largely without incident. Unlike the fictional Cecil Gaines, he did not watch the boss rape his mother on a Georgia farm, only to shoot a bullet through his father’s head as he starts to protest the incident, leading Cecil years later to escape his past for a better future.

Instead, over a period of years, Allen rose from a “pantry man” to the highest position in White House service, Maître d’hôtel. His life was marked by quiet distinction and personal happiness. He was married to the same woman, Helene, for 65 years. He had one son, Charles, who served in Vietnam. During the Reagan years, Nancy Reagan invited Allen and his wife to a state dinner as guests. When he retired shortly afterwards, “President Reagan wrote him a sweet note. Nancy Reagan hugged him, tight,” according to the story in the Washington Post. During service, he never said a word of criticism about any president. Nor was his resignation an act of political protest.

The fictional Cecil, however, does not come to the White House under Truman, but arrives in 1957, just in time for one of the defining events of the civil rights movement—namely, President Eisenhower’s reluctant but firm decision to move federal troops into Little Rock, Arkansas, after Orval Faubus quite literally barred the school room door.

In general, the movie is full of hype. Cecil’s wholly fictional older son Louis gets involved in the civil rights movement from the time of the sit-ins through the rise of the Black Panther movement, and a younger brother, who professes pride in his country pays the ultimate sacrifice in Vietnam. Cecil’s wife, Gloria, falls prey to alcoholism and for a time has a shabby affair with the guy next door.

Gaines’ service is marked by quiet frustration, knowing that black workers suffered a 40 percent wage deficit that lasted under the Reagan years, while being excluded from well-deserved promotions. When the weight of these injustices hit him, Cecil resigns to join his son Louis in a protest movement. When Slate’s, Aisha Harris was asked “How True is The Butler?” her candid answer was “not much.”.

After marinating in made up racial slights for the entire time it took to film this tribute to false memories, is it any wonder Oprah Winfrey became a tad bit overwrought?

It all seems sooooooooooooooooooooooo familiar. In the rear view window of history, other people's troubles have the power to injure us all over again.

Posted by Cassandra at August 20, 2013 06:36 PM

Trackback Pings

TrackBack URL for this entry:


Yet another sequela to Guerillas In The Myths.

Posted by: George Pal at August 21, 2013 09:57 AM

. It is unfortunate that Daniels did not start The Butler during the Truman years. In 1948, Truman decided to desegregate the U.S. armed forces by executive order. That action would have been unthinkable at the beginning of the Second World War, given the dominant southern presence in the military.

As opposed to today, when Southerners make up merely 40% of the military, and volunteer at a rate nearly double that of the enlightened northeast. All sorts of things are thinkable now that we got all those Southerners out of the armed forces.

Posted by: Grim at August 21, 2013 10:37 AM

"In the rear view window of history, other people's troubles have the power to injure us all over again."

Nope, I refuse to play the game. Let them rant and rail, I know the truth of Me.

Posted by: DL Sly at August 21, 2013 12:42 PM


Posted by: M'wah!!! at August 21, 2013 01:58 PM

The butler didn't do it? I knew it!
BTW, the protagonist in "Forest Gump" was actually based upon the life of Albert Einstein, just with more shrimp.

Posted by: spd rdr at August 21, 2013 02:21 PM

"...just with more shrimp."

And chah co laht.

Posted by: Snarkammando at August 21, 2013 03:38 PM

"RACIST! :)"

Umm, Dark Lord...I don't think so.

Posted by: DL Sly at August 21, 2013 08:03 PM

Always flaunting your Melanin Privilege. I see how you are.

Oh yes, I see.

Posted by: Cassandra at August 21, 2013 08:41 PM

"Oh yes, I see."

I don't know how you could, it's nighttime where you are......but, hey, as they say, "If ya got it, flaunt it."
*flaunt flaunt flaunt*

Posted by: DL Sly at August 22, 2013 12:34 AM