In Hollywood, I imagine, the two sincerest forms of flattery are imitation and left-liberalism. As I suggested yesterday, Argo clinched its Oscar for best picture through the flattery of a left-liberal introduction and conclusion to its story about revolutionary Iran. But let’s not overlook the opening scene from Lincoln which, in my opinion, strikes the only false notes in this brilliant film.
That scene features an African-American soldier, in the aftermath of a bloody battle, complaining to Lincoln about pay disparities between black and white soldiers and, more generally, the absence of equal rights. Did such a conversation occur? Conceivably, but the complaining soldier seems like a time traveler, transported from a college campus in the 1960s.
The first scene closes with two white soldiers who happened to be present when Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address. They recite to Lincoln the first part of the speech. When the white soldiers exit to join their company, a black soldier takes up the recitation.
This fragment surely is fiction. The Gettysburg Address was not an “instant classic” and its wording would not have been known to any soldier, black or white, not in attendance.
Why did Lincoln open with this scene? Probably for the same reason Argo opened with its standard-issue liberal account of the rise of radical Islam in Iran — to meet the political correctness imperative.
In the case of Lincoln, the imperative was to bring heroic African-American characters into a movie about a Constitutional Amendment to ban slavery. To be sure, African-Americans appear in the course of the plot. But they appear as servants and a mistress. These characters are noble enough, but they aren’t superheroes.
Bringing black soldiers, fresh off of a military victory, into the movie bridges that gap. And having one of them remind Lincoln how far from equality African-Americans will remain after the war precludes excessive self-congratulation over passing the Thirteenth Amendment. Let’s not kid ourselves; Lincoln was great, but America will remain rotten for quite some time.
Finally, the recitation of the Gettysburg Address by black and white soldiers shows that, even though America will remain rotten, the seed has been planted for a “new birth of freedom.” “Progressives,” eventually, will take it from there.
As with Argo, the flattery is complete. The filmmakers have touched all of the left-liberal bases and can now get on with telling their story and hoping for that Oscar.
Here is Lincoln’s opening scene.