where the writers are
Kushner wrong on `Lincoln'
Tony Kushner

Tony Kushner is a superb playwright (``Angels in America,'' ``Homebody/Kabul'', among many), but he's wrong in his argument with Connecticutt congressman Joe Courtney over the film ``Lincoln.''

Courtney, viewing the Steven Spielberg film, screenplay by Kushner, was thrown by a scene that indicates two Connecticutt representatives voted against the 13th Amendment abolishing slavery. The historical fact is that all four of the state's representatives voted to pass the 13th. No nays coming from Connecticutt in that historic vote.

So, Courtney objects to the scene. Kushner's retort is that he was simply trying to show that the vote was a very close thing. And, he adds:

``I hope nobody is shocked to learn that I also made up dialogue and imagined encounters and invented characters.''

Different thing.

We all know writers invent dialogue and situations, but we assume that they stick to historic fact when they can, and in the case of the 13th Amendment it seems there must have been another way around the issue than tagging Connecticutt with a false and negative fact. What would New York or Vermont have thought?

But really, what it comes down to is kids. Any kid into the film is probably not going to be sophisticated enough to realize that a writer might have changed an historic fact. That kid would probably carry from the film the impression that Connecticutt nearly changed American history in a very profound way.

The kid would carry that impression because we can assume the scene is dramatic – this is Kushner and Spielberg, after all.

Courtney's been fairly amiable about the controversy. He thinks it would be a good idea if the scene could somehow be corrected to reflect the truth when the film is issued as a dvd. Seems like a fair proposal.



2 Comment count
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So glad you said this!

I have a strong aversion to fiction that claims to be historical but falsifies facts.   (Though I did like the film very much. And if Joe Courtney had not pointed out the error, I would have never known the truth.)  I hope the dvd corrects this mistake.

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Sue, you wouldn't have known

the truth because you wouldn't think there was any reason to question what you were seeing and hearing. At least, that would be my response – I haven't seen it yet. I think Rep. Courtney's request is a reasonable one.