Sunday, February 15, 2009

"A good leader expects much, inspires greatly, and sets on fire those he is called to lead." ~James E. Faust

I recently finished reading David McCullough’s 650-page biography of John Adams. A few days later, I watched the HBO 7-part movie based on this book. I have to say that I am glad that I read the book first because I probably wouldn’t have read it at all if I had seen the movie first. David McCullough received a Pulitzer Prize for John Adams. He deserved it! (And I plan on reading the book again soon.)

McCullough is a gifted writer and a careful scholar of American history. Through reading this biography, I became another admirer of the patriot, John Adams, who was one of the key figures in the formation of our country. It was his vision which shaped and steered the country through its infancy. His wife, and dearest friend, Abigail, was his equal in intelligence as well as in patriot vision.

The Hollywood HBO version of McCullough’s book skewed the “patriot dream” of John Adams into a nightmare. Hollywood wanted us to see Adams’ faults. Of course, Adams had faults. But, after Hollywood was done inventing numerous demeaning scenes, Adams was barely recognizable as the same man depicted in McCullough’s 650-page epic.

In one scene, while John Adams is eating and talking to Thomas Jefferson, the director has Adams lean over and use the table cloth as a napkin for wiping his mouth. The intent of this scene had to be to show us that Adams was an uncultured hick in contrast to the elegant Thomas Jefferson.

In an earlier scene, Adams is teaching his young son about agriculture and the two of them are stirring manure with their bare hands and smelling it appreciatively. Why invent such a scene, if not to create disgust in the viewer and to lower Adams in our estimations?

I’m sure the movie producers justified such scenes as necessary to create or depict “realism.” They harbor the notion that for a potato to be a “real” potato, it must be shown with a great deal of dirt on it. However, according to a wise and insightful writer of the mid-20th century (Robert Frost), a potato doesn’t need the dirt to make it real; and that, furthermore, what "art" does is clean up the potato, rubbing the dirt off so that the real potato (without dirt) can be seen.

In contrast, as I read the book I don’t recall one word of “dirt.” When McCullough talked about Adams’ faults, it was done with judiciousness, understanding, and respect. Adams was never demeaned. (Nor were any of the other characters.) The conviction I received, as I read, was that Heavenly Father had raised up such men as Adams to be the founders of this nation and gave them tremendous strength, courage, and vision. That this experiment in creating a nation based on liberty actually succeeded was indeed a miracle.


Rebecca said...

I liked this blog a lot. I respect true passion and desire for greatness. Obviously John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and others invisioned the greatness of the United States and the freedoms that so many would be blessed with. I feel that Heavenly Father puts images in our minds to keep us on track to accomplish the great things that have happened; are currently happening and will happen on this great continent. This place is truly blessed. We would show our appreciation by abiding by the principals and commandments that have been laid before us.

Katscratchme said...

Hollywood frequently disappoints me. It seems that sensationalism and blockbuster weekends take precedence over the true soul and meaning of a story. I often cringe just a little when I contemplate watching a movie that I read as a book first.

Anonymous said...

Your blog made me want to read that book--and not watch the movie! I felt the same way about the past leaders of our country when I watched "Amazing Grace." I think in this case, Hollywood did something great (Of course, I am not even sure Hollywood produced this wonderful piece of work.) As I was reading the March Ensign, there was an article about how we as a people should take action in our country, and try to make a difference. I think it would take great courage and fear of God rather than man.