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Headline: Blindsided by the Truth
Fudging History
By Elliot Goldenberg / June 1, 2014

In a wonderful movie, A Few Good Men, a Navy lawyer, played by Tom Cruise, shouts during a pivotal scene to a Marine colonel on the witness stand, played by Jack Nicholson, "I want the truth!"

Nicholson's character famously shouts back, "You can't handle the truth!"

Speaking of the truth, did you ever watch a movie and have the person sitting next to you in the theater or your living room say that what you're watching on the screen is a "true story?"

Well, it isn't.

Let me assure you: there are no true stories in Hollywood. There are portrayals "based on a true story" and even that is usually stretching it. These stories may have a kernel of truth attached to them. But, because the characters are real people, that doesn't mean, as "Uncle" Walter Cronkite used to say, "that's the way it was."
The problem is, we have kids growing up, not to mention adults, who not only know little about history -- unless they're watching Ken Burns' documentaries -- they can't separate what's real from what isn't.

For instance, Hollywood, which for the most part is far more liberal than conservative, makes a movie about Ronald Reagan or Sarah Palin and both don't appear to be the sharpest tools in the shed. This is called dramatic license. What it is not, necessarily, is truthful.

It can go the other way, as well. Imagine if a screenplay was written by, say, Ann Coulter, and it was a biopic of the life of Senator Ted Cruz, who has a strange physical resemblance to Senator Joseph McCarthy, and is possibly his reincarnation. Coulter's story would probably have him walking on water.

While well-meaning, Steven Spielberg is particularly guilty of fudging history or employing writers who do so. U.S Representative Joe Courtney, a Democrat from Connecticut, noted that, in a key scene in the movie Lincoln, directed by Spielberg, the House of Representatives votes on the 13th Amendment, which ultimately abolished slavery. In a roll call for the vote in the House, the movie has two of Connecticut's House members voting against the amendment. That never happened, especially since Connecticut was a northern state that obviously was part of the Union. "How could congressmen from Connecticut, a state that supported President Lincoln, have been on the wrong side of history?" Courtney asked.

But this fabricated conflict added drama to the story, so the truth went out the window.

In the movie JFK, director Oliver Stone admittedly also crossed that line. The same could be said of Cinderella Man, about fighter James J. Braddock, in which heavyweight champion Max Baer is wrongly portrayed as a ruthless bully. When the movie came out, this was strongly protested by his son, Max Baer, Jr., who played Jethro on The Beverly Hillbillies, and was upset with Cinderella Man's director, Ron Howard, also known as Opie from his days on TV's "The Andy Griffith Show."

The movie Blind Side, about NFL offensive lineman Michael Oher, is another example. Blind Side is a heartwarming, feel-good movie, and Sandra Bullock, as "Big Mike's" adoptive legal guardian, deserved her Academy Award. Nevertheless, some of the things depicted in the film, such as Oher's early struggles with the basics of football, were "ridiculous," Oher said, adding that he "always knew how to block."

Still, the story is inspirational. But so much of it is untrue that, while Oher felt the movie "was great," he also felt that he was "blindsided."

So if you really want to learn real history, watch the History Channel, or read a good book by Steven Ambrose or David McCollough. And don't believe everything you're getting from Hollywood.

Then remember the immortal words of Mark Twain, who once said, tongue-in-cheek, "Never let the facts get in the way of a good story."




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