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Hoover Institute's Epstein: 'Butler' Distorts History

By    |   Monday, 26 Aug 2013 06:01 PM

"Lee Daniels' The Butler" is a well-made Hollywood drama, but it distorts the true history of racial progress in the United States, according to Richard Epstein, Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution.

"As drama it's fine," Epstein told "The Steve Malzberg Show" on Newsmax TV.
"The question, though, is what it tells you about race relations in the United States."

The movie, which is No. 1 at the box office in North America, stars Forest Whitaker, Oprah Winfrey, Robin Williams, John Cusack, Jane Fonda, and Vanessa Redgrave.

Story continues below.



Whitaker plays Cecil Gaines, a fictionalized version of real-life butler Eugene Allen, who served eight presidents at the White House beginning with Dwight Eisenhower.

But Epstein says the movie does not accurately portray the positive changes in race relations from the 1950s through the 1980s.

"The whole situation had completely turned over by the time that Reagan had become president and left. [There] was a bipartisan … consensus that this sort of rigid segregationist attitudes that exists in the South could no longer survive," Epstein said.

"[And] Allen had a really very different view of the world . . . He . . . didn't leave to go on political protest routes, but left because he was retiring at age 67.

"What they do is they add in an extra son to the fictional butler who becomes a protest leader … Every time there's trouble, he's there."

As well, Epstein said, the movie added sexual violence that was not part of the true story.

"They portrayed this as beginning on a plantation or a farm in Georgia in which this poor boy watches his mother raped and his father murdered in cold blood," he said.

"In fact … [Allen] was a man who was born in Virginia and worked his way up … The huge transformation of the Civil Rights movement was that it meant that people who engaged in hard work … could, in fact, rise up without the state coming back and beating them.”

But "The Butler" changes that progression because movies have to rely on drama and leave the mundane out.

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Lee Daniels' The Butler is a well-made Hollywood drama, but it distorts the true history of racial progress in the United States, according to Richard Epstein, Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution.
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2013-01-26
Monday, 26 Aug 2013 06:01 PM
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