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Past Is Prologue

By Joanna Robinson | Miscellaneous | January 10, 2011 |

By Joanna Robinson | Miscellaneous | January 10, 2011 |

It was announced on Friday that The History Channel has dropped the expensive and much-anticipated “The Kennedys” mini-series. Though The History Channel claims the series doesn’t measure up to their standard of historical accuracy (unlike their tent pole series “Ice Road Truckers”), there are rumors that it’s the Kennedy family itself that insisted the project be pulled. Mystery and conspiracy surrounding the Kennedys? Same as it ever was. Filming has been completed and they’re currently seeking a new distributor.

While this may seem like rather mundane trade news, the assassination attempt in Arizona this weekend opens some old wounds and raises some questions about our relationship with the media, politicians and our own lack of innocence. My grandmother, in reaction to updates about Gabrielle Gifford, could only manage, “She was such a pretty lady…gosh, she was so pretty.” Other folks, however, instantly lit up the internet with incendiary, rage-fueled diatribes, immediately laying blame at the feet of Conservative extremists. Both reactions are true and valid and perhaps it is unfair to compare the slaughter of a young president with the shooting of a congresswoman (who was nameless to most before this weekend). I do wonder, though, if after the collective national trauma of the Kennedy assassinations and 9/11 and countless other tragedies, we’ve become, inured. More quick to anger than to sadness, or is the anger just how we convey the sadness?

It’s the twin influences of glamor and tragedy that make the Kennedys such an immutable part of our nation’s story. JFK and RFK were both dead over ten years before I was born, but there are images, indelible images of their legacy that still pack an emotional wallop. Jackie in her pink Channel suit and the Kennedy boys romping on the beach at Hyannis Port all serve as shorthand for something else. Youth and despair, promise and potential cut short. It’s mildly jarring, then, to see them so faithfully reenacted in the trailer for the “The Kennedys” series (attached below). While the family is no stranger to film and television, I think it’s telling that the two biggest productions, JFK and Bobby, leave the Kennedys out or nearly out of the picture entirely. Those films are about us and our reactions, our emotions, our fears, and our paranoia. This miniseries is about them. (I don’t mean to neglect the miniseries RFK or the film Thirteen Days or any number of other projects, but I will argue that they weren’t nearly as high profile.)

So Jack (Greg Kinnear), Bobby (Barry Pepper) and Jackie (Katie Holmes and her simper) will finally taking center stage. The eight-hour series, should it find a new home, attempts to portray the entire saga, from youth to tragic, public death. I have to admit I find the trailer very compelling, particularly Pepper who I consider to be a great and greatly underused actor. The accents are, as always, problematic, but there’s no lack of glamor.

Joanna Robinson is just a chick with something to prove. Slightly bored and severely confused.

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