You don't have to watch her cable network to see Oprah Winfrey these days; the billionaire media powerhouse and occasional actress is busy promoting her new film, Lee Daniels' "The Butler'' as well as opening up some racial and political divisions in the bargain. It just goes to show you money doesn't give a person any extra common sense. Oprah's not the first idiot to compare Trayvon Martin to Emmett Till, a 14 year old Negro boy who was brutally beaten and killed by two brothers for supposedly flirting and whistling at one brother's wife in Mississippi in 1955. (See this early month's posting "No Comparison: Trayvon Martin was No Emmett Till)") It is a reckless comparison that fails to take any of the facts of the George Zimmerman case into account, aside from the race of the victim.
Last Thursday, CNN's Anderson Cooper interviewed Oprah and Forest Whitaker, both starring in the Oscar-touted ''The Butler'' film. During the interview, in which Cooper thoughtfully nodded as Winfrey and Whitaker race-baited about the Martin/Till comparison and adding that Americans were racist even if they didn't have ill will toward black people. DUH? When Cooper cited polls showing showing that black Americans were upset over the Trayvon verdict while white Americans thought too much had been made of the case, Oprah sighed, ''Oh, I know, I know. That's why I love the film in light of this discussion. I mean, look at the film, beginning with that lynching scene and ending with walking into Obama's office, look at what has happened in the span of a man's lifetime.''
Whitaker chimed in, ''This movie reminds us of the circular motion of things, we're looking at all these situations of black suffering and recognizing we have to move ourselves forward.'' Cooper then asked, ""It's amazing to me how people from different backgrounds see this.'' He then talked about a juror ''who did not understand, did not feel linked to Trayvon Martin, but felt connected to Zimmerman in a way, yet feeling race was not part of the case at all.'' Oprah couldn't wait to jump in, blurting, ''People don't feel it's race because people don't call it race. A lot of people think if they think they're not using the n-word themselves, they physically aren't using the n-word, and do not harbour ill will towards black people that it's not racist. But to me it's ridiculous to look at that case and not to think that was involved.''
The new film is a political drama that takes its cues from a Washington Post article about a black servant named Eugene Allen who worked in eight presidential administrations from 1952 to 1986.. That part of the story is essentially unchanged. The rest of the film, is a movie stuffed with left-leaning politics, historical re-creations and presidential imitations and is rife with inaccuracies that should be corrected. Such as:
- 1. President Ronald Reagan was indifferent to the suffering of people of colour. This week two Reagan biographers, Criag Shirley and Paul Kengor shredded this notion. Shirley detailed the president's legislative achievements and personal outreach to his black peers while Kengor asserted the film amounts to what he describes as ''Hollywood malpractice''. ''It is baseless to depict President Reagan as racially insensitive and indifferent to apartheid.''
- The Democrats helped pass the Civil Rights Act: This is more of an inaccuracy by omissions. The film showcases how both Presidents Kennedy and Johnson rallied on behalf of civil rights, but what's left out is the voting record on the historic Act. Turns out 80% of the NO votes in the Senate came from Democrats. It was the Republicans that teamed up with President Johnson to pass the legislation. After it passed, the film doesn't quote Johnson as saying, ''I'll have those n*ggers voting Democratic for the next 200 years!'' (Read my August 7th posting)
- President Nixon dismissed black Americans -- save for their votes: The film shows Nixon (John Cusack) promoting his upcoming election battle with Kennedy by giving campaign buttons to the butler and other black servers. His record on school integration outpaced his predecessors and Allen has spoken fondly of Nixon in press interviews.
- The Butler disliked President Reagan: The real Eugene Allen has expressed affection for all the presidents he served, noting he voted for each while they were in the White House. A framed photo of the Reagans was displayed on his living room wall and he got a hug from Nancy when he retired. Hardly sounds like the character played by Forest Whitaker, who appeared to be fed up with the Reagans and quit for that very reason. It's all Bullshit!
- The Butler met Obama: The film uses a framing device of the Butler waiting to meet personally with Obama. There's no official record of such a meeting, although Allen was a VIP guest at Obama's swearing in.
- Leftist screenwriter Danny Strong took tremendous liberties with Allen's life beyond the name change to Cecil Gaines. He gave the butler two sons, not one and made his wife (Oprah) a heavy drinker and fictionalized much of his story prior to entering the White House.
According to Oprah, she saw a nice handbag behind the shop assistant's head and asked to look at it. ''No, you don't want that one,'' the shop girl allegedly replied, ''you want this one, because that one will cost too much.,'' and showed her a similar, but cheaper handbag. Oprah was wounded. So when she left he shop she went straight onto Twitter, and then the Larry King Show, and then an interview outside some Hollywood bash, to rail against this act of blatant racism and to castigate the shop girl. ''Racists these days don't come up to you and call you something horrible to your face,'' she explained, ''it doesn't happen like that anymore.''
And what happened to the racist shop assistant? She says it didn't happen like that at all. She says Oprah inquired about the expensive bags and she showed her the cheaper ones which looked the same, just to be kind. She claims she offered to get the expensive bag down for Oprah but the star did not want to see it. By that time Oprah's Racist Paranoia kicked in. ''I'm so sorry, I'm sorry....it must have been a misunderstanding. I would never wish to offend Ms Winfrey in any way,'' said the shop assistant. And why, she asked, would a woman so rich and powerful and famous as Oprah persecute a simple shop assistant through the world's media? Ah, shut up racist -- we know who the real victim is here!