The Butler is Powerful

Recently saw The Butler and enjoyed it immensely. I went in expecting it to be more of an expose of what went on in the White House “behind closed doors” but was pleased to find that the primary story was that of Cecil Gaines and his family. We focus on the politics of Washington DC of course in much of our history study, and when we look at the Civil Rights era, we know certain events and fires to focus upon. However this film accentuated the human toll on the black family. We have seen several movies about conflict within a family during the ’60s and ’70s over Vietnam, over civil rights or in the previous century over the Civil War. This was a bit of a wake up call, for it is telling us to remember that the same conflicts happened in black families too. A powerful message to remember. I highly recommend the film if you have not seen it, and would recommend it for student viewing. It could be used in class to illustrate several periods, including the late 1920s when the movie begins, for it gives a clear example of how little had changed for blacks in the South.

Forest Whittaker is outstanding, as one would expect. Oprah Winfrey is the surprise! She’s great, much better than I expected. I do remember her performance in The Color Purple, but that was prior to her becoming the media giant Oprah and so I did not see this coming from her. And the “all-star” cast was interesting. I really liked Alan Rickman’s Reagan (Robin Williams = Eisenhower; James Marsden = JFK; Liev Schreiber = LBJ; John Cusack = Nixon) the best, but as the movie-goer, you have a hard time stopping looking for familiar faces. I would not say this was as good as Lincoln, but it is good and worth catching. A lot that can be brought to the classroom.

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