In a piece of obvious stunt-casting, Oscar-nominated director Lee Daniels chose Jane Fonda to portray Nancy Reagan in his new film “The Butler” — the story of a black man who served eight American presidents during his long White House career. Naturally, because this is Hollywood, we all knew where this was going from the start, and now it’s confirmed that Mrs. Reagan’s going to be portrayed as “mean”:
“I thought the part was too mean,” Fonda told NBC 4 anchor Robert Kovacik in a Q&A at the Millennium Biltmore hotel, in a “lightning round” Q&A after she received the Los Angeles Press Club’s inaugural Visionary Award. So she sought Butler’s permission to tone down the role, saying she didn’t want the the character to do anything mean that Reagan didn’t do in real life.
The quote is brilliantly deceptive. Fonda sets herself up as the good guy, the one who toned down the “meanness.” But then she goes on to say she “didn’t want the the character to do anything mean that Reagan didn’t do in real life.”
This is Fonda’s way of setting up the integrity of the meanness we will see.
My issue with this is context. Nancy Reagan spent eight years as America’s First Lady, and over eight years even a Mother Teresa is going to have some bad days. If all you show are the bad days, though, you might be able to claim “historical accuracy,” but you’re still telling a lie.
Daniels is the filmmaker behind the Academy Award-nominated “Precious: Based on the Novel “Push” by Sapphire,” a piece of grief-porn almost as hard to watch as real porn. And now it looks as though “The Butler,” which felt like a piece of score-settling the moment Fonda (of all people!) was hired, won’t be any more watchable.
The casting of Fonda was meant to be a finger in the eye of conservatives from the start, and now it looks as though the entire film is as well.
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