On Tuesday, 2.5, Connecticut Rep. Joe Courtney posted a complaint about Lincoln having dishonored his state’s voting legacy by showing two fictitiously-named Connecticut representatives voting against the 13th Amendment on January 31, 1865. On Wednesday everybody wrote about it including myself. When I asked for a comment I was told Lincoln screenwriter Tony Kushner was on a plane. That’s where I left it.
One presumes Kushner eventually landed and made his way to a heated room with a computer, all the while mulling Courtney’s beef and talking it over with friends and colleagues. Sometime Wednesday or more likely Thursday Kushner wrote a reply to Courtney, and at 1:49 am this morning it appeared in the Wall Street Journal‘s Speakeasy section by way of Christopher John Farley.
Boiled down, Kushner said that (a) yes, Courtney is correct but (b) he’s okay with having marginally fictionalized history (not just by misrepresenting the votes of two Connecticut Congressmen but depicting the vote as being “organized state by state, which is not the practice of the House”) because he and director Steven Spielberg “wanted to clarify to the audience that the Thirteenth Amendment passed by a very narrow margin that wasn’t determined until the end of the vote.”
Really boiled down: “Ask yourself, ‘Did this thing happen?’ If the answer is yes, then it’s historical. Then ask, ‘Did this thing happen precisely this way?’ If the answer is yes, then it’s history; if the answer is no, not precisely this way, then it’s historical drama.”
Reasonable rationale: “In making changes to the voting sequence, we adhered to time-honored and completely legitimate standards for the creation of historical drama, which is what Lincoln is.”
Kicker: “I hope nobody is shocked to learn that I also made up dialogue and imagined encounters and invented characters.”