Yesterday Hardball‘s Chris Matthews jumped into the Selma/LBJ hoo-hah. Joseph Califano, James Peterson. Matthews to Peterson: “The Democratic Party lost the South because of that kind of statement. LBJ stood for civil rights. Why take that away from him? They both deserve credit. There’s only one guy who gets the holiday in this country. What’s the reason to put down LBJ to supposedly help the legacy of Dr. King? I don’t get it. What’s the purpose?”
Wells to Matthews: The first shot across the LBJ bow was fired by Lee Daniels The Butler, which depicted the Texas-born president as an earthy, crude-mannered guy who crapped in front of subordinates and casually used the “n” word in front of guys like Forrest Whitaker‘s Cecil Gaines. DuVernay, no doubt impressed by The Butler‘s popularity, used or doubled down on that characterization to create a contrarian figure whom David Oyelowo‘s Martin Luther King could dispute and define himself by.
At a Manhattan Selma event earlier today, DuVernay was asked about her LBJ wrongo. “I think everyone sees history through their own lens, and I don’t begrudge anyone from wanting to see what they want to see,” she said according to The Hollywood Reporter‘s Scott Feinberg. “This is what I see. This is what we see. And that should be valid. I’m not gonna argue history. I could, but I won’t.”
So DuVernay & Co. see Johnson’s role as one of initial resistance if not obstruction during the struggle to achieve voting rights legislation, even if this is not borne out by facts — by those who were there and observed Johnson and/or worked with him during this period — and “that should be valid.” In other words DuVernay and her colleagues are entitled to their own facts. She’s also implying that in “seeing what they want to see,” Johnson’s defenders are also using their own facts or overlooking conflicting viewpoints.
“I’m just gonna say that, you know, my voice, David’s voice, the voices of all of the artists that gathered to do this, of Paramount Pictures, which allowed us to amplify this story to the world, is really focused on issues of justice and dignity,” DuVernay continued. “And for this to be reduced — reduced is really what all of this is — to one talking point of a small contingent of people who don’t like one thing, is unfortunate, because this film is a celebration of people, a celebration of people who gathered to lift their voices — black, white, otherwise, all classes, nationalities, faiths — to do something amazing.”