Letters for December 13, 2018

Name of the game

Re “Its names are legion” (editorial, Dec. 6):

Maybe the governor-elect is trying to smooth things over with the opposition by proposing the name change for the airport in Reno. Truth to tell, Adam might well take it as a stick in the eye.

My suggestion: if the airport is to be renamed for a Laxalt, make it Dominique Laxalt, founder of the clan. Or if not Dominique, then Robert Laxalt, bard of the Nevada Basque tradition.

Anthony Shafton


Fictional version of Queen II

Re “Fictional version of Queen” (letters, Dec. 6):

In her letter about the fake biopic of Freddie Mercury and Queen, Vanessa Charles argues that viewers have an obligation to see in movies what the producers want us to see: “I feel as though you may have misunderstood the point of the film [Bohemian Rhapsody]. You are focusing primarily on the accuracy of timing throughout the film, which was not what was meant to be focused on.” Nonsense. A film is sent out to its fate in the marketplace. It is up to viewers, not filmmakers, to decide what should be focused upon. I felt the power of the movie came from its tie to reality, and was disturbed when critic Grimm told his readers about the liberties taken with the lives of the members of Queen. I saw then what the producers had done. Like the makers of The Glenn Miller Story and The Buddy Holly Story, they wanted to invent sanitized accounts of music history that viewers would embrace with their dollars rather than factual accounts of that history that might not succeed as well financially. I thank Bob Grimm for informing me that the movie’s impact was counterfeit. I prefer to get my history unpolluted with fiction, even in movies

Film has power, and consequences flow from the use or misuse of that power. Consider the injury done to moviegoers when they invest emotionally in fact-based movies only to learn they have been falsified, as with those who admired the Fonda/Redgrave movie Julia and then felt betrayed when they learned Lillian Hellman had falsified and taken onto herself the tale of a woman she had never met, let alone had the wonderful friendship portrayed. Or consider the historical impact of the distortions of Max Baer’s career in Ron Howard’s Cinderella Man, which falsely accused Baer of killing two men in the ring.

Ask an African American about the damage done to blacks by Birth of a Nation and Gone with the Wind with their historical lies. Ask a gay about the revulsion implanted in straights by films like Suddenly Last Summer and Advise and Consent with their portrayals of gay life as invalid and seamy.

And what message did the makers of Bohemian Rhapsody send to the young just learning about Queen, who upon learning it was falsified must now wonder what there was about Freddie Mercury’s real story that made it unfit to portray.

Or, alternatively and more positively, consider the way a movie like Thirteen Days corrected a generation’s belief that John Kennedy succeeded in the missile crisis by confrontation when in fact he reached an agreement through negotiation by revealing to moviegoers the fact that the Russian missiles in Cuba were traded for the U.S. missiles in Turkey. That put accurate information in the public’s bloodstream instead of continuing the myth created by the secrecy and bad reporting of 1962. And how useful it was for director Rob Reiner to stay close to the actual events of Medgar Evers’ murder in Ghosts of Mississippi, so that our people can learn from a faithful portrayal of history instead of being manipulated.

We do not owe filmmakers any obligation to view their products with an eye that sees only what they wanted us to see. Rather, they have an obligation to us to portray real events with accuracy, so that we learn from history instead of being misled by packs of lies.

“The basis of art is truth, both in matter and in mode,” Flannery O’Connor and innumerable other artists have told us, but now we are told by Ms. Charles that we should look only to the craft of documentaries for truth while leaving the art of drama alone to use history as clay.

George Stanley