Lincoln (2012) Review

It is difficult to analyze this film without sharing my real life opinion about the Civil War and the events surrounding it because this film was an accurate representation of the events that occurred. Certainly there were biases involved in how certain characters were portrayed but overall it at least attempted to portray the characters accurately instead of portraying the antagonists as caricatures and total dupes.  

Grade: C+ 

This was not the best movie ever, but as a politics nerd I found it quite enjoyable. It was a political melodrama directed by Steven Spielberg and it was about Lincoln’s push to get the thirteenth amendment passed by Congress and ratified by the states. The Civil War was treated as a foregone conclusion and victory was imminent for the Union. However, the Confederate States were willing to surrender if they were guaranteed to stop the passage of the amendment; which heightened the drama.  

The visuals were very good, the drama and tension was present and the film was mostly historically accurate. I also appreciated that the film was made for an intelligent, historically literate audience instead of appealing to the lowest common denominator like so many films we see today {cough cough} Marvel {cough cough}.  

However, it is hard to watch this movie without coming away feeling humiliated. Spielberg’s vitriol is clearly directed at “racist” Whites and it was his goal to portray the triumph of the Liberal egalitarian Whites and the humiliation of the White racists, most notably George Pendleton and Fernando Wood.  

Abraham Lincoln is portrayed in very flattering terms by Spielberg and Screenwriter Tony Kushner, both of whom are Jewish. They do note that Lincoln governed more like a tyrant than a President, especially when it came to the Civil War, however they message that Lincoln wielded his immense power for a cause that was righteous and good. Lincoln was strong and resolute in his radicalism, but tempered in his activism. He was masterful at not making enemies out of people he disagreed with and attempted to appeal to them in areas which they agreed. Lincoln was portrayed as someone who deeply believed in freedom and despised the slave powers of the South. Lincoln was portrayed as a Liberal egalitarian who believed in racial equality, however the film made no mention of his support for the American Colonization Society. Whether Lincoln actually wanted to deport blacks back to Africa or whether he just wanted to assuage the fears of the white population in his endeavor to end slavery is still up in the air. Lincoln was a brilliant propagandist. He could appeal to people’s Christianity, their desire to end the war, their desire to make a mark on history and even mathematics and reason. Lincoln invoked the mathematical reasoning of Euclid’s elements which states that all things equal to the same thing are equal to each other. How this has any correlation to the equality of the human races does not make sense to me, but it shows Lincoln’s brilliance as a persuader.  

Thaddeus Stevens and the Radical Republicans are also portrayed in flattering terms. Stevens is militant in his desire to free the slaves and in his hatred of racist whites, particularly the Copperhead Democrats in Congress. Stevens is too radical and alienates potential allies as opposed to Lincoln who coaxes and appeals to the fence-sitters. Stevens believes in racial equality and even believes in expropriating Confederate land and giving it to blacks. Stevens is not someone I would look back fondly on, but it’s clear that Spielberg does and is not shocked and frightened by some of the things Stevens believed in like I am. I find it hilarious how Stevens ended his role in the film by kissing his black housekeeper on the lips in bed. That perfectly sums up the man he was.  

William Seward, Lincoln’s Secretary of State was also portrayed in a positive light even though I found his character intolerable. He was a smug, educated Liberal who would turn his nose up at people who were not very sharp or quick-witted.  

Now for the interesting part. George Pendleton and Fernando Wood were the most competent opposition to the passing of the thirteenth amendment. While most racists in the film were portrayed as bumbling buffoons who couldn’t decipher heads from tails and didn’t know what they actually believed in, these 2 characters had an actual philosophy and method to their madness. They were the representatives of the Irish and German working class neighborhoods who rioted because they did not want to fight for the Union in the Civil War. They believed the grand plan of the Union would undermine white labor and replace them with the labor of freed black slaves. They also did not want 4 million black slaves to be freed at the drop of a hat for the unpredictability and chaos that could ensue. Spielberg actually portrayed these 2 individuals as intelligent and bright. In the film Pendleton posited what might happen after emancipation. Negroes casting ballots? Negro representatives in Congress? Intermarriage? While those things do not shock Spielberg and he sees it as a progression in a positive direction, I am deeply shocked and disturbed by these things. Allowing blacks to wield that kind of power is dangerous and upsetting. Blacks as a group are generally going to vote for candidates and District Attorneys that allow them to commit rapes and murders as they please without consequence. They are going to push for changes that lead to the humiliation, disempowerment and persecution of whites. They are going to slowly push for the eventual genocide of all white males and the rape of all white females. This is just the nature and reality of race. I would have supported Pendleton and Wood. They understood that black enfranchisement would lead to more radical proposals down the road and eventually the destruction of high white society, replaced with the primitive, low class, mongrelized culture we see today. Intermarriage is also something that is very frustrating and disturbing to me and millions of others. Especially black male, white female relationships. Not only does it water down the sacred genetic quality of our race, it is a sign that we are a conquered people when we allow our white women to intermix with black males. Of course Pendleton and Wood are humiliated at the end of the film when the thirteenth amendment is passed and their closest allies turn on them, but that should be expected when you have a Jewish director making a movie for the Jewish film industry.  

Although I liked the film and I think Steven Spielberg is a brilliant propagandist, the messaging in this film is utterly demoralizing and it is designed to humiliate. It is much different than The Birth of a Nation which I reviewed here.  

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