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If you're a conservative and you pay attention to what is said about conservatives in the media -- two crimes of which I am guilty -- you come to recognize an evergreen tic: the desire to raise previously loathed conservative politicians to newfound heights after they have died in order to tear down whichever contemporary conservative pol has earned the ire of the press.

Chappaquiddick, an impressive new movie about Ted Kennedy driving a car off a bridge and killing Mary Jo Kopechne in 1969, helps us understand a corollary to this law: If the only good Republican is a dead Republican, then the only bad Democrat is a dead Democrat. And the dead Democrat should always be used to show just how awful the current Republican is.

This is the basic thrust of Jill Filipovic's essay on the film and Ted Kennedy for NBC, helpfully titled "Since Chappaquiddick, Democrats' views of women have evolved. Republicans' still need to." Leaving aside the time frame on that evolution -- it certainly did not happen immediately after Chappaquiddick, in response to Chappaquiddick, or in the 40 years Kennedy served in the Senate, or until really quite recently, it seems.

"The left does continue to struggle with how to treat misdeeds by powerful men with whom it is politically aligned, and male misbehavior transcends political ideology. But there is no question that Democrats are cleaning house," Filipovic writes. "You can't say the same about the American right."

This is the undercurrent of many reviews of a movie considered timely because a Republican who has cheated on multiple wives now happens to occupy the Oval Office. Inkoo Kang uses the film as a clarifying moment to indict the entire right-wing media-industrial complex.

"It's tempting to see the plague of fake news and the ham-fisted attempts at Orwellian indoctrination -- on Fox News, Sinclair stations and YouTube conspiracy-theory videos -- as a malaise that afflicts them, seldom us," she writes. "Chappaquiddick ... serves as a timely reminder that voters on either side of the aisle are susceptible to influence, especially when it's wrapped up in male entitlement and oligarchical polish."

Wondering why Chappaquiddick wasn't being groomed for an awards-season run late last year, Stephen Silver wrote that, "for obvious reasons, this tale of a powerful man in America committing an indefensible act and getting away with it is pretty timely these days, what with multiple-times-accused sexual predator Donald Trump in the White House, the Harvey Weinstein debacle still in the news, and the numerous other scandals of prominent badly behaved men."

I'm by no means a defender of Trump. But if you want to understand why a majority of evangelical Christians are willing to look the other way when it comes to Trump's various transgressions, all you have to do is recall feminists defending Clinton during the Monica Lewinsky scandal.

Chappaquiddick is a fine movie about a terrible man who did an awful thing. But viewing his awfulness as nothing more than a tool to attack those you hate in our current moment misses the point of the movie.

MovieStyle on 04/20/2018

Print Headline: Film doesn't make the left's argument

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