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TRUTH: Why 2004 Matters!

Film Review TruthCate Blanchett gives one of her greatest performances as embattled CBS 60 Minutes Producer Mary Mapes in Truth. (JLH: 5/5)

Rant by FF2 Managing Editor Jan Lisa Huttner

Full Disclosure: I grew up in an NBC/Newsweek home.

Way back in the 1950--before media had so many “narrowcast” options--most American households fell into one of two camps. In the camp more-or-less on the "right," people watched CBS, read Time magazine, and usually voted Republican. In the other camp more-or-less on the "left," people watched NBC, read Newsweek, and usually voted Democrat. The number of people who called themselves "independent" and the number of people who watched ABC were way smaller than today, and other options were few and far between.

In 1952--the year after I was born—my parents voted for Adlai Stephenson, and his loss--he lost big--ushered in the Eisenhower Era. CBS anchor Walter Cronkite became the most-watched newscaster in the country... but we got our news from Chet Huntley and David Brinkley on NBC's nightly broadcast of The Huntley-Brinkley Report. Bottom Line: I never developed a reverence for CBS News, and I didn’t start watching 60 Minutes—even on a semi-regular basis—until I married Richard (who had grown up in CBS/Time home) in the mid-80s.

Skip ahead several decades. The date is Friday, October 23 and I am at the Lincoln Plaza Theatre in Manhattan to see the new Cate Blanchett/Robert Redford film Truth. I have purchased tickets for the 5 PM screening, which promises a Q&A with Dan Rather and Mary Mapes after the credits roll.

According to my own rules—go in to each new film as dumb as possible and do lots of homework later—I am an ideal audience. I know almost nothing about what “really happened” when CBS News anchor Dan Rather went on 60 Minutes II on Sept 8, 2004 to poke holes in George W. Bush’s National Guard record.

All I can remember now about 2004 is that I had been obsessed with the SwiftBoating of Senator John Kerry—my candidate— which had been "big news" all summer. I had no energy to invest in new Bush scandals which would only be “more of the same” from my POV. After watching the way the Bush Team had choreographed the Republican Convention in July, I had been certain Bush would win a second term.

Somehow Karl Rove and the Bushies had managed to tarnish the battle metals of a genuine war hero—Senator John Kerry—my candidate—and the arduous sport of windsurfing—one of Kerry's favorite activities— had suddenly became a national joke. Caught inside the media storm, the Kerry Team kept falling further and further behind, and then the election was over. Maybe an attack on Dan Rather had been part of all that, but if so, I had no knowledge of any of the details.

But when the lights came back up approximately 9 PM at the Lincoln Plaza Theatre, and Dan Rather—the real Dan Rather—walked to the front, I jumped up from my seat—applauding and cheering—to welcome him. And the blonde by his side? I now knew two things about her: her name was Mary Mapes—the woman who had produced that infamous broadcast—and I had just seen Cate Blanchett—who had portrayed her in Truth—in one of the greatest performances of her stellar career.

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Top Photo: Cate Blanchett as "Mary Mapes" presents a well-assembled and well-organized notebook of essential documents to a set of highly skeptical "independent" investigators.

Bottom Photo: Blanchett with Robert Redford as "Dan Rather" and Bruce Greenwood as "Andrew Heyward" (President of CBS News).

Photo Credits: Lisa Tomasetti/Sony Pictures Classics

Q: Does Truth pass the Bechdel-Wallace Test?

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Yes...

but only around the edges...

2/18/16: Additional Reflections 

Take a look at how the media is covering the 2016 Presidential Election. What should be a deadly serious discussion of the critical issues affecting our nation has been turned into endless play-by-play of parallel boxing matches. Political coverage has degenerated into the sportsification of America. No wonder one of the major players is Donald Trump, a Reality TV superstar whose primary qualification is the ability to shout "You're Fired!"

Alas, this is exactly why I think Truth is a much better film than Spotlight. Spotlight is a nostalgia bath about how we want journalism to be whereas Truth is about the dawn of the era in which we all now live.

The proof to me was how negative all the coverage of Truth was, even from normally balanced outlets like NPR. Critics, Pundits, and "Reporters" all fought all the old fights about fonts and all the rest, rather than asking about what we have learned in the past decade. Alas, for them, the answer is clearly next to nothing.

The moment of "truth" in Truth? When Mary Mapes opens her laptop and finds the first troll message: "Can't wait to see Hannity gut the bitch!" THIS is the world in which we now live 🙁