In her Jan. 3 Critic’s Notebook, “ When the story is true, the rules are different ” [Style], Ann Hornaday regarded those who noticed historical inaccuracies in the movie “Selma” as nitpickers and gotcha-gamers.
According to Joseph A. Califano Jr., the movie falsely portrayed President Lyndon B. Johnson as being reluctantly behind the Voting Rights Act of 1965, advocating a go-slow approach when the opposite was true [“ ‘Selma’s’ false portrayal of LBJ,” op-ed, Dec. 28]. Johnson considered the voting act his greatest legislative achievement.
The makers of “Selma” just as easily could have employed the truth. Theatergoers do not expect Shakespeare’s historical plays to be historically accurate — consider the clock striking three in “Julius Caesar,” before mechanical clocks were invented. However, many people learn their history from the movies. It’s a responsibility for moviemakers to get it right. Maybe a few thousand people will read Califano’s article. Millions will see “Selma.”
Robert G. Scharf, Chevy Chase
Ann Hornaday was misguided in her suggestion that critics of the portrayal of former president Lyndon B. Johnson in “Selma” are nit-pickers who should be more forgiving of the art form.
I don’t go to movies looking for, nor am I troubled by, trivial historical inconsistencies or omissions. But mischaracterizing key relationships in a movie that is presumably historically based and marketed as such is troubling, especially when many viewers will rely on the movie’s general accuracy to pass judgment.
Hornaday said it is the viewers’ responsibility to check facts. The reality is that most won’t take the time to do this — their emotional and aesthetic experience is also their history lesson. While filmmakers are entitled to creative license, I fail to see what cinematic value has been added or how the level of entertainment has been enhanced by vilifying one of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s most important collaborators.
Ira H. Dorfman, Bethesda