John and Abigail

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My wife and I are making our way through the HBO film, John Adams, and we are thoroughly enjoying it.  I am particularly impressed with episode 2 which covers the push towards independence.  The writers did an excellent job of laying out the controversy and emotion of the decision, as well as the political maneuvering behind the scenes.  They did such a good job with the argument against independence that it was easy to not only identify with it, but to perhaps acknowledge it as the stronger position.  It really highlights the role of luck in our historical identification.  We can easily imagine the revolution failing; in that case Dickinson and Rutledge emerge as the heroes while Adams and the rest of his gang come off as irresponsible radicals.  I also thought they did an excellent job with the Boston Massacre as well as the tar and feathering scene.  I can easily see using parts of this series in class. 

Finally, I think I have a little crush on Laura Linney–or is it Abigail Adams?  I’m not quite sure what it is.  I hope my wife doesn’t read this. :)

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5 comments… add one

  • Heather Jul 23, 2008

    My husband doesn’t like to hear about it, but I have a little crush on Stephen Dillane, the actor playing Jefferson. :-) I thought he did an excellent job with his role, and it gets better as the series continues. In Part Two, I also loved the discussions with Dickinson, who I think is one of those fascinating figures that has kind of fallen under the radar historically — probably because he ended up on the “wrong side” of the independence argument. “My conduct this day, I expect will give the finishing blow to my once too great and, my integrity considered, now too diminished popularity,” as he said right after the signing. But he was a thoughtful person who made great contributions to his era. (And just to get back to the movie version, Zeljko Ivanek, the actor who plays him also played Jefferson’s son-in-law Thomas Mann Randolph in a bad adaptation of Barbara Chase-Riboud’s “Sally Hemmings” a few years back.)

  • Kevin Levin Jul 23, 2008

    I think my wife has a thing for him too. Perhaps this means a trip to Monticello this weekend. You make a good point re: Dickinson and others who opposed the DOI; perhaps the same can be said about the Anti-Federalists during the Ratification debates.

  • Matt McKeon Jul 23, 2008

    Boston 1775 has an excellent series of posts on “John Adams.” Well worth reading for some historical background.

  • matthew mckeon Jul 23, 2008

    It’s interesting that here is a miniseries dealing with American icons: Jefferson, Adams, Washington, Hamilton etc. in a relatively adult way.

    Adams is seen as able, dedicated, patriotic, perserving, but somehow unlikable as well, too self pitying, too domineering, tone deaf to others.

  • Kevin Levin Jul 24, 2008

    Matt, — Thanks for reminding me of that series. I remember skimming it when Bell first posted them, but I will wait until I finish the series before heading on over. We watched the segment on the 1790s last night and I thought they did a great job exploring his emotional state. That scene where he is asked to leave the room so as to allow the cabinet to meet was very powerful and conveyed Adams’s insecurities quite well. It will work well in the classroom. I can easily see handing out a few of his letters from the time and asking students to compare the content with Giamatti’s portrayal.

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