There is a natural ending to this film, however. As Lincoln readies himself for his fatal date night at Ford’s Theatre, he remarks “it’s time to go, but I’d rather stay.” Leaving the White House, his form gradually becomes a silhouette, one that’s already casting a long shadow across history. It’s the moment in which the man returns to being a legend.
In the wake of last summer’s drought and this fall’s Superstorm Sandy, Ken Burns’s harrowingly absorbing new two-part, four-hour documentary, The Dust Bowl, which airs this Sunday, November 18, on PBS, feels particularly urgent.
Something about this particular variety of period piece—American exceptionalism, stovepipe hats, sun-drenched Capitol Dome windows—dials us back into a schoolroom stance, where we accept, and perhaps even encourage, an over-simplified view of our past. Stay in your desk, watch the movie, this is how it went. And yet it’s a Lincoln film that might be the least accurate and, arguably, most manipulative of all that somehow speaks the clearest.
So why one day after a period of isolation, depression, and not eating enough, did Wright find herself crying, putting a gun in her mouth, and praying for God to give her some reason not to pull the trigger? Because for the better part of four decades, she’d been, in the words of one of her songs, “a damn liar,” hiding the homosexuality she’d been taught since childhood in church to loathe as demonic, and hating herself for both her orientation and her cowardice.