Exploiting the Archives: Jeb Bush, H.W and the Enduring Travesty That is Oliver Stone's W
In a characteristic bit of delusional arrogance, Oliver Stone rushed out W, his heavy-handed, DOA biography of George W. Bush in an attempt to influence the 2008 Presidential election.
It’s hard to figure out what precisely made Stone think a mere movie could play a big role in determining the future of American democracy beyond of course a ridiculously, comically inflated sense of his own power and influence. Did he really imagine that Conservatives would pay good money to go see a movie by their favorite filmmaker, Oliver Stone, and be so surprised and moved by what they saw that it would inspire them to change their vote?
Needless to say, W. did not appear to have any effect whatsoever on the 2008 elections. Rushing to theaters before history had rendered its ultimate verdict on W. and his presidency afforded Stone the opportunity to get W., his presidency, his legacy and particularly his family not just wrong but egregiously, ridiculously, comically wrong.
How wrong? Well, according to W., Jeb Bush should have coasted to victory in 2016 because he was, by the film’s estimation at least, the God-like Golden Child of the Bush dynasty, a brilliant politician and thinker so accomplished, impressive and beloved by his adoring, worshipful family that W. couldn't help but come off as a dim-witted, overgrown frat boy man-child by comparison. Granted, W. would come off as a dim-witted, overgrown frat boy man-child regardless of the context, at least before he re-invented himself as Daffy, Lovable Silly Grandpa Paints A Lot.
But W. made it seem like Jeb was such a dynamo that no one could compete with him for his father’s affections, particularly a world-class fuck-up like W.
We are alternately mourning and pointedly attacking former President George H.W Bush in the aftermath of his exceedingly timely passing as a genial, gentle grandfather who did not inspire vitriolic hatred in a sizable contingent of the American public.
Yet the George H.W Bush of W., as played by James Cromwell, is a glowering, icy WASP patriarch who does nothing to hide his anger and disappointment with his loser son W. or his clear-cut preference for Jeb over his weak-willed sibling.
I wrote about W. for the My World of Flops book as an embarrassingly heavy-handed, overwrought mistake. History has only rendered it even more of an embarrassment. Nobody will be watching, let alone studying W. in the years and decades ahead, so it’s safe to assume that its depiction of George H.W Bush as closer to Robert Patrick in Walk Hard than Ward Cleaver will continue to have absolutely zero effect on how the late President and his complicated family are seen.
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