50th anniversaries are always special. A golden moment to be shared with all. Of course, not all anniversaries are celebrations of joy.
We spent a lot of time this past week taking a moment of silence. Last Friday, no less than 30 shows – not to mention the movies – reflected, memorialized, and idolized one John F. Kennedy. Yes, five decades have passed since that day in Dallas and Americans are still as obsessed with JFK.
But it’s not his political influence that the average person remembers. Unless you’re a historian or a poli-sci major, his politics don’t mean much 50 years later. No, most focus on Marilyn Monroe and the grassy knoll.
Personally, I never understood the allure. His grin was a little too toothy for my taste.
However, he knew the power of television to influence the country. Why else would he have let crews film him and his family at the White House? Ironically, this involvement in the new medium of the day ingrained him into the American psyche even more after he died.
But would he have gone down in infamy had his death not been premature and televised? Or would he have just faded into history?
Because we have these televised moments, we feel the need to review, remake, and repurpose his story again and again. Unlike today where everything is recorded from every conceivable angle and posted for all to see, we have a little footage that is carefully controlled – which makes it more mysterious than revealing.
How many actors have sought to find that never-before-noticed detail about JFK – to reveal some nugget of truth that no one ever noticed?
Rob Lowe – the late president’s most recent impersonator – was thrilled to have cracked the code of his pocket squares. Apparently, they were never straight. Lowe discovered that JFK had a nervous tick. He was always playing with his glasses and putting them back in said pocket, crushing his pocket square. Not exactly a monumental revelation. But for Lowe, it was like discovering Nefertiti’s tomb.
How is it that one man could earn such ongoing adulation? He led the country for less than one term. Unlike George W. who went from hero to village idiot in eight years, JFK barely had time to screw up. And when he did, it was smoothed over by the press.
Ironically, even Lowe recently said that the press would never give Obama the same easy ride that they gave JFK, gently correcting his misstatements and factual errors during interviews. It seems that everyone was still too naïve at this point in history to realize that JFK was more flash than substance, more fairy tale than fact. (Camelot, anyone?) And it’s that naïveté that has lived on, confusing memories and creating a myth that no one could live up to.
But the 60’s disillusionment may have started with his assassination. And television sure exploded. So maybe we can still give JFK credit for inadvertently affecting history. Even 50 years later.