‘Chappaquiddick’ is a Long-Overdue Dismantling of the Kennedy MythPosted: April 13, 2018
Maureen Callahan writes: Nearly 50 years after Senator Ted Kennedy left a young woman to die in a shallow pond — and America went on to reward him with a lifelong career in the US Senate — we are finally beginning to reckon with the Kennedy myth.
But only just.
The new film “Chappaquiddick” is, to date, the most brutal and honest account of what happened that night. But it’s also something else: an indictment of our collective hero worship at the altar of Brand Kennedy, which bred so much corrosive entitlement that surviving brother Ted, the family beta male, went home to sleep it off after leaving a loyal young staffer to die alone.
“Chappaquiddick” is a much-needed counterweight to two current hagiographies: CNN’s docuseries “The Kennedys,” airing to high ratings on Sunday nights, and Netflix’s forthcoming documentary “Bobby Kennedy for President.”
JFK and RFK remain, of course, the family lodestars. But in 1969 Ted was next in line, and he had a lot of public sympathy.
His brother Robert had been assassinated while campaigning for president the year before. President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963. Ted himself barely survived a plane crash in 1964, dragged to safety by Senator Birch Bayh (the irony) and hospitalized for five months. It was assumed, within the family and without, that Ted would run for president in 1972. He had three small children and, the July weekend he went partying in Chappaquiddick, a pregnant wife at home confined to bed rest.
As portrayed by Jason Clarke, the young senator is a venal, self-pitying coward, thoughtless and remorseless, ambition his only care. He treats loyalists and groupies with equal contempt, and as the weekend begins, he toasts them all for “wanting to prove yourselves worthy of . . . the Kennedy name.”
It’s clear the filmmakers are in on this joke.
We next see Kennedy leaving the party with the young Mary Jo Kopechne, who had worked for Bobby Kennedy and was still mourning his death. The film depicts Ted as drinking and driving before his black Oldsmobile 88 flies off a small wooden bridge and into a pond, crash-landing upside down.
According to contemporaneous accounts, the tide was dead low … (read more)