John Brown Today

"The Good Lord Bird" and the Uses of Art

November 10, 2020 Louis DeCaro Jr. Season 1 Episode 2
John Brown Today
"The Good Lord Bird" and the Uses of Art
Show Notes Chapter Markers

In this episode, "The Good Lord Bird," both the novel by James McBride and the SHOWTIME series adaptation by Ethan Hawke are considered with respect to the relation of fiction to history.  There is a difference between the use of fiction in collaboration with history and the use of fiction to rewrite history, Lou contends, and in the case of Old John Brown, "The Good Lord Bird" is particularly worrisome because its portrayal is offered as satire but will inevitably inform viewers quite incorrectly as to the historical record.  

McBride on Brown: "That guy was crazy"
"The Good Lord Bird" series
A historical burlesque
Regarding historical fiction
Regarding "Cloudsplitter"
Fiction that collaborates with history
Satire and the postmodern mood
McBride's satire
When fiction teaches history
"Mental bracketing"
John Brown and black cynicism
"The Good Lord Bird" series again
Hawke's portrayal of John Brown
John Brown's religion
"No cursing man"
Mistreating Frederick Douglass
Distortion and misrepresentation
A heart-touching episode
An old spiritual
Fiction, not history
A lesson from "Judge Roy Bean"
"Too few lobbyists"
"A marginal figure in black history"
"Someday . . . some good"?