September 25, 2014

"Did Ken Burns 'in' Eleanor Roosevelt?"

Asks John Aravosis.

63 comments:

Farmer said...

So Burns decides not to repeat unsubstantiated rumors and it generates another missive from the front lines of the Outrage Wars. The guy is offended by the word "tabloid." My God. Grow up. How exhausting it must be to spend all your time looking for things to offend you.

sean said...

W.H. Auden wrote a funny piece about the desire of many gay people to claim every possible historical personage as "one of us." (Latterly, it's been Dietrich Bonhoeffer.) There's no more moronic approach to history than going through the past looking for people to suit your current sexual/political cause--it's like wondering around Katmandu looking for a McDonald's--but many people aren't able to think outside the sexual/political categories of their own time.

Shanna said...

with whom she went on a road trip, alone, across the country

Oh no! She went on a road trip with a girlfriend! That's definately proof. I do not know, or care, whether she was or not, but it does seem odd to make a big deal out of close female friendships. If that is your only criteria, you could make anyone seem gay.

W.H. Auden wrote a funny piece about the desire of many gay people to claim every possible historical personage as "one of us."

There is some truth to this. How much is 'gaydar' and how much is wishful thinking? Hard to tell.

AustinRoth said...

Who cares, really?

It's not like she would be the only First Lady in the 20th century that was a closet lesbian, just not the one that has run for the office herself.

Renee said...

Placing yourself 'out' there is personal.

She never outed herself, so we have no evidence.

Yes, it would be impossible to out herself. But the only person who has the right to express his/her come out is that individual person.

Fandor said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Carol said...

Eleanor's letters were pretty explicit..but what is funny how the media protects their heroes from being outed for something that is supposed to be fine and natural. And outs their enemies.

How do they live with such inner contradictions?

EDH said...

Remember when politically correct meant not giving a shit about a person's sexual preference or orientation?

Fandor said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

I am selling Elanor Roosevelt's strap-on at auction. Very fine craftsmanship: 'Remember Pearl Harbor' is engraved along the side of the shaft. The buckle still works fine, just a bit of tarnish. Bidding will be discreet.

SomeoneHasToSayIt said...

More troubling than "in"ing Eleanor, was his gratuitous slandering of Republicans.

But, we now expect this of the partisan Burns. Unfortunately - because he clearly has talent.

Fandor said...

I'll tell you a story...David Niven and Burt Lancaster, two actors for a long time ago, as Millennials measure time that is, were having a discussion about the company they kept in Hollywoodland. The subject was public perceptions (movie ticket buyers) of the "gay" lifestyle of which they were not keen on.
David was curious as to why Burt was often a guest at Rock Hudson's house for dinner. Rock, of course, was gay. It was an "open secret" in the movie colony and a sordid rumor for the public at large in those years.
Anyway, David suggested to Burt that because of his friendliness with Rock, associates and the public might think he was a homosexual.
Burt laughed and said, "I enjoy going to the opera, but it doesn't mean I'm a singer."

William said...

I think the dark secret of FDR's affairs is that, later in life, most of them were platonic. Burns showed a certain amount of tact in not speculating on the sexual potency of our wartime leader..... Burns' treatment of FDR was flattering but not quite hagiographic. With Eleanor, however, he pulled out all the stops. By God, that woman was a saint. Pornography has no place in hagiography......That said, he drew some very large arrows directing your eyes to some very large dots.

Michael K said...

I missed, on purpose, the slobbering hagiogram but I do know from Conrad Black's excellent biography of Roosevelt that he had a small cottage built for Eleanor and her "girlfriends " at Hyde Park. Another biography of Roosevelt goes into some detail about his long affair with Missy LeHand, his secretary in the 1920s. That was not platonic although the later resumption with Lucy Mercer probably was. She was with him when he died.

Brando said...

"Oh no! She went on a road trip with a girlfriend! That's definately proof. I do not know, or care, whether she was or not, but it does seem odd to make a big deal out of close female friendships. If that is your only criteria, you could make anyone seem gay."

They did the same thing with Lincoln, because he shared a bed a lot with male friends of his--the thing was, at that time it was quite common for men who were traveling to share beds without having sexual activity going on.

Basically, there's no evidence here either way, and it's silly to suggest that these factoids mean anything. You could cherry pick tidbits from anyone's life to make it sound more salacious.

Ken B said...

Sheesh. Mightn't "tabloid" mean "reported with no real evidence"? I remember toabloid headlines about bat-boy and those risen from the dead.

Bob Boyd said...

betamax3000 said...
"I am selling Elanor Roosevelt's strap-on at auction. Very fine craftsmanship: 'Remember Pearl Harbor' is engraved along the side of the shaft. The buckle still works fine, just a bit of tarnish. Bidding will be discreet."

Its tortoise shell all the way down

FullMoon said...

betamax3000 said...

I am selling Elanor Roosevelt's strap-on at auction. Very fine craftsmanship: 'Remember Pearl Harbor' is engraved along the side of the shaft. The buckle still works fine, just a bit of tarnish. Bidding will be discreet.


WHATEVER YOU DO, DO NOT POLISH THAT BUCKLE!

traditionalguy said...
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traditionalguy said...

Eleanor was from Teddy Roosevelt's family among whom dealing with life as sane people seemed to be a terrible daily struggle.

She was Teddy's crazy brother's unwanted child, and she was effectively abandoned by all of the family except for one kind sister of Teddy who decisively sent age 16 Eleanor away for three years to a French Ladies Finishing School for young women in London. There she became a valuable person in someones eyes for the first time in her life. That great teacher taught women feminism and that they could act independent in thoughts and career as if a woman had a value.

So when the "loved too much by his mother" FDR later abandoned Eleanor for a long love affair with Eleanor's personal secretary who provided FDR with another worshipful women that he craved, Eleanor reverted to being an independent woman of value that she had learned was her only salvation.

Eleanor gave love to women friends. FDR approved of that since it was better for him politically than a divorce.

In the end, Eleanor was the only truly good Roosevelt that came out of either of the Roosevelt branches.

David said...

Renee said...

Yes, it would be impossible to out herself. But the only person who has the right to express his/her come out is that individual person


What a sweet notion. What other areas of inquiry should be prohibited to historians, do you suppose?

David said...

Francis Parker School, eh? A first level haven for the complacently self satisfied. Perfect venue.

SJ said...

@Ann,

I'm reminded of an earlier post about propaganda.

Is this another form of propaganda in favor of sex?

I've heard people say that the past is a foreign country.

Is this true, in the sense that Eleanor may not have thought of herself as "homosexual", even if her behavior would be called such now?

Gusty Winds said...

Historical rumors suggest James Buchanan was the first gay President. But with such a horrible record as the Chief Executive, nobody would want to claim him as theirs.

broomhandle said...

"Eleanor's letters were pretty explicit..but what is funny how the media protects their heroes from being outed for something that is supposed to be fine and natural. And outs their enemies.

How do they live with such inner contradictions?"

I've always found this puzzling as well. Janet Reno's sexuality was as plain as the nose on my face. Yet liberals pissed all over themselves denying it. Hilarious and hypocritical.

Gusty Winds said...

The Roosevelts seemed to have a Clintonesque type of relationship, based on mutual success and drive, rather than sexual attraction. I don’t believe Hillary is or was ever outraged at Bill’s indiscretions, but she was pissed and humiliated when he got caught and it all went public. Didn’t seem like Franklin was too upset with Eleanor’s relationships, so I wonder how much Eleanor was really upset by his.

Bryan C said...

There was a time when people could be friends with each other without it being assumed that they were having sex.

Of course, at most other points in history "gay" wasn't a thing you were. It was a thing you did. Now everyone needs be assigned to their proper cubbyhole so they can spend their lives thinking, speaking, and voting correctly as determined by their betters.

Gusty Winds said...

Did anyone else find the hand-job scene in “Hyde Park on Hudson” between Franklin and Daisy as uncomfortable as I did?

Unknown said...

"At this point, what difference does it make?"

Renee said...

David, What do you mean by inquiry?

It was inquired and the fact is she never 'came out'.

William said...

My parents were New Deal Democrats. They spoke of FDR with reverence and affection. So far as I can remember they never spoke of Eleanor. I can't recall anyone of my generation, i.e geezer, ever discussing Eleanor. Perhaps this was Burns attempt to rescue her from obscurity and, by so doing, give a subliminal plug to Hillary........FDR and Eleanor were a mismatched pair from the start. He was strikingly handsome and magnetic; her, not so much. Only the sister of Pharoah was worthy of marriage to the Pharoah. Perhaps only a Roosevelt was worthy of marriage to a Roosevelt. Anyway, you wonder about the dynamic that drew them together. They were both wealthy privileged people who were quite happy to use their perks and privileges for heir own comfort and ease.

The Crack Emcee said...

Who cares?

Burns didn't cover the Roosevelt's writing legislation, like like the G.I.BIll, that was "so porous blacks could fall out".

It's white supremacy myth-making all the way down,...

William said...

To trad guy's point that Eleanor was the only truly good Roosevelt to come out of that family, I draw his attention to Teddy Roosevelt Jr. He was a brigadier general who led the troops on Utah Beach on D-Day. He didn't lead from behind either. He stuck with his troops despite persistent chest pains. He died of a heart attack a month after the landing and was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.

The Crack Emcee said...

Burns used the racist Shelby Foote as his main source for The Civil War.

My hero,...

gadfly said...

My reaction is: Gay is as gay does. And if our queer author Aravosis thinks we all know what "gaydar" means he was wrong - I had to look it up. It is time for him to get over his mental problem and leave the rest of us alone.

Honest to God, nobody thinks that Eleanor Roosevelt is gay - any more than anyone who can think would believe that a "wonderful documentary" on "The Roosevelts; An Intimate History" would appeal to mass audiences.

Drago said...

Crack: "It's white supremacy myth-making all the way down,..."

It's cute how crack is now trying to riff off of betamax3000.

Cute in a pathetic kind of way.

Typical parasite.

Drago said...

The Crack Emcee said...
Burns used the racist Shelby Foote as his main source for The Civil War

Silent "e's" at the end of last names are racist.

The Crack Emcee said...

INTERVIEWER
 
Had you been alive during the Civil War, would you have fought for the Confederates? 

FOOTE
 
No doubt about it. What's more, I would fight for the Confederacy today if the circumstances were similar.

gadfly said...

So Crack reads The Guardian where Shelby Foote was portrayed in the newspaper's obit as racist for not admitting that the American Civil War was about black slavery.

Honest historians have concluded that protective tariffs caused the war.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

Obviously she was not gay; she was married. And we have been informed ad nauseam that our laws discriminate against gays by not allowing them to marry.

HoodlumDoodlum said...

Ta-Nehisi Coates = insightful, eloquent, important author

Shelby Foote = some old dead racist

If someone professes these beliefs, please discount their opinions and pronouncements (perhaps their existence!) accordingly.

traditionalguy said...

James Roosevelt was the tough guy leader like his dad TR . He took the Amazon trip with TR that nearly killed them all which was a heroic act that saved his father's life, temporarily.

He then emulated TR whenever he could claiming a successor'so rights. How he got to be a Brigader General awarded a Medal of Honor for being present at D Day when he should have been in the Cardiac Unit of a hospital was more emulation of the

TR' toughness schtick.

MayBee said...

Poor Ken Burns! He is so not racist that he believes any criticism of Barack Obama is racist.

Cedarford said...

Jomicur, responding to the original article, writes:

"Antonia Fraser, no slouch as a historian/biographer, posited in her biography of James I that if there's a lot of circumstantial evidence that a given figure was gay, we should accept the fact that he/she really was gay or bi until convincing evidence to the contrary emerges. That has always struck me as a reasonable, common sense approach to the issue."

===========
That does seem to be a good course. The paralyzing notion America now has that all opinions must come from a courtroom, and only after years of expensive leisurely contemplation of any matter by an annointed Lawyer Elite is a pathetic dodge.

Our legal system is another area where America has become a global laughing stock. More lawyers per capita than any nation save Israel..but with all the lawyers...longest time to trial for violent felonies of any 1st world nation....civil litigation and criminal appeals tied up in court for decades.

It took the UK 6 months to try and convict the 2 Islamoids that carved up a British soldier, Lee Rigby, outside his barracks. We are now in the 11th year of bringing "swift and certain justice" to KSM. And the trial date hasn't even been set.

But back to Eleanor - if we get past the crippling notion that only lawyers after great delay may venture an opinion (often to the great advantage of the political operatives covering things up by saying the matter is under investigation and the "evidence" is not fully in and may take more decades?? Yeah - she has lesbo written all over her.

damikesc said...

She married her, what, 2nd cousin?

The lack of adequate branching in that family tree is far more of an issue than the least attractive woman the Earth has ever served up being into dudes or chicks.

Just sayin'.

sean said...

The circumstantial evidence concerning James I and Eleanor Roosevelt isn't exactly parallel. In his case, the evidence of homosexuality is that his contemporaries said he was homosexual and that he kept a series of handsome young men as favorites. In her case, the evidence is that she hung out with her girlfriends, even went on a road trip with one of them.

Of course, if you define lesbian and gay not by reference to actual sexual activity, but to supposed inner urges, then anyone with friends of the same sex can be defined as gay. I think there has to be circumstantial evidence of actual sexual activity, which does not include anything short of first base.

Renee said...

They were 5th cousins.

Dave Schumann said...
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Dave Schumann said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Michael said...

Shelby Foote, in the same interview in which he said he would fight for the Confederacy wrote

"The institution of slavery is a stain on this nation's soul that will never be cleansed. It is just as wrong as wrong can be, a huge sin, and it is on our soul. There's a second sin that's almost as great and that's emancipation. They told four million five hundred thousand people, You are free, hit the road. And we're still suffering from that. Three quarters of them couldn't read or write, not one tenth of them had a profession except for farming, and yet they were turned loose and told, Go your way. In 1877 the last Union troops were withdrawn after a dozen years of being in the South to assure compliance with the law. Once they were withdrawn all the Jim Crow laws and everything else came down on the blacks. Their schools were inferior in every sense. They had the Freedmen's Bureau, which did, perhaps, some good work, but it was mostly a joke, corrupt in all kinds of ways. So they had no help. Just turned loose on the world, and they were waifs. It's a very sad thing. There should have been a huge program for schools. There should have been all kinds of employment provided for them. Not modern welfare, you can't expect that in the middle of the nineteenth century, but there should have been some earnest effort to prepare these people for citizenship. They were not prepared, and operated under horrible disadvantages once the army was withdrawn, and some of the consequences are very much with us today. "

Michael said...

Crack

You should read the articles you link to. The inflammarory quotes which got you to the article in the first place are not the whole story. Shelby Foote was a good and decent man, a scholar and writer who studied and wrote his whole life on a topic you have been interested in for less than a year.

I Callahan said...

We have a thread that has NOTHING to do with race, and Crack leaves another bomb.

Please, do the right thing.

Carol said...

I can't recall anyone of my generation, i.e geezer, ever discussing Eleanor.

I new one, a WWII vet who was a history professor from Texas..he said he believed Eleanor was "the most beautiful woman in the world." He was a radical Democrat who supported Henry Wallace in 1948. And I think that's where she was at too.

She was the idol of that set, sexual preference notwithstanding.

Drago said...

Carol: "I new one, a WWII vet who was a history professor from Texas..he said he believed Eleanor was "the most beautiful woman in the world." He was a radical Democrat who supported Henry Wallace in 1948. And I think that's where she was at too.

She was the idol of that set, sexual preference notwithstanding."

I'm trying to remember the anecdote told by someone (WF Buckley??) regarding Eleanor's unwillingness to shake the hands of a Nazi because in her mind they were mass murderers. But when asked if she would shake hands with (insert Soviet/Stalinist diplomat here) she said she would.

The irony was lost on her.

I must find that book again.

dreams said...

"James Roosevelt was the tough guy leader like his dad TR . He took the Amazon trip with TR that nearly killed them all which was a heroic act that saved his father's life, temporarily."

It was Kermit who took the Amazon trip with his dad TR. Kermit committed suicide later in his life, many believe both he and his father never really recovered from the trip.

dreams said...

"James Roosevelt was the tough guy leader like his dad TR . He took the Amazon trip with TR that nearly killed them all which was a heroic act that saved his father's life, temporarily."

James Roosevelt was the oldest son of FDR.

dreams said...

"James Roosevelt was the tough guy leader like his dad TR . He took the Amazon trip with TR that nearly killed them all which was a heroic act that saved his father's life, temporarily.

He then emulated TR whenever he could claiming a successor'so rights. How he got to be a Brigader General awarded a Medal of Honor for being present at D Day when he should have been in the Cardiac Unit of a hospital was more emulation of the

TR' toughness schtick."

It was TR Jr who was the Brigader General who died of a heart attack, in his sleep I think, during the D Day invasion.

William said...

No. TR Jr landed with his men on Utah Beach and stayed with them over the next few weeks despite the fact that he had persistent chest pains. He was a brave man who served his country honorably. That Congressional Medal of Honor he was awarded was probably puffery, but he was undeniably brave and honorable........So far as Eleanor's orientation goes, the Burns' documentary makes note of her close female friendships, but the documentary also noted her close relationship with one of her male bodyguards and later in life, on a surely platonic level, with her physician.... The sexuality of women seems to be situational rather than innate. She was probably sexually attracted to affection rather than masculine or feminine attributes. She seems to have been a kind person with decent instincts, but she certainly had a lot of fatuous ideas.

traditionalguy said...

TR Jr. was a brave guy who would have made his father proud of him. He just was not as smart as he needed to be to be a a Commandig General in a modern war that did not need him out standing on the beach directing traffic. But he reminds me of many people I have known in over their heads but without fear. for their own safety. How do you handle that?

Jupiter said...

FOOTE

"No doubt about it. What's more, I would fight for the Confederacy today if the circumstances were similar."

In 1861, Southern blacks were slaves, and Southern whites were free.

Four years later, none of them were slaves, and none of them were free.

Michael K said...

"He just was not as smart as he needed to be to be a a Commandig General in a modern war that did not need him out standing on the beach directing traffic."

He and Terry Allen were outstanding officers. They were both relieved by Omar Bradley, a stiff prude whose reputation is declining too slowly for my taste. They both were sent back to the states where they raised another infantry division, the 104th, trained it and took it to Normandy.

Bradley's resentment of Allen stands in marked contrast to that of General George S. Patton. Although Patton and Allen frequently argued and even insulted each other, particularly when discussing tactics and leadership styles, the former recognized Allen's competence in building a fighting division. When Patton heard General Eisenhower deliver a lecture on the 'poor discipline' of Allen's 1st Division, he contradicted Eisenhower: "I told him he was mistaken and that anyhow no one whips a dog before putting him into a fight."

Roosevelt and Allen were tough guys and great officers. Had Roosevelt survived he might have been a division commender before the end of the war. He was promoted the day he died.

By modifying his division's original plan on the beach, Roosevelt enabled the division to achieve its mission objectives by coming ashore and attacking north behind the beach toward its original objective. Years later, General Omar Bradley was asked to name the single most heroic action he had ever seen in combat, and he replied, "Ted Roosevelt on Utah Beach.

eddie willers said...

They did the same thing with Lincoln...

Lincoln was as queer as a $5 bill.

Rich Rostrom said...

Carol @ 9/25/14, 3:45 PM said...

He was a radical Democrat who supported Henry Wallace in 1948. And I think that's where [Eleanor Roosevelt] was at too.

Oh, no. Eleanor liked Wallace, and supported the renomination of Wallace as VP in 1944. (Even as FDR engineered Wallace's replacement by Truman.)

But in 1948, she repeatedly denounced Wallace's run for President in her newspaper column. She compared him to Neville Chamberlain, and wrote "The American Communists will be the nucleus of Mr. Wallace's third party... Any use of my husband's name in connection with that party is from my point of view entirely dishonest."