Masculinity in Oliver Stone's Nixon

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Masculinity in Oliver Stone's Nixon I. Introduction When President Nixon was leaving the White House, Henry Kissinger comforted him by saying, "History will treat you kindly," to which Nixon replied, "That depends on who writes the history" (Hamburg xiv). [1] Watching Oliver Stone’s Nixon (1995) and the director’s earlier film JFK (1991), it is difficult to have kind thoughts about Richard Nixon. Stone’s investment in the figure of the president manifests itself in two ways: first, in the director’s fixation on Nixon as a symbol of the corrupt political landscape after President John Kennedy’s assassination, and, second, his fixation on Nixon as a symbol of a failed patriarch or an ineffective father figure who led the country into further turmoil. Stone has argued that he hoped to elicit sympathy for Nixon, but I will show that the director’s emphasis on Nixon as an epic tragedy, especially in conjunction with the Beast thesis, does not allow for sympathy or understanding of the man or his politics. [2] My analysis primarily focuses on Stone’s film Nixon, but it is noteworthy to mention JFK, since both films were embroiled in heated debates regarding historical authenticity and artistic license. In JFK, Stone pieces together several conspiracy theories as to who was responsible for President Kennedy’s assassination from “real” primary texts, news footage, ear and eye witnesses, and the Zapruder film, among others. In Nixon, Stone uses similar techniques to posit equally troubling theses: the first that Nixon, while Vice President, was involved in a plot to assassinate Fidel Castro, and, second, that Nixon was directly or inadvertently responsible for the deaths of John and Robert Kennedy. Stone elects to create scenes and embellish information but defends his mixing of fact and speculation: “Of course, there’s license and speculation, but they are based on reasonable assumptions which we’ve discussed with highly reliable technical advisers who lived through the history we’re recounting in the film” (Monsel 206). [3] Regardless of historical inaccuracies, it is valuable to analyze how Stone constructs Nixon’s personae, as well as the epic thesis of the “Beast” in American politics, because, through both, Stone deconstructs the American ideology of the ideal man, as well as the “American dream” of success. II. American Capitalist Ideology and Marketing of Nixon and JFK. [4] The marketable nature of Stone’s controversy is elaborated in the ideologies he chooses to emphasize and the “whitewashing” of particular historical facts that are shown in Nixon.

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