Jenny Beth Journal: Chappaquiddick ‘emphatically reminds us how intoxicating and effective power and privilege can be’


“Chappaquiddick” will officially premiere in theaters today against a backdrop of high-profile scandals and it’s not at all what one would expect from Hollywood’s liberal and condescending lecturers. Throughout the movie, it does not go unnoticed that it strips away the decades-long myth perpetuated by the Kennedy family and spotlights Mary Jo Kopechne as a victim and Kennedy as more concerned with his political career than the life of a woman and the legality of his own conduct.

Jenny Beth previews the film in the Washington Times:

Whether coincidence or not, “Chappaquiddick,” produced by Entertainment Studios, premieres April 6th against a backdrop of high-profile sex scandals – both in Hollywood and in Washington, D.C. It does not go unnoticed that Kennedy was a forerunner of Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, Louis C.K., and members of Congress who went so far as to actually legislate their antics into the vacuum of anonymity, only to have such a process blow up in their faces.

The notorious “shush fund,” from which taxpayer money was distributed to alleged victims of sexual misconduct by senators, House members and staff to buy their silence, was instituted in 1997, when Kennedy was well into his fourth decade in office. History does not record his feelings on the matter.

Recent news stories note “powerful people” have attempted to block this film’s release. Among them, reportedly, is former Sen. Chris Dodd, Connecticut Democrat, who, until last fall, was president of the Motion Picture Association of America. It’s not difficult to wonder why.

Mr. Dodd and Kennedy were more than longtime friends, they were drinking and carousing buddies who – all too often – engaged in a fair number of sexcapades that were mostly ignored by the national media because they were “liberal lions “of the Senate. A devastating 1990 profile of Kennedy in GQ was a rare exception.

The great public service done by “Chappaquiddick” is that it strips away the decades-long myth perpetuated by the Kennedy family and its allies in national media, academia and, yes, in Hollywood. Lead actor Jason Clarke, by an odd coincidence, happens to have been born on July 17, 1969 in Australia, just one day before the incident happened on the other side of the world at Chappaquiddick. Mr. Clarke did not grow up with the Camelot myth, and so does a remarkable job capturing Ted Kennedy’s petulant, spoiled, self-indulgent, self-pitying and self-destructive persona.

Chappaquidick undoubtedly serves as a reminder and a warning that we remain vulnerable to being distracted from the truth by the potent mixture of politics and celebrity fame. There’s no wonder that “powerful people” attempted to block this film’s release.