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Ken Burns' Roosevelt History Brushes over Gay Parts

Up front for me "The Roosevelts, An Intimate History" shown on PBS last week was the best work to date of Mr. Burns. I can remember when FDR was president, and when his wife was changing forever the role of First Lady. We did not have television in those days, and the political cartoonists drew hundreds of FRD and an equal number of drawings of Eleanor visiting people and places far below her upper class and wealthy status. (At Left: Lorena Hickok and Eleanor Roosevelt)

Mr. Burns' television series gave frank accounts of the President's affairs with other women, but when it came to Eleanor's sex life, he could not bring himself to use the words gay or lesbian. Here we are well into the 21st Century with many counties and US States where same sex marriage is legal, and a historian of Mr. Burns character is still giving a halfhearted reporting of the facts. For sure, he put the pieces of the puzzle on the table, but he left putting them together on the viewers' part. Many older viewers came away thinking that Mrs. Roosevelt surely worked with a lot of women who lived together and that she even went on a long road trip alone with Lorena Hickok who had a bedroom in the White House, but there was nothing sexual about any of these relationships. Mr. Burns could not bring himself to telling history the way it was, and so we have yet another presentation of times gone by that erase the work and worth of gay people.


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