Wednesday, April 12, 2017

The Kennedys and After Camelot

     My fascination in the Kennedy family started sometime between 2006 and 2007. My family had been watching a movie about Jackie, Ethel and Joan Kennedy that was based on a book. I became interested in the book and got it from the library. From that time on I became a lover of the Kennedy family. Because I'm also a royalist, I really did see (and still believe) that the Kennedys' were the royalty of America. They were the paragon of the American Dream. They were wealthy, beautiful, plagued with scandal and heartbreak, but also bound together by intense family loyalty and love. Definitely sounds like most royal families. 

     JFK's presidency was considered a new golden age of America commonly referred to as Camelot. They who came from nothing and changed the world through strength, deceit, power and at times God himself. It was a small and brief period of time, but it was a time between the end of the innocent 50's and the beginning of the savage 60's that brought peace, prosperity and pride to America.

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The Kennedys (2011)

     Starting on election day in 1960, the very large and always lively Kennedy family are on pins and needles at the prospect of getting John F. Kennedy into the white house. He would be the youngest president in history as well as the first Roman Catholic. Joseph P. Kennedy Senior the ambitious and power hungry patriarch has complete confidence in his son's victory, but will leave nothing up to chance. Joe has been grooming John (or Jack as everyone calls him) for the presidency since his older brother was killed in WWII. Now, Jack must take on the political mantel that his father had originally created for his brother and is unsure if he has the capability to do what needs to be done.

     Jack and Jackie Kennedy: While Jack and Jackie are in love, their relationship is shaken with Jack's consistent philandering and affairs. This lifestyle is not unusual in the Kennedy family (or in the Roman Catholic church) and Jackie is simply told to turn a blind eye. She gave up a promising photo journalist career to marry Jack but she truly didn't know what she was getting herself into. And life becomes even more difficult when she becomes First Lady of the United States.

     Jack adores his wife as well as his two small children, but the duties as President begins to wear on him quickly. Whether it's Bay of Pigs, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the civil rights movement, a cabinet the questions his every move, a vice president who despises him and a father he can never seem to please. Every moment of Jack's life is under constant scrutiny and criticism. 

     However, in the midst of all the political turmoil, his wife Jackie remains ever by his side in the darkest moments of his presidency. She does her duty as a good Catholic wife and the noble First Lady, but in her heart she stays because she still loves him even with all of his faults and flaws. Jackie still sees a man capable of leadership and will not stand by as the world tries to tell him otherwise. 

    Bobby and Ethel Kennedy: Robert F. Kennedy who is known as Bobby is a brilliant, but outspoken lawyer, a faithful husband and a loving father to an ever growing brood of children. His wife, Ethel, is ambitious with possible future dreams of the White House, but now contents herself with her husband as the attorney general, a position Bobby did not want. Bobby and Ethel's marriage is the polar opposite of Jack and Jackie's. There is genuine faith and commitment that binds them together. However, the White House can cast a wide shadow and both find themselves lost in the political warfare, family secrets and enemy fire. 

     Joe and Rose Kennedy: Two very different people whose only similar interest is in their love for their nine children. Joe Kennedy is one of the wealthiest men in America as well as a man with a natural taste for infidelity, His long-suffering but iron willed wife, Rose, has born her husband's indiscretions through raising her children and her devotion to God, Yet, Joe's desire for power and position comes at many heavy costs. One cost so painful that Rose is unable to speak of the tragedy to anyone, but has faith that one day her husband would come to pay for the sins of his selfishness and greed.

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The Kennedys: After Camelot (2017)

     Jackie Kennedy has had enough of death and pain. First her husband who was assassinated in Dallas, Texas in 1963 and then her brother-in-law Bobby who was shot in 1968 and died shortly afterwards. She wants to take her children and raise them in safety and privacy. Jackie gets that opportunity when she meets Aristotle Onassis, a Greek tycoon who can provide her a life of safety and wealth with no fears from the outside world. Jackie agrees to marry him, but still her heart is with the Kennedy's' and no matter how hard she tries, she cannot escape them.

     Time and again Jackie is brought back to deal with multiple family issues. Primarily Ted Kennedy's scandal involving the death of a young girl that became known as the Chappaquiddick Incident. Happening only months after Bobby's death, a scandal from the youngest Kennedy (and last brother) is the last thing the family needs. However, being a Kennedy can cover a multitude of sins and the family shamelessly manages to manipulate the church and the media to clear Ted's name. 

     No one has had it worse with Ted then his own wife, Joan. Beautiful, but shy and withdrawn, Joan finds herself lost within the Kennedy family and her heart broken over and over because of Ted's extramarital affairs. Drinking is the only thing Joan has control over and eventually becomes her only weapon in dealing with the harsh and brutal Kennedy world. Like with Jackie, pain and loss follow Joan to no end. A miscarriage and a child dealing with bone cancer sends her spiraling, but not completely lost due to Jackie's constant support and kindness.

     Meanwhile, Jackie has her own problems dealing with her son, John Jr. who is struggling to forge his own life outside of his father's shadow and apart from the Kennedy legacy. While not rebellious, John's independent nature clashes with his mother who simply wants to protect him from the cruelty of the outside world. As John grows older he begins to appreciate his mother's sacrifices to raise him and his sister in safety. He starts to mature from the insecure and angry boy to a confident and successful man; first as a lawyer and then as a magazine editor, living up to the title of America's Prince. 

     After Jackie is diagnosed with cancer she and her son share a special moment when she reveals to him the truth behind 'Camelot' and asks her son that he simply live his life the way he wants to. Not the Kennedy way or the world's way, but however he see fits, whether it's a life in publishing or politics. And John does just that. He marries the love of his life, Carolyn Bessette, creates a pop-culture political magazine and soon begins to gravitate toward the political arena in whatever capacity he feels like he can serve in. John created his own personal Camelot for himself and his family, but like his father's it ended before he could share it with the world. 

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     Both of these mini-series are absolutely stunning and compelling. There is great accuracy in the stories that they chose to tell and the actors were spot on with their performances. Whether you love or loathe the Kennedy family, there is no denying that they shaped America. While they were rich and powerful, they were still a family that loved football and picnics. Flawed men forged strong women who could survive in the world long after their men were gone. Children followed in their parents footsteps while creating their own paths. And a generation remembered them as their own royal family that for a time made America a land of proud patriots and hopeful dreamers.

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