November 30

Lincoln Extra Credit

As I watched Lincoln, I couldn’t help but be struck by the honest attempt to portray the 16th president and the tumultuous last months of the Civil War.  Lincoln seemed funny at times, deeply troubled and burdened by leading the country through some of its worst times ever, and also a grieving father and husband.

But what struck me most was what I thought was the parallel between the freedom and rights of freed slaves back in 1865 and today’s struggle for most LGBT equality.  Tony Kushner, the screenwriter, was the author of 1993’s Angels in America, a ground-breaking play that addressed gay and lesbian issues in a very different time (even just twenty years ago) that shocked America.  Back in 1993, people were still afraid of AIDS victims and spurned those who were HIV positive.  Today, gay and lesbian couples struggle for marriage equality, have been turned down for adoption, and are still the victims of harassment and bullying.  The Laramie Project, a play about the life of Matthew Shephard, a gay man who was tortured and killed for his sexual orientation by two straight men, was just at Seaholm a few weeks ago and has had such an impact on the lives of Americans that Matthew’s mother believes that the play has saved more people than all of the hate crime laws in the country. 

 Another thing that I was struck by was the blatant vote-courting done by the men hired by Seward who twisted Democrats’ arms and practically bribed these Congressmen with government jobs (like postmaster of _______, Ohio) in order to get the needed 2/3 number of votes to pass the 13th Amendment.   Part of me was not surprised by these strong-arm tactics, because I know that this was (and is) how things were done, but part of me was startled because I wanted to preserve this ideal that I’d had about Lincoln as being above this kind of political wrangling.   But the one thing I have learned over the years was that Lincoln was not above using politics as a means to his ends, whatever they may have been at the time.  He had promised to gradually emancipate slaves in the border states (even suggesting monetary compensation for slaves) so that they would stay in the Union.  This never happened. 

 A third thing that struck me was the word play and rhetorical sparring in Congress.  Many of those exchanges were funny and enlightening with regards to the way politics played out in the 1860s.  Today’s Congress doesn’t conduct itself like this today (but watching the face-to-face barb flinging in the movie, it’s no surprise that Charles Sumner was beaten by South Carolinian representative after Sumner “insulted” the South’s honor).  I loved Thaddeus Stevens, the radical Republican from Pennsylvania, who was willing to compromise his desire for full rights for freedmen to get the greater goal of slavery abolished.  Also, I don’t know if the final scene with him is true (no spoilers here!) though Wikipedia and other sources have confirmed it. 

 A fourth thing that really opened my eyes was the troubled relationship between Lincoln and his son, Robert, with Robert’s anger boiling over at not being allowed to fight in the Civil War (and instead enrolled at Harvard).  I wonder if Lincoln didn’t allow his son to fight because of his own fears of Robert’s death (knowing that he’s already lost two sons, Eddie in 1850 and Willie in 1862) or Mary’s own fragile psyche which could fracture with another death (and probably did with Abe’s death in 1865).  Though the oldest, Robert seemed neglected by his father when he comes to visit for the “shindee” after his father’s re-election.  There were scenes that showed Robert being ignored by Lincoln, but by contrast Tad gets all of his father’s love.   One of the more touching scenes was when Lincoln cuddled up with Tad on the floor who had fallen asleep playing war with toy soldiers.  I was also surprised to see Lincoln slap Robert when Robert wouldn’t let his duty to fight drop.  These scenes made Lincoln seem like a real person with flaws and fears. 

 The last thing that I took away from the movie was the battle over giving the slaves equal rights once the 13th Amendment would be passed. What would be the point of freeing slaves if they weren’t citizens of the nation that had freed them?  What’s the point?  No voting?  No civil rights?  This was a preview of what Reconstruction would become: a battle over guaranteeing the rights for freed blacks vs. preserving white supremacy. 


Please provide your insights about the movie.  You can respond to any of my five insights or share your own after you’ve seen the movie.  If you find an interesting movie review, please include the link / url in your blog response.  Minimum of 200 words.  Due by Monday, Dec. 10th at the beginning of your class. 



Sources: – an interesting look at how the actor, Daniel Day-Lewis, developed his speaking voice for his part as Lincoln, and the back and forth between writer Tony Kushner and Lewis as to what phrases and words would be used in the movie. – brief article about the screenwriter’s meeting with Obama after he watched Lincoln for the first time. – A 2010 article about Kushner’s Angels in America plays.

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Posted November 30, 2012 by geoffwickersham in category Blogs

34 thoughts on “Lincoln Extra Credit

  1. Carolyn Dimitry

    I agree with the parallels between LGBT and the freedom of slavery, and one parallel that always struck me how in both struggles, religion is a huge drive for advocates. In the issue over slavery, Northerners believed that God created all men equal, therefore just because blacks were well, black, they had no right to enslave them. Nowadays, the opposition to the LGBT community cites bible verses as a reason to keep people from one of the most basic human actions, marriage, while ignoring other passages, claiming the practices are ‘outdated’.
    Concerning the movie, I was amazed how human they made Lincoln. Abraham Lincoln is considered by many to be our greatest president, and can often take an almost mythical quality. The way they show him arguing with his family and strongarming votes in the House adds flaws to a man some consider superhuman in many aspects.
    I also liked how they portrayed Mary Todd Lincoln. She was not the most stable of human beings, some historians now believe she was bipolar (and no, I don’t remember where I read that).
    I loved the costumes and set design of the movie, it was beautifully done and as far as I can tell, quite accurate.
    And finally, Lincoln and his seemingly pointless stories never failed to amuse.

  2. Kate Voigt

    As I walked into the Maple Theater where I was to watch the film, I began with a feeling of uneasiness when my mother had told me that the movie had begun with a battle sequence. My first thought was Oh no, it’s another one of those documentaries dad likes to watch, no wonder he came along. I waited for the narrator to kick in about two minutes into the movie, but the only voices I heard were ones of the actor’s portrayals of the soldiers themselves, and was pleasantly surprised.

    After the movie had been opened for a week, my sister had told me about the common complaints that came with the casting of Daniel Day-Lewis as the title character. Now, nobody was bothered by his portrayal, but his voice did. The local critics, (read Hannah’s friends and assorted tumblr people), saw that his voice was too high and a little wispy, as compared to the deep voice we all know him to be.

    As mentioned in the above prompt, Lincoln is portrayed as a compassionate, loving father and husband, but with an extreme control. His wife, played by the wonderful Sally Field, was not mentally stable; history lists her as possibly bipolar, suffered from horrible headaches and had to deal with the loss of a son. Lincoln kept his cool for a majority of the film, even with his circumstances; he never was abusive to his wife no matter how she acted towards him.

    His son, Robert, who was played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, (who never seems to be out of work), was hit only once, but only because Lincoln didn’t want to lose him, seeing how awful his wife had reacted to the death of William, his second son. In fact, the line before the slap occurs is “ITS BECAUSE OF MOTHER!” or something around that.

    In conclusion, the movie was enjoyable. From Lincoln’s stories that he tells at the telegraph office, to the use of Lincolns actual pocket watch in the background, it was an original peek into not only the lives of Lincoln and his family, but his cabinet and assorted followers.

    Another movie review:

  3. Jalen

    As I walked away from the movie, I was star stuck at the courageous and selfless mission that Lincoln and the Republicans strived to achieve. The portrait of Lincoln that was painted into my mind was one of perseverance and righteousness. Before what I’m about to say, I want it to be evident that what Abraham Lincoln did was a changing point not only in United States history, but also world history. Passing the 13th Amendment was extremely crucial to our nations survival and prosperity. But what wasn’t accurately portrayed in the movie was that even though Abraham Lincoln was strongly against slavery and was pro emancipation, he held racists thoughts and beliefs that many whites during the late 19th century had. I guarantee that if you surveyed people who had just viewed the film, the majority would not know that he was racist purely based off the movie. I admit that even I believed that he held the same beliefs as Frederick Douglas and john Brown. But when we studied the Lincoln-Douglas debates in class, I have to confess that I was misled by the movie. The only excuse I could come up with to defend Lincoln was that he was only saying the extremely racist declarations to win the Senate race. But what Lincoln said at the debate in Charleston was shocking. Not only did he declare that blacks should not be able to vote, hold office, or intermarry, but that blacks are physically and intellectually inferior to the white race. He proclaimed, “… there must be the position of superior and inferior and I as much as any other man am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race” (Lincoln). The whole emancipation drive was portrayed as the white Republicans fighting the white Democrats. To me, it felt that that it was the white’s choice whether to free the slaves or not. Out of the whole movie, there was only a few speaking parts by blacks. It made it seem that the blacks were helpless in the decision of the future. By a production standpoint, the movie was one of the best I’ve ever seen. The vivid depictions were tremendous and I really could imagine what life in the white house during emancipation was like. But from a content view, the movie seemed to have some troubles getting across the right message.

  4. geoffwickersham (Post author)

    What I thought was cool in the movie that you cannot see in your average prentice hall textbook was that of how Lincoln emancipated slavery. I never knew he used bribery, I never was aware of a man named Thaddeus Stevens who absolutely killed it in my opinion. My views for Lincoln changed though, yes he abolished slavery, but he did not do it in any just way. He used one of the Cardinal Sins, he lied, denied that he called for a peace commission with the Confederacy which came a few moments after the voting of the 13th amendment. Lincoln used bribery to get I think it was 20 votes to insure that 2/3s majority in Congress. He had Billbo go around and gave Democrats jobs if they voted yes. We also saw a soft side to Lincoln though of how he told stories and how he was with his son Tad. My personal favorite part was the first scene when the two white guys could not finish the Gettysburg Address and the one black guy could and the look on the white guys faces, EPIC! It was sad seeing Robert and Abraham, Rob wanted to join the Union and Abe would not allow him and they only shook hands when Rob came home from college. I have one word that comes to my mind at the thought of Mary Todd, Psychotic. Its either her role was bad or not once she seemed stable, she had no filter and just spoke what was on her mind without restrain. But my overall thoughts of the movie was good but their was a lot of stuff to me that was pointless, that was not needed like Lincoln with the gloves, the hospital scene, when Mary was in Willys room, it just made the movie go on longer.

    Jer Juice!

  5. Sara Keebler

    Going into this movie I was honestly prepared to be bored and uninterested for two and a half hours but I was actually really entertained. Usually when I watch a movie or a show about history I get bored after a couple minutes but during this whole film I was excited to see what would happen next and how they were going to portray different scenes. It was amazing how Lincoln stopped at nothing to do what he knew was right. He defied a lot of people’s wishes and even demands just so that he could make a better future for the next generations in this country. Like what you said, I can relate this to the LGBT fights for equality. Back then Blacks weren’t treated right because of how they looked and now gay people aren’t treated right because of the way they love. I hope that the way Lincoln handled the Slavery issue during his term is how Obama will take care of the LGBT issues now. Although people may not agree with him now about it, like people didn’t agree with Lincoln back then, in the future it will have been an amazing decision. There are even more ways to relate this movie to issues occurring now but I believe that the LGBT issues compare with it more than anything.

  6. Alex V.

    The movie was, really good for a history movie. It was funny and showed how Lincoln was feeling at that time of his life. I would have liked a bit more action scenes, but would they have shown, civil war clips, that would have not made much sense, because that wasn’t what Lincoln did. He didn’t fight, he was in the White House doing his part to stop the war, by abolishing slavery, the souths only economic advantage. Can someone explain to me (on the facebook page please) Why the south had cared if the Union abolished slavery? They were a separate country, pretty much right. Why did they follow the rules implemented by the North? I just want to know. I probably missed something in class maybe, I don’t know. The most interesting part was when they showed the house of representatives, that was where people were making jokes about others views and yelling, I think this is what they had substituted for their action, which was actually what was great about this movie, as soon as you started to get bored they would have some thing odd and hilarious happen, like with the telegrams and Lincoln’s George Washington Picture story, then followed it up with some thing serious to get you back to the plot. I felt it was like going up to someone with the intention of wanting something, and telling them that they looked great, then they realize what your doing and ask you what you want. I had to give this movie props after I left the theater., and to anyone that needs to study about Lincoln for a project or something, I definitely recommend, putting parts of this movie in your work.

  7. Kate Voigt

    To be honest, I think the glove thing was a satirical crack at Lincolns farm background. Since he wasn’t like Mary, who had lived in high society, he felt trapped inside of the gloves.

  8. Alexa R

    I left the movie Lincoln partly confused but with a new understanding about him. In my head I imagined him as this overly righteous person who cared more about freeing slaves. But after I watched the movie it made President Lincoln seem like a real human; arguing with his son about why he can’t go to war, wanting the best for his family, getting frustrated with his wife, and hanging out with his son. But Lincoln also had points about him that made him at least to me this above average person/president with his extreme control over how he acts like in the part of the movie where him and his wife get into and instead of him snapping on her he tells her to take the liberal side instead of the selfish one. What made him above average president was his commitment to the amendment he did some shady things that could have gotten him into some trouble but he stayed committed when everyone else wasn’t. The movie wasn’t really on my top list only because some of the words used where way over my head and it wasn’t any underlying story to it the whole movie felt like it was missing something but for a extra credit opportunity it was good. And to those who look done on Lincoln because he bribed someone don’t blame him I would rather him bribe someone to get it done than for it to not have been done at all.

  9. Elizabeth Lohr

    To basically any history student, who might think of Lincoln as one of the almost “demigods” who helped form our core democratic value of equality that we all prize today. After watching Lincoln, I still believe this; however, he seemed more human-like in the movie. I liked the way they portrayed Lincoln. He was known to be a storyteller and quite humorous. Even when he was a lawyer in Illinois he was known to use humor to help him with his cases. One of my favorite scenes was when he was about to tell a story, one man stormed out concluding that he could not handle another one of Lincoln’s anecdotes. It showed that Lincoln liked to lighten the mood in serious cabinet meetings and other things of that sort. Even the way Lincoln slouched when he walked, you could tell he was not originally from the upper class. Lincoln clearly portrayed the spirit of America, anyone could “climb the ladder of success”, as the Lincoln bio we read states. I also liked the juxtaposition of Mary Todd and Abraham Lincoln, seeing that Mary Todd was originally from the upper class and Lincoln was from the lower class. Mary Todd was always done up, wearing corsets and ostentatious dresses, while Lincoln wore modest suits and felt discomfort wearing gloves. I also liked how dedicated Lincoln was to winning the war. He visited the soldiers in the hospital and made sure to learn their names. He also talked to the black soldiers in the beginning of the movie. This showed that he was not above talking to any of the common people. Since he was one of them before, he made sure to support them and the fighting in the war. He even visited battlefields to grieve the losses of the soldiers. Lincoln was the epitome of a man who cared about his country and is definitely one of the best presidents we’ve ever had.

  10. Sarah F

    The similarities between the fight for rights of blacks and the LGBT community are striking. The fact that an entire country can tell these people that basically their rights don’t matter, and that they’re beneath our level of superiority, is unbelievable. Religious beliefs are the drive for many Americans values, the bible approves of slavery and disapproves of same sex marriage. Lincolns dislike for slavery was something that really showed his humanity in the movie. He push for the 13th Amendment with all of his will and even sent his men out to bribe for votes. There are many people today that would do the same for the LGBT community, but no one has been strong enough to stand up to their entire country like Lincoln did, and force the people of America into acceptance.
    The movie did a great job at showing a very human Lincoln with flaws. His perseverance and struggle for freedom of slaves and the comedic side of the film kept me wanting more. His love Tad was very emotional at times, especially when he sprawled himself on the ground to lay next to his son. But, when he slapped Robert out of fear for what may happen to him in the war, his flaws were shown. He was also flawed in that he had to send out his men to get votes from the Democrats. The constant fight with his servant about whether to were his gloves or not was a little detail that added a comedic side to the film, but it also showed his strong will over the smallest things. This movie was much better than what I could’ve imagined because of the great portrayals by the actors and story which they followed

  11. connor P.

    Watching this movie surprised me because it was actually interesting to watch. But two things in this movie really struck me. One of these things is that I couldn’t help acknowledging the surprise I had for how Lincoln won the houses support. The fact that he used corruption, job offers, and even bribery hadn’t ever even begun to cross my mind. Before I walked into this movie I thought of Abraham Lincoln as an amazing and honest person. This factual information on Lincoln blew me away. This idea of Lincoln being an average politician honestly struck me. i understand that Lincoln did what he had to do and he did what was right for his country but I always thought he would have convinced them to change to yes rather than use bribery. That is why I felt so strange after the movie because they changed my perspective of Lincoln. The second thing that struck me was how Lincoln’s relationship with his son was troubled. When Lincoln’s son came back from school Lincoln didn’t seem happy or surprised to see him and even told him to wait for a second. This makes me feel that Lincoln has had problems with his son before. When his son decides to go into the military, I couldn’t help realize that the son was showing so much courage. A single child felt that he could go up to the commander in chief of the military and say that he will go into the military and there’s nothing Lincoln can do to stop it. That requires an extraordinary amount of guts because Lincoln could easily deny him the right to go in. But he doesn’t. I felt that Lincoln’s relationship with his son was fixed at the end because his son was alive and serving and the war ended. Either way, I felt that this movie was probably the best historical fiction I have ever seen. I felt like I was actually seeing Lincoln in person on TV and his troubles. That combined with his outrageously amusing stories and comedy made me this movie great. This review describes how I felt during the movie as well as the rest of my family.

  12. Cooper Peters-Wood

    What I took from watching Lincoln more than anything else was Lincoln’s determination to get the thirteenth amendment passed through Congress. I knew it was his ultimate goal to free the slaves, especially as the death toll rose as the Civil War progressed but I had never really thought about the struggle and stress Lincoln had to face. In the scene where Lincoln is meeting with his cabinet several days before the vote in the House of Representatives, his emotion over the vote could really be seen. Lincoln responded to the bickering and negativity of the cabinet members by raising his hand, and slamming it down on the desk top. He proceeded to tell off the Cabinet members and motivated them, (with a raised and very stern voice) to convince several more republican representatives to vote yes on the amendment. I was really moved to see Lincoln care so much about the law and the future of our country. Also, when Lincoln talked about his decision about the war-time powers held by the President proved his dedication to the Constitution through his risks over his war-time powers. This film changed how I look at Lincoln’s decision over the thirteenth amendment and it put in perspective his dedication to the Constitution.

  13. Jenna Weed

    What really struck me about this movie was Daniel Day Lewis’s portrayal of Abraham Lincoln. Over the course of the movie, I gained a new perspective on Lincoln’s life and came to realize how difficult, stressful, time-consuming, and unfortunate some parts of it were. He had so much to deal with and think about in all aspects of his life. As president, Lincoln spent all hours of the day and all hours of the night working for the betterment of our country. He would never have time to sleep and in many scenes was discussing new advances, especially for the 13th Amendment campaign, in the middle of the night with many tired men. He spent countless stressful hours and energy on guaranteeing the passage of the 13th Amendment. As a husband and father, Lincoln had to deal with Mary Todd Lincoln and her highs and lows. Years after Willie’s death, they finally confronted and came to terms with their sadness and mourned their loss. Everyday, Lincoln was mourning the loss of his beloved son, but he had to be strong, suppress his sorrows, and support both his family and our country. Lincoln also had a troubled relationship with his eldest son, Robert, who came home from school in time to celebrate Lincoln’s reelection. Lincoln and Robert, along with Mary Todd Lincoln, had the ongoing fight about allowing Robert to join in fighting in the war for the Union. Both Mary Todd and Lincoln didn’t want Robert to join in fear for the loss of third son. They finally had to let go, and Lincoln had to deal with the fears involved with having a son fighting in the bloodiest American war. I find it honorable and inspirational that, despite all of these aspects of his life Lincoln had to deal with and devote his focus to, he still found ways to stay positive, see the glass half-full, enjoy every day, and manage to fit in another meaningless story for the amusement of mainly himself and others.

  14. Safia Sayed

    I thought the movie Lincoln was an interesting and unique way to portray Abraham Lincoln. Despite being a very long movie, Lincoln only focused on a very short period of Lincoln’s life- the time when he was trying to pass the Thirteenth Amendment. From this precise section of Lincoln’s history, we still get a very good idea of the kind of person and the kind of president that Abraham Lincoln was. We see Lincoln freeing slaves, but we also see him using bribery to do it. Most portrayals of Lincoln tend to focus on all of the good things Lincoln did. I appreciated the honesty in showing Lincoln’s questionable political tactics. It reminded me that Lincoln was a politician like any other. I also really liked the scenes showing Lincoln’s interactions with his sons Robert and Tad. Lincoln is clearly split between allowing Robert to do what he feels is his duty, and preventing the death of yet another one of his sons. The sometimes stiff relationship between Abraham and Robert demonstrates Lincoln’s imperfections as a person and as a father. In contrast, Lincoln had a very close relationship with Tad; this is made apparent in the heartbreaking scene where Tad finds out about his father’s death. Finally, I was impressed that all the actors in the movie look very similar to the photographs of the actual people they are portraying.

  15. Chris Coburn

    One of my favorite characters from the movie was Thaddeus Stevens, perfectly portrayed by Tommy Lee Jones. He believed that all races are equal, and should be treated that way. This struck me as incredibly advanced for someone of his time period. He was a leader for the Republican’s in the debate over the proposed 13th amendment, and had been adamant on his feelings towards blacks. He embraced the idea of compromise, an idea American’s pride their government on. Instead of advocating his equal rights feelings, he takes Lincoln’s moderate view and says they are only equal under the law. This struck me as an astounding political move. Why would you switch your position on an issue you have been fighting for your entire career? Thaddeus was asked a similar question in the movie, and his answer further defined his skill as a politician. He said he could be adamant about his equal rights ideas, and lose this stepping stone to his goal. The 13th amendment would be necessary to create a basis for equal rights, and by switching his views, Thaddeus helped ensure its passage.
    There is some reasoning behind Thaddeus’s radical equality views. It was believed, but never confirmed, that Stevens’ was in in a relationship with his housekeeper for over 23 years. Lydia Hamilton Smith, half Irish and half black, was commonly referred to by the guests in Stevens’ home as “Mrs. Stevens”. If I recall correctly, there is a snippet of the two together near the end of the movie. This may help explain his political views and define Thaddeus’s personality.
    Extra Source:

  16. Julia Berthel

    Lincoln was a movie with extremes that seemed to blend effortlessly together to create a bigger picture of President Lincoln and life during the final stretch of the Civil War. Each aspect of the movie – the look, the speech, and the characters – created a mood that made this time period much more relatable to the audience. The movie gave me an understanding of Lincoln as a person rather than a perfect historical figure. President Lincoln is usually portrayed as a god-like figure who is above the level of American politics, but the movie showed him to be a real politician without making him dislikable either. I was the most surprised by the bribery used by the Republicans, but I agree that this bribery makes sense if you think in a political context. However, by the immortal Lincoln standards, this bribery is shocking. As the viewer, I felt shocked, but I was not completely against the bribery either. This is not to say that I am pro-bribery, but it gets me thinking about good intentions and when good intentions are overpowered by shameful actions. Does this make the Republicans bad people, or are they just people who have good intentions and make sacrifices for the greater good? This bring up my favorite aspect of the movie, which is the idea that good human beings can be idealized to the point where the assumption is automatically made that they are perfect, where in reality they are not. This same idea can be applied to Lincoln’s different treatment of his sons, or other characters in the movie (like Thaddeus Stevens, who was neither all good nor all bad). Overall, whether you were at the movies for a deeper understanding of Lincoln or just to enjoy a very long movie, this movie seemed to satisfy us all.

  17. Alayna Brasch

    Same as many people, I went into theatre not very excited for the Lincoln movie. But it turned out to be much better than I expected. The portrayal of that point in history was so well done I felt like I really had a good idea of what it must have been like to be alive during that time period. It was kind of fun and exciting to see what they had to go through in order to get the thirteenth amendment passed. I found it interesting that during the voting session, some people did change their mind at the last second and voted yes. I didn’t realize the importance the death of Lincoln’s son had on both Lincoln and Mary. Mary was consumed by guilt and depression whereas Lincoln suppressed it and seemed more comfortable letting Mary mourn for him. That was one of the sadder moments of the movie. It was interesting how they did the ending. I was expecting to be horrified by Lincoln being shot in the theatre, but once again I was drawn into the movie like I was there in the theatre receiving the new of the president’s death as it happened. Overall I really enjoyed the movie and I would see it again.

  18. Michael Trease

    After I saw Stephen Spielberg’s, I found many aspects of the movie both intriguing and informative. I was amazed at what a daunting task the attempt at getting the 13th amendment (the amendment that called for the abolition of slavery) proved to be for Abraham Lincoln and the other handful of Republican senators that desired the end of the cruel establishment. I found it interesting that Thaddeus Stevens, Republican member of the U.S. House of Representatives, got into bed with his African-American housekeeper after the 13th amendment had been passed. I than researched Thaddeus Stevens and found that he indeed may have had an affair with his African American housekeeper, as depicted in D.W Griffith’s film “Birth of a Nation”, which had a reputation for being a notoriously racist film rather than a film that illustrated the relationship between Stevens and his housekeeper on a more positive note (like Stephen Spielberg’s Lincoln). I, along with the audience found the comic relief throughout the movie to be most entertaining. Little parts of comic relief were used in this movie as to relive the audience of the tremendous amounts of tension and drama. The audience found Abraham Lincoln’s line: “No sight can make an Englishman shit quicker than the sight of George Washington” quite comical because Daniel Day Lewis (Abraham Lincoln in the film) is from England.

  19. Melissa Hall

    Although it might not of been my first choice at first, I still had some excitement stepping into the theater to see Lincoln. I think it was a great introduction to what we would be learning about in class the next couple of weeks. One of the things that first stood out to me even in the opening scene was Lincoln’s witty sense of humor. There were already laughs coming from everyone watching within a few minutes of the movie starting. I think the humor lightened the mood throughout the movie, and kept me interested. When I first imagine any type of president I think of them being very strict and boring, but after watching I realized how much of a normal person Lincoln was (who also makes mistakes). Something else that surprised me was the treatment toward his sons and how much he cared for them. To me it was very touching when Lincoln was on the floor by the fire with the younger son. It was also very nice to see how even though Lincoln was very busy he still made time for his son, and brought him along sometimes to meetings. How he treated his older son, Robert, was also very alarming. I did not know at first how much Lincoln didn’t want his son to fight in the war. But after he slapped him and yelled, I understood what Lincoln could be feeling. I think that showed that he really didn’t want to lose another one of his sons, and the strong feelings he has towards his children. Also, at the end of the movie when Lincoln is assassinated, and how Tad bursts out into screams and cries really broke my heart. It portrayed how much family meant to the Lincoln family. Although the family aspect of the movie really impacted me I was also interested in the political parts. Thaddeus Stevens was one of my favorite characters as well, and I loved how he handled everything in the courtroom scenes. This movie taught me how bad the battle for signing the 13th amendment was and how much passion the men had to pass it. It also was able to show the “not so perfect” side to presidents. This movie ended up being very enjoyable, and opened my eyes to a presidential world I had never known about.

  20. $eth Ro$en

    Obama’s Affordable Care Act is something that requires a great amount of political deal making, but, like the 13th amendment, was seen by the president as essential to the future economic and moral health of America. Without that level of personal conviction, the effort would not be possible to fight. Lincoln remained cool and collected despite other people telling him to back off and not waste good political will, just like Obama.
    Thaddeus Stevens reminded me of Ted Kennedy. He fought for abolition for 30 years and was considered a radical. Kennedy fought for Health Care reform for decades and was considered a radical. But at least Stevens was able to see his efforts pay off. The similarity just shows how the issues may change, but humanity remains the same.
    From a movie geek’s view, Daniel Day-Lewis will win best actor (unless Hugh Jackman, yes Hugh Jackman, gives a hell of a performance in Les Miserables), Russell Crowe barley beats out Tommy Lee Jones and Christopher Waltz for best supporting actor, Anne Hathaway destroys Sally Field for best actress, and best picture goes to Les Miserables, giving Tom Hooper two best picture awards since 2010 (The King’s Speech). Tarantino falls short yet again, and Spike Lee will make Martin Luther King Jr: Ninja Warrior after confusing Lincoln with Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.

  21. Aaron Walt

    When I typically go to see a movie, I prefer high-octane action movies and comedies. So, a movie like Lincoln definitely does not fall under either of those categories. But despite this, I enjoyed the movie and was impressed that someone could make a documentary type movie that I didn’t fall asleep while watching.
    First of all, Daniel Day-Lewis and Tommy Lee Jones did a fantastic job of becoming the roles they played in the movie. This was very important because it put you directly into the time period of the movie. Also, we got to see what Lincoln was really like, which casts the movie into a more realistic and interesting light.
    Of course we all know how the issue of slavery was resolved. Slavery ended after the Civil War and peace was eventually restored to the union. But, the movie did a good job of almost making you wonder what was going to happen. They thrusted me straight into the action and not until the movie ended was I assured that slavery did in fact end.
    So in conclusion, most movies I see that fall under the categories of history and documentary put me to sleep faster than melatonin and a family dinner party. But, Lincoln managed to keep me conscious due to Daniel Day-Lewis’ fantastic acting and how they made the issue of slavery interesting to me again .

  22. Amber Abboud

    Prior to watching Lincoln he to me was a super hero. He was the great man had abolished slavery. Steven Spielberg’s film seemed to humanize him in a number of ways.
    One way was his relations with his wife. She was rumored to have bi-polar disorder at the time; others say she was just grieving over the loss of her two sons. Either way it would be difficult to have to run the whole country during a national crisis and tend to your emotional wife at the same time. He made sacrifices.
    Lincoln’s relationship between his children showed favoritism for his youngest son, Tad. In the movie it almost showed resentment between Lincoln and his eldest son, Robert. He was seen ignoring him many times for his cabinet. Superheroes don’t pick favorites like that, but humans do.
    Abraham’s dedication to the country had taken a toll on his relationship with his family. He is still in fact a hero to the United States, but just not a super hero.
    About review link: I always find it interesting that the regular viewers review films more harshly than critics.

  23. Meredith Hawkins

    The almost broken and tough relationship between Lincoln and his eldest son, Robert, was a surprise to me as well. I think that Lincoln was so mean to Robert perhaps because he was so worried about losing another son. In Lincoln’s mind, maybe he thought that if he didn’t get as close to Robert it wouldn’t hurt as much if he died fighting in the Civil War but that wouldn’t explain why Lincoln was so close to Tad. There were many scenes that showed Tad on his father’s lap or in his father’s arms that suggests they were very close but when Robert arrived at the White House Lincoln didn’t treat him with the same enthusiasm that Mary did. Lincoln had to treat Robert as an adult and it showed that he was really struggling about letting his son fight for the Union. I think a large part was for Mary’s sake because in the scene where they were arguing about Robert going to war Mary mentioned that Lincoln wanted to put her in a “crazy house” sort of deal so obviously losing Willie was very hard on her. Lincoln was also very crushed by the loss of his son but it explained that even though he was very sad and depressed he kind of hid it in order to stay focused on his political career. I was very shocked when Lincoln slapped Robert because it didn’t seem like he was a violent person though in a few scenes he gets very angered and passionate such as when he was telling his men to get more people to vote against the 13th amendment. When Robert finally tells his father that if he does not go to war he will never forgive himself and that its something he has to do Lincoln doesn’t want to go for his families sake and because he knew the gruesome outcomes of soldiers who fought in the Civil War but he lets him go and rather focuses on ways to keep him safe which shows that he does care and love his son.

  24. Daniel Oleynik

    Rhetorical sparring in Congress, though it may not seem like it from the outside, I’m sure it happens every day. One of the best with his words and the quickest with his wit was Thaddeus Stevens. In my opinion, he was the best character, with a mixture of humor, yet tragedy in his story. The man they got to play him, Tommy Lee Jones was perfect for the role.
    Getting back on track, Thaddeus Stevens has no fear of insulting others, as shown in the speech at the end, referencing Representative George “How can I hold that all men are created equal when here before me stands stinking the moral carcass of the gentleman from Ohio? …. You are more reptile than man George, so low and flat that the foot of man is incapable of crushing you,” for his views on slavery.
    The way he treats other men, it is sometimes impossible to tell if he has a heart at all. As the movie progresses, however, you see that he has a heart. He tries to get slavery abolished, in any possible way he knows how, and at the end, has an African-American mistress that he loves. (According to, this may not be true) And though it may not be obvious, Thaddeus Stevens has a heart.
    At the start of my post, I said that Thaddeus Stevens was the best character in the movie, and one of the ones with the most morals, even topping “Honest Abe.” For while Stevens knows he doesn’t have power and understand he may not abuse it. Lincoln frequently abuses his power with the vote-courting and the vetoes. “I am the President of the United States of America… clothed in immense power!” (Lincoln)
    Thaddeus Stevens is certainly one of the best characters in the film. He has humor, a heart, and morals greater than Lincoln. Thaddeus certainly made this movie memorable and a pleasure to watch.

    DailyBeast Link

    Link – Quotes from the movie

  25. Darab Khan

    The thing that was surprising to me was the way that Lincoln acted around his own family. I think that he could have been less harsh towards his son even thought he was worried because of what happened with William. Some might say he was very patient with his wife, contrary to what the movie shows. It is said that Mary might have had Bipolar disorder, if so i think Lincoln did a great job to be understanding. I was surprised of how much of a controlling figure he was portrayed as, but I guess given the circumstances his authority came with reason. He was shown as a man with a cause. And a cause he did have; passing the 13th amendment. It is almost as if that is his sole purpose in life. His passion is clearly shown throughout the movie. He is shown motivating the people who are skeptical towards the amendment by doing whatever he can. I learned a lot from this movie. For example where it shows the Confederates fatal attempt to rejoin the Union so they could vote against the amendment. And i thought the Lee and his troops would have surrendered before the amendment went into action. It is almost unbearable at the end of the movie when it shows him getting ready to leave for Ford Theater. Overall i think it was great movie and Spielberg did a great job.

  26. Isabella Gutierrez

    I Believe that the Lincoln movie was an influential, interesting, and empowering movie. Although it was longer than expected and held much information, i still found it quite good. I also liked how it included humorous and touching moments as well. Since I love history and Abraham Lincoln is my favorite president, its was nice to learn more about him and become educated about his life. I learned a lot about his presidency and how he worked to end slavery. A issue discussed above was that of Lincoln’s relationship with his son, Robert. I believe this was somewhat a controversial issue in the Lincoln family. Lincoln’s son wanted to join the army however, both his parents didn’t way him too because of previous deaths of their other two sons who went to war. Also it was said that Lincoln was much closer to his younger son and much ignored Robert. I thought this was a flaw on Lincoln’s part because Robert was I think truly a man like his father and they would be able to relate to each other and have much to talk about if only Lincoln gave him the chance. I felt somewhat bad for him because he wasn’t in that good of a relationship with his father for much of his life. I feel that if Lincoln focused on both of his sons equally as well as let his son go to war, this would have made their relationship better. Since he was the president of the US and Robert wanted to fight for is country and slavery as a cause, his father should have allowed it. This was something that stood out to me as an interesting topic in the movie.
    Overall it was a good movie that made you think about a lot and it was a very historical movie. Im glad I saw it and got to learn more information about Lincoln and the legacy he stood for.

  27. Maria Roma

    Response to “Lincoln”
    I was extremely surprised by how much I enjoyed watching “Lincoln”. Most typical history documentaries I’ve seen have included cheesy actors and numerous historians giving voiceovers; the main focus was usually on the heroic, perfect, idealized president. This was not the case for this movie. I liked that Spielberg portrayed Lincoln in a realistic manner. Part of this realistic portrayal included showing exactly what Lincoln had to do to pass the 13th amendment, even when what he had to was not extremely honorable. I was a bit shocked at exactly how much haggling Lincoln had to do to pass the 13th amendment. I know that, although I find it a bit sad, this kind of behind-doors negotiating is not uncommon in politics, especially today. I feel that it would be a good debate whether or not it was “justified” for Lincoln to bend the rules in the way that he did. He, as Mr. Wickersham put it, “radically interpreted” his wartime powers that were given to him by the constitution, because really, there were none that had been clearly lain out. I think that some people might argue that it was justified because Lincoln was doing it for the right reasons; however, I think that others might think that Lincoln was overstepping his boundaries. Looking at the whole situation in hindsight, I think it’s easy to say that Lincoln was allowed to do what he did because he did it for the greater good, because his actions had positive results in the end. Another part of Lincoln’s personality that I think was realistically portrayed was his relationship with his family. His relationship with his wife was not perfect, and I think that Spielberg showed that. There were scenes in which they did get in arguments and that they did disagree. Overall, I very much enjoyed the movie and I think that I learned something from it. I like learning opportunities like this one that are different from the typical text-book and note taking experience.

  28. Aliyah McIlwain

    The movie, Lincoln, was very well put together. Although well done, the movie was quite wordy. There sometimes seemed to be so much dialogue that you didn’t have time to comprehend what they said the minute before. I felt as though Lincoln was one of those movies you may have to watch twice to get the full meaning. I loved how they made an attempt to humanize Politians and show how making and fighting over laws isn’t all they do, and that they do have other issues to deal with. Like Thaddeus Stevens and his “wife”, and Lincoln’s own interactions with his wife and sons. Speaking of the Lincoln family, it bothered me that both Mary and Robert failed to think about each other in consideration to Robert’s joining the army. Robert failed to realize his father was only holding him back for the sake of his mother’s sanity, but Mary failed to realize Robert needed to go for the sake of his own pride and identity. I noticed how sometimes politicians or rather everyone in general, twist what they really believe in in order to compromise with those in disagreement, and it isn’t always negative. Thaddeus Stevens twisted his belief that all people were equal racially, to all people were legally equal. He did this in order to accomplish the overall goal of passing the amendment, instead of saying what he truly believed in its whole and getting anything done. It also bothered me how Lincoln’s cabinet never trusted him to know what he was doing. I felt like his cabinet thought they were the ones in charge and Lincoln was there puppet, they didn’t care to listen to Lincoln and why he was doing what he was doing. Sometimes listening and consideration can change the whole course of things. I wonder if Lincoln didn’t have Confederate delegates waiting to speak to him about ending the war, would the war have kept on after the amendment had passed.

  29. geoffwickersham (Post author)

    I thought that the Lincoln movie was very inspirational. Although the message was focused around slavery, I found that there was a deeper meaning. The children of Abe and Mary play a huge part in the film, and also played a huge part in their marital relationship. The fact that Robert wanted to go off to war because he felt an obligation to his country, was very motivational. Even though he was the president’s son, he didn’t take advantage of his prestige. He was still willing to die for his country, and that was really touching. The death of Willie took a great toll on the personal lives of Abe and Mary, but especially Mary. She was emotionally scarred from the loss of her son, and sometimes she seemed crazy, but she was damaged. The film constantly brought up his death as a way to show that life as a president is not always as easy as it may seem. There are struggles in everything that they did, and it influenced a lot decisions that were made throughout his life. When Robert wanted to go off to war, Mary pleaded with Lincoln, begging for him to make him stay at home. She didn’t want to risk the loss of another kid. His death was also a contributing factor to what made her a little bit crazy later in life. What inspired me most about the film. was Lincoln’s relationship with his youngest son, Tad. He is his father’s little shadow, and he follows him around everywhere. He is always wanting to play with his army figures and see his war maps. Tad is constantly present when Lincoln has talks with his cabinet members, and strives to be just like his dad. However, at the end of the movie, when Lincoln was shot, Tad was shown in the theatre. He clung to the railing in his box, and you could see his heart breaking. He loved his dad more than anything in the world, and when he died, Tad couldn’t even talk. He just stared at the stage, and began to cry. He wouldn’t let go of the railing, and to me it symbolized that he wasn’t going to let go of his father. The film was inspiring in a lot of ways, but it was nice to see that Lincoln had a life other than his president persona. He had a family, a wife, and personal issues just like every other person. Somehow, he managed to take care of all of those things, and still manage to pull the nation out of the Civil War. Lincoln died a hero, and that message was definitely portrayed in the movie.


  30. geoffwickersham (Post author)

    The aspect that I found interesting in the movie Lincoln, was Abraham Lincoln and his wife Mary Todd. Their relationship was anything but conventional and can be characterized as caring, stressful, and dangerous. The caring element can be seen during the party that the Lincoln’s held at the White House. When Mrs. Lincoln made the “rude” comment to one of the senators, Abe did not get mad, he simply accepted her for herself (personality included). There relationship exhibited stressfulness in the opening scene between the two; When Lincoln was telling her about the “strange” dream that he had had, regarding the emancipation proclamation. When he tried to explain what he believed the dream meant, she shot him down, not only concerning the translation of the dream but also the entire idea of the emancipation proclamation. I fell that their relationship had become so revolved around politics and the civil war that even there dreams were connected to it. Lastly, Mr. and Mrs. Lincolns relationship showed sparks of danger as well. About mid-way through the movie, the couple had a fight and during so the topic of their son’s death as well as placing Mrs. Lincoln in a insane asylum came up. The death on their son was a very touchy subject, which brought forth a lot of emotions from both sides. Soon, Mrs. Lincoln began screaming, yelling, and threatening Mr. Lincoln to put her in an asylum. I believe that one of the most interesting aspects of the movie Lincoln was the relationship between Lincoln and his wife.


  31. Anne Kozak

    Even knowing the outcome of the movie’s main plot focus—the passing of the thirteenth amendment—from the beginning I was captivated by the clear detail of the movie and how realistic it was. As we explored when learning about George Washington, even heroes fighting for a good cause are not perfect. First of all, he appears confident and level-headed throughout most of the movie, despite the pressures of not only the presidency but also the war. However, he is also shown to be almost rude: one scene that stood out clearly to me was when he was whittling at something while listening to his Cabinet argue about what should happen next in the war. He then followed up with a story about a woman he talked to once whose husband predicted she would murder him in his will, and she did. Though I forget its exact relevance to the conversation, Lincoln was both lightening the mood and asserting his superiority to the Cabinet. He jokes less and less as the movie goes on, due to the increasing seriousness of the situation, but uses his position as president to make things go his way several other times in the movie. One time was when he was explaining his rights of power during war, and another was when he was ordering the securing of votes for the thirteenth amendment. While it is predictable, even expected, for other presidents to use this tactic, it was a shock to see Lincoln, of all people, reduced to this. Though I wonder what would have become of the United States without said corruption— would an amendment like that one ever have passed? Would we have slavery now? In the movie, he even states that he had no other choice. Undoubtedly it was a tricky situation, but it’s hard for me to decide whether he created that situation himself or if the amendment could have been at least prolonged until after the war. The other thing I noticed was the detail paid attention to in the setting. The streets and the rooms where the characters interacted really brought me into the time period. People rode to their destination in carriages on a cobbled stone street; they didn’t have pencils or pens to write, so they used quills; in one scene, Lincoln is shown stoking a fire, which was the only source of heat at the time. Generally the rooms Lincoln spends time in have a Victorian-type style. These small things, as well as the attempt to capture Lincoln’s true personality, added to the overall tone of the movie by showing how these events really took place.

  32. Isabelle Molnar

    To be quite honest, what I was most excited for in seeing this movie was to analyze the acting techniques and choices made by the actors. This is no simple feat. This isn’t some period film with random historical figures that only history enthusiasts have heard of. They were taking a huge risk. People are either going to love it or think it a disaster. I am glad to inform you that Daniel Day Lewis and his fellow cast members did an impeccable job. I completely believed all of them. Daniel Day-Lewis’s portrayal of Lincoln will forever be in my mind the actual Lincoln. His contrast from the bloated, ranting politicians and government officials made him stand out in the way Lincoln should have. Not just in appearance, but in personality and voice. Daniel Day-Lewis played Lincoln as a subtle, although persistent man, with a soft, almost raspy voice as opposed to the booming voices of the others. His shoulders were hunched, his stride long, as opposed to the stuck-out tummies of his marching colleagues.
    Don’t worry Mr. Wickersham, I also paid attention to the historical and political references that I understood thanks to your marvelous class. Something that struck me was the way Lincoln got the votes. He’d tried to inspire them through words and wit, but that hadn’t really worked out for him. Lincoln now had to race to Plan B: bribery. Bribery carried out by drunken troublemakers and eavesdroppers. So much for the Honest Abe of my most of the time misleading middle and elementary school history classes.

  33. Anna Daugherty

    This movie really helped me to open up and eyes and see the real Abraham Lincoln. Before I saw this movie, I saw Lincoln as being the perfect person. A man who wanted equality for all and truly cared about the well-being of every single human being no matter what race they were. I always thought of Lincoln as a strong, brave man. Yes, these things are all in their own way somewhat true, but not as much as I thought. The movie shows a more realistic Lincoln that shocked me. He did make mistakes, he did fight with people, he had real relationships and real problems. One major thing that really opened my eyes was his relationship with his wife. I think Daniel-Day Lewis and Sally Field did an amazing job at portraying the real characteristics of Lincoln and Mary-Todd. When you watch the movie you see real people, with real emotions and depth. I think that is why I loved the movie so much. Because they took real life historical figures and actually brought them to life in a new way. Yes, you can read a textbook and try to understand these people but it is hard to connect with them on a more “personal” level. This movie taught me and showed me the real person behind the untouchable Lincoln.

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