Neyer: “42,” a Rogue’s Gallery

From SABR member Rob Neyer at Baseball Nation on April 16, 2013:

Filmmakers must make innumerable choices. Picasso supposedly defined art as “a lie that tells the truth,” and there’s undoubtedly plenty of truth in Searching for Sugar Man. As for the truth … well, that’s something that only you, with whichever facts you care to marshal, may judge.

The new movie about Jackie Robinson tells many lies, as all such movies do. The great majority of people who see 42 will assume that it’s telling the truth, because the great majority of viewers won’t bother to marshal any facts that would suggest anything else.

I don’t actually want to get into all the lies today. I do want to write about 42‘s villains, and there are more than a few.

There are plenty of anonymous villains — the filling-station attendant, the desk agent at the New Orleans airport, the sheriff in Florida, the fan in the stands who sets a terrible example for his son — all of whom typify the sort of casual racism that Jackie Robinson and millions of others faced every damn day in that era. I will note that most of these incidents are rooted in specific things that really happened to Robinson, or were said to have happened.

But the movie also features some distinctly non-anonymous villains; none of them are alive today, but most of them probably have descendants walking among us, and I think it’s worth telling a bit more of their stories.

Read the full article here:

Originally published: April 16, 2013. Last Updated: April 16, 2013.