'The Plot Against America': HBO Series Imagines A Charles Lindbergh Presidency

Mar 13, 2020
Originally published on March 13, 2020 1:00 pm

Emmy-award winning writer and producer, David Simon, on his new HBO miniseries, “The Plot Against America,” and why making the real-life iconic aviator and anti-Semite, Charles Lindbergh, president in 1940 is instructive for our times today.

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David Simon, Emmy-award winning writer and producer of “The Wire,” “The Deuce” and “The Plot Against America.” (@AoDespair)

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The New York Times: “‘The Plot Against America’ Imagines the Rise of an Intolerant Demagogue” — “Philip Roth’s 2004 novel ‘The Plot Against America’ imagines a counterfactual history in which Charles Lindbergh, campaigning on a promise of ‘America First,’ defeats Franklin D. Roosevelt in the 1940 presidential election and, colluding with Hitler, embarks on a program of government-sponsored anti-Semitism and Jewish resettlement.

“A few months before he died, in 2018, Roth told me in an interview that he never intended his book as a political allegory. But by then, with the Trump administration in full swing, he agreed that the parallels between the world he invented and what was happening in contemporary America were hard to ignore: a demagogic president who openly expresses admiration for a foreign dictator; a surge of right-wing nationalism and isolationism; polarization; false narratives; xenophobia and the demonization of others.

“Still, there was one difference, Roth insisted: Lindbergh, unlike President Trump, had been a genuine hero.

“During that same conversation Roth added, almost in passing, that he had recently agreed to let David Simon make a mini-series of the novel and that though he was unfamiliar with most of Simon’s work, he trusted him to get it right.”

Vanity Fair: HBO’s Plot Against America Paints an All-Too-Plausible Alternate History” — “While Winona Ryder was shooting the HBO limited series The Plot Against America, she thought about whether she’d experienced anti-Semitism. Based on Philip Roth’s 2004 novel, the series imagines an alternative history in which Nazi sympathizer Charles Lindbergh defeats Franklin Roosevelt in the 1940 presidential election, resulting in anti-Semitic policies and outbreaks of violence against Jews. Ryder flashed back to the time someone drew swastikas on her brother’s locker, and her youthful nights at the San Francisco punk club Mabuhay Gardens—where she’d keep an eye out for skinheads whose combat boots had white laces, a symbol for white power. But the thing that gave Ryder most pause was remembering a comment she’d heard repeatedly from entertainment industry insiders over the years, including people she respected.

“‘People say, ‘You’re Jewish, but you’re so pretty…you don’t look Jewish,’’ Ryder said, her face convulsed with an unclassifiable mixture of surprise and disappointment as she sat in a Pasadena hotel room. ‘It’s subtle, but when you are Jewish…’ Ryder left the sentence hanging in the air, as she often did in our conversation, breathlessly leaping on to her next thought. ‘Does it fall under an anti-Semitic category, or just offensive?’

“Born Winona Horowitz, Ryder recalled going to visit her grandparents in Brooklyn for Passover every year. But she grew up in a secular, countercultural household in Northern California. Her father worked as an archivist for acid guru Timothy Leary, who was Ryder’s godfather. Being Jewish wasn’t top of the list of things by which she defined herself. Yet those tiny moments, the ones where her Jewishness became explicit, inevitably came to the fore as she poured herself into this project.”

This article was originally published on WBUR.org.

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