Selma: Another Criticism for Portrayal of Lyndon Johnson

Selma continues to polarize viewers amid questions about its historical accuracy.

In a N.Y. Times column published Saturday, January 17, Maureen Dowd wrote that she enjoyed directorAva DuVernay‘s film but was dismayed by its representation of President Lyndon B. Johnson.

The film, about Martin Luther King, Jr.‘s 1965 march from Selma to Montgomery, shows Johnson butting heads with King and saying that giving blacks the right to vote is not a priority.

“I loved the movie and find the Oscar snub of its dazzling actors repugnant,” Dowd wrote. “But the director’s talent makes her distortion of L.B.J. more egregious. Artful falsehood is more dangerous than artless falsehood because fewer people see through it.”

Dowd, who wrote that taped conversations between King and Johnson confirm that the president supported King’s cause, is worried that young people will now assume that Johnson was an obstacle for civil rights leaders. She also dismissed DuVernay’s explanation that the film should just be appreciated as art and not as a historical document.

“The ‘Hey, it’s just a movie’ excuse doesn’t wash,” Dowd wrote. “Filmmakers love to talk about their artistic license to distort the truth, even as they bank on the authenticity of their films to boost them at awards season.”

Dowd is hardly the first person to criticize the film’s apparent distortion of the facts. A Johnson historian questioned its portrayal of the former president, while a history professor pointed out its  errors.