Teddy Kennedy's Legacy

What Women Really Think
July 13 2009 5:20 PM

Teddy Kennedy's Legacy

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, the subject of Teddy: In his Own Words , an HBO documentary debuting tonight, has had a fascinating life. Sadly, aside from the aging senator’s off-camera narration, the 90-minute film doesn’t tell us anything new about it.

As everybody knows, Kennedy is the last of the offspring born to two legendary Massachusetts Irish families. By the 1970s, former prohibition era bootlegger and WWII ambassador to Great Britain, Joseph Kennedy and his wife, Rose Fitzgerald (daughter of Boston political boss, " Honey Fitz ," parents of 9 enormously attractive children ) had seen their oldest son shot down in combat, a daughter die soon after in an airplane crash, another son, a president, and then another, a presidential candidate, shot and killed by political assassins. Another daughter suffered from mental illness. The other three daughters married powerful men and their last child, a son named Teddy, was elected to the U.S. Senate at age 30.

Advertisement

Though prone to world-class bodice-ripping drama in his personal life, Ted Kennedy devoted his professional career to supporting the rights of the less fortunate.

Interspersed with predictable sailboats off Hyannis Port, the HBO documentary has lovely archival footage, including a seemingly teenaged Bill Clinton introducing the handsome, dark-haired Kennedy at a 1970s healthcare panel. For me, a lifetime observer of all things Camelot (as a teenager I collected magazine covers of Jackie), the HBO material offered a satisfying meal of Joan Kennedy’s bouffant blonde flip, young Ted’s apologies for leaving the scene of an accident at Chappaquiddick, and countless other images of the sort I remember fondly from the front of Look and Life Magazine .

But the film, produced by HBO documentary doyenne, Sheila Nevins, and Peter Kunhardt, who 2 decades ago made Emmy-winning "JFK: In His Own Words," was unfortunately deadened by hagiography and lacked both humor and passion, qualities its subject possesses in abundance. The predictable compendium of Kennedy adversities and triumphs made me long for a closer look at both the flawed man of enormous appetites who grappled with great personal challenges and the hero of public policy who may well live to see his most dearly held goal, universal healthcare , as his legacy for the next century.

TODAY IN SLATE

Foreigners

The World’s Politest Protesters

The Occupy Central demonstrators are courteous. That’s actually what makes them so dangerous.

The Religious Right Is Not Happy With Republicans  

The XX Factor
Oct. 1 2014 4:58 PM The Religious Right Is Not Happy With Republicans  

The Feds Have Declared War on Encryption—and the New Privacy Measures From Apple and Google

The One Fact About Ebola That Should Calm You

It spreads slowly.

These “Dark” Lego Masterpieces Are Delightful and Evocative

Crime

Operation Backbone

How White Boy Rick, a legendary Detroit cocaine dealer, helped the FBI uncover brazen police corruption.

Politics

Talking White

Black people’s disdain for “proper English” and academic achievement is a myth.

Activists Are Trying to Save an Iranian Woman Sentenced to Death for Killing Her Alleged Rapist

Piper Kerman on Why She Dressed Like a Hitchcock Heroine for Her Prison Sentencing

  News & Politics
Politics
Oct. 1 2014 7:26 PM Talking White Black people’s disdain for “proper English” and academic achievement is a myth.
  Business
Moneybox
Oct. 1 2014 2:16 PM Wall Street Tackles Chat Services, Shies Away From Diversity Issues 
  Life
Outward
Oct. 1 2014 6:02 PM Facebook Relaxes Its “Real Name” Policy; Drag Queens Celebrate
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 1 2014 5:11 PM Celebrity Feminist Identification Has Reached Peak Meaninglessness
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Oct. 1 2014 3:24 PM Revelry (and Business) at Mohonk Photos and highlights from Slate’s annual retreat.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 1 2014 9:39 PM Tom Cruise Dies Over and Over Again in This Edge of Tomorrow Supercut
  Technology
Future Tense
Oct. 1 2014 6:59 PM EU’s Next Digital Commissioner Thinks Keeping Nude Celeb Photos in the Cloud Is “Stupid”
  Health & Science
Science
Oct. 1 2014 4:03 PM Does the Earth Really Have a “Hum”? Yes, but probably not the one you’re thinking.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 1 2014 5:19 PM Bunt-a-Palooza! How bad was the Kansas City Royals’ bunt-all-the-time strategy in the American League wild-card game?