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.


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.



More Than Scottish Pride

Scotland’s referendum isn’t about nationalism. It’s about a system that failed, and a new generation looking to take a chance on itself. 

Yes, Black Families Tend to Spank More. That Doesn’t Mean It’s Good for Black Kids.

Why Greenland’s “Dark Snow” Should Worry You

If You’re Outraged by the NFL, Follow This Satirical Blowhard on Twitter

The Best Way to Organize Your Fridge


The GOP’s Focus on Fake Problems

Why candidates like Scott Walker are building campaigns on drug tests for the poor and voter ID laws.

Sports Nut

Giving Up on Goodell

How the NFL lost the trust of its most loyal reporters.

Is It Worth Paying Full Price for the iPhone 6 to Keep Your Unlimited Data Plan? We Crunch the Numbers.

Farewell! Emily Bazelon on What She Will Miss About Slate.

  News & Politics
Sept. 16 2014 7:03 PM Kansas Secretary of State Loses Battle to Protect Senator From Tough Race
Sept. 16 2014 4:16 PM The iPhone 6 Marks a Fresh Chance for Wireless Carriers to Kill Your Unlimited Data
The Eye
Sept. 16 2014 12:20 PM These Outdoor Cat Shelters Have More Style Than the Average Home
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 15 2014 3:31 PM My Year As an Abortion Doula
  Slate Plus
Slate Plus Video
Sept. 16 2014 2:06 PM A Farewell From Emily Bazelon The former senior editor talks about her very first Slate pitch and says goodbye to the magazine.
Brow Beat
Sept. 16 2014 6:23 PM Bryan Cranston Reenacts Baseball’s Best Moments to Promote the Upcoming Postseason
Future Tense
Sept. 16 2014 6:40 PM This iPhone 6 Feature Will Change Weather Forecasting
  Health & Science
Sept. 16 2014 4:09 PM It’s All Connected What links creativity, conspiracy theories, and delusions? A phenomenon called apophenia.
Sports Nut
Sept. 15 2014 9:05 PM Giving Up on Goodell How the NFL lost the trust of its most loyal reporters.