Oliver Stone’s JFK is the most infamous historical film to take outrageous liberties with the known facts and disproved theories surrounding an actual historical event only to have the director defend the elusiveness of truth within his cinematic history lesson via claims of postmodern theoretical constructs. Oliver Stone’s further compounded the crime of claiming that JFK held even a semblance of authenticity when he responded thusly to his detractors: “the burden of proof is not necessarily on [me] because no credible explanation of the events has been advanced.” One would certainly hope that a director attempting to forward a plausible collection of evidence for the insanely outrageous theories propagated by his hero would not only accept but embrace the burden of proof. But Oliver Stone has never been particularly interested in proof when it comes to his own ideas. In fact, an astonishing amount of credible evidence is available concerning the assassination of John F. Kennedy. For that matter, the Warren Commission itself is far more credible than any of the various conspiracy theories that rely upon asking questions and creating doubt among the duped rather than answering them.
As a history lesson, JFK is more factually inaccurate than the Tony Curtis biopic Houdini, a film that is legendary for its nearly complete ignoring of the truth about its titular subject. Besides the studied and well-chosen omissions of evidence that, unfortunately for Oliver Stone and Jim Garrison, blasts their crazed theories out of the water, JFK overflows with blatantly lies. The filmmakers traverse well beyond merely being disingenuous in their defense of these lies by asserting that “Since nobody agrees on anything, nobody is distorting history. The only official history is the Warren Commission report, and that nobody believes”. In the first place, it is hyperbole to the extreme to suggest that nobody believes the Warren Commission. In the second place, the reason so many people do question certain facets of the Warren Commission is because of the voluminous amount of unsubstantiated and misleading deceptions on the part of people Oliver Stone and Jim Garrison. Ultimately, of course, even allowing that the official report is flawed doesn’t suddenly mean that Oliver Stone has the right to put words that were never said and events that never took place onto film as a rejection of whatever inconsistencies may exist in the public record. If the makers of JFK were put on trial for libel or slander, they would be found guilty.
A movie fan as well as a history buff may at this point be moved to inquire what difference does this make? What is the real extent of harm that could be caused by a filmmaker who takes liberties with historical facts or avoids research to the extent of just looking it up on Wikipedia? Well, consider the existence of an actual school curriculum that engages Oliver Stone’s film JFK to teach critical thinking skills. According to the teachers, the students were almost unanimous in their acceptance that Stone’s conspiracy theories were validated by the “evidence” forwarded in his film. Chief among this alleged evidence that convinces the majority of them that Lee Harvey Oswald could not possibly have acted alone are “doubts about whether Oswald could have gotten off those shots so accurately in such a constricted time frame, and whether the so-called “magic bullet” could ever have done the damage to Kennedy and Connally that it did.
It is one thing for countless generations of western movie viewers to grow up thinking that Wyatt Earp was an admirable hero because their only exposure to his story was through movies and televisions based almost entirely upon his own fictionalized version of his life, but it is something else for movie goers to base their opinion of the facts surrounding the assassination of a U.S President and the idea that literally every level of the U.S. government was involved simply because Oliver Stone lied about the truth of Oswald’s shooting qualification and misled viewers by positioning Kennedy and Connally in a way that they actually weren’t just to ridicule the idea of the single bullet theory. (The two men were not positioned directly in line and at the same height; hence Stone’s contention that the bullet would have had to possess magical properties is a blatant fabrication.) It is certainly not justifiable use of dramatic license for generations to be convinced that the most notorious public murder of the 20th century was the work of an unsubstantiated conspiracy simply because one man with access to millions of dollars believes it to be so. JFK is a film that merely pretends to be based on a true story