First in Category-Young Adult Fantasy

First in Category-Young Adult Fantasy
Dante Rossetti Award

Monday, October 10, 2011

Can Characters Plagerize??

Saturday was DVD night for us and I thoroughly enjoyed watching the movie
Thirteen Days
(Bruce Greenwood as President Kennedy), a docudrama of the Oct ’62 Cuban Missile Crisis. I was just a young Canadian kid when this event took place in history, with a clear memory however, of my school’s nuclear attack drills; the eerie wailing of the emergency sirens as teachers quickly marched us down to the furnace room, until the sirens wailed again, the “all clear”.I thought the movie did a good job of portraying just how much we owed John F Kennedy for his tough decisions, often contrary to the actions urged by his advisors. As the period of immediate crises ended, the President addressed these words to the American people:“For, in the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s future. And we are all mortal.”I was so moved by these words (who was Kennedy’s speech writer??), that while Bill got the next movie loaded and ready to go, I looked up the speeches of President Kennedy and learned that this particular speech was delivered in Jun ’63.

Next movie was, Sum of All Fears a techno-thriller somewhat based on the Tom Clancy novel and starring Ben Affleck (as a young Jack Ryan). Hmmm…what was my surprise when at the conclusion of the movie (détente of what had been a modern-day escalating face-off between America and Russia) when the screenwriters chose to put these exact words from President Kennedy’s speech into the mouth of Russian President, Narmonov, as he and the American President address the public from the White House. So what were Sum of All Fears screenwriters’ thinking? As writers is it ok for us to take an excerpt from an historical document and credit its words to our characters? (I’m genuinely curious about this and hope an editor or other writer who has encountered this will advise/comment about it)On the other hand, I’m sure all American viewers would recognize these resonant words as JFK’s; so perhaps the screenwriters intended that President Narmonov use these words as a nod to a great American President—would a Russian President use any part of an American President’s speeches?

1 comment :

  1. It's been decades since that speech. Many young people may not have heard it, or may not have heard it often enough to recognize the words. It's a disservice to JFK (and his speechwriter) to neglect to acknowledge the source. In fact, it might make the Russian presidents' position all the more powerful to openly quote JFK -- he's willing to cross borders to demonstrate the universality of the human condition. (BTW, I haven't seen the movie.)