Becoming Lincoln

Election fatigue is setting in, after all of these months of campaigning. And it’s true that I want the election to end quickly, but I think that there might be a post-election fight, just like there was in 2000 when George W. Bush was awarded the presidency by the Supreme Court. I very much hope I’m wrong about that.

But my real reason for wanting to flash forward a few weeks isn’t for the next president, but the 16th president, Abraham Lincoln. The movie posters are up all around town, and the trailer is now in all the theaters and online. It occurs to me that, for all the pictures I’ve ever seen of Abraham Lincoln, I’ve never seen him smile. I’ve never heard him speak, either. I realize that Daniel Day-Lewis isn’t going to be Abraham Lincoln, but from the look of everything I’ve seen, he is going to become Abraham Lincoln. And that’s no small thing, either.

Seeing Lincoln onscreen will be challenging, in a way. He’s always existed as the face on the penny and the $5 bill, or the sculpture in the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, or up on Mount Rushmore. To see Lincoln walking and speaking and laughing and riding a horse will be a new one for me.

I remember Sam Waterston’s portrayal of Lincoln in the 1980s, but I never really bought him as being Lincoln. And I’ve seen Lincoln impersonators before, but I’ve never gone all in with them, either. But Steven Spielberg and Daniel Day-Lewis will be spending two hours and more making us believe that we are watching the Great Emancipator onscreen. I’m hoping they succeed at this, too. We’ll all find out soon enough.

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