Who killed the Kennedys?

Mick Jagger asked that about forty years ago, and neither he nor we did a very thorough job of it: they crawl out of the woodwork every time some character who imagines himself a man of wealth and taste decides he needs to relive his younger days one last time.

About three years ago, Emilio Estevez started work on a dramatization of RFK’s life, which appeared the following year as Bobby. And the new Vanity Fair offers a brand-spanking-new hagiography this month. On the cover: Bobby Kennedy: The Hope, The Tragedy, And Why He Still Matters. Inside, an excerpt from Thurston Clarke’s The Last Campaign: Robert F. Kennedy and 82 Days That Inspired America [New York: Henry Holt and Company, 2008]. Inasmuch as nothing really has changed on this front, I have no qualms about reprinting what I said about the Estevez project:

Christ on a crutch! The. Kennedys. Are. Dead. Get over it.

Yes, I know Ted’s still there, looking and sounding more like Jabba the Hutt every day, still with his “My Other Car Is Underwater” bumper sticker, way past self-parody and long since descended into blithering irrelevance. Doesn’t change a thing: The. Kennedys. Are. Dead. Estevez would have you believe that the killing of RFK was a watershed event in world history; it wasn’t even the most important thing that happened in the summer of 1968. (Among other things, James Earl Ray, assassin of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was taken into custody, the French were trying to recover from general strikes that had turned violent, eventually returning Charles de Gaulle to power, and Pope Paul VI issued the encyclical Humanae Vitae.) “Culturally, we all unraveled after that tragic night on June 5.” Yeah, right. Exactly one cultural phenomenon can be attributed to this event: it gave Eric Boucher one hell of a name for a band.

And, well, there’s always room for Jello.

Meanwhile, how much does the Real World, the sort of people who couldn’t get into Graydon Carter’s restaurant, give a damn about this? Not much: they’re busy fuming over Hannah Montana’s shoulder blades. This was to be expected: when given a choice between two utter trivialities, it’s fairly normal to select the newer one, and as Mr Jagger has already noted, all the sinners these days are saints.

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