Tuesday, April 12, 2022

#AtoZChallenge2022: J is for JFK

The A to Z of Conspiracy Theories: J is for JFK

Can't talk about conspiracy theories and not talk about JFK.

Though I am not talking about the 35th President, but rather the 1991 Oliver Stone movie.  Anyone that has even a passing interest in conspiracy theories needs to check this movie out.  It is a master class on conspiracies, but not in the way Oliver Stone wanted it to be.

The premise of the movie (and the conspiracy theories) was that Kennedy was killed by multiple gunmen. 

Kevin Costner gives a fantastic performance as Jim Garrison the District Attorney obsessed with finding multiple killers.  The film and most of the conspiracy theories fail on two main points.   1. A great man like Kennedy could not have been killed by a nobody like Lee Harvey Oswald.  2. The importance of "back and to the left."  Kennedy was shot from behind but his head snapped "back and to the left" this was taken as "proof" of a shooter in front, say from the Grassy Knoll.  

The problems with these ideas are pretty simple to point out.  1. Great men are killed by nobodies all the time, flying in the face of the Great Man Theory.  2. Ballistics testing, even from people like Penn & Teller, shows that shots with this type of rifle (an Italian Carcano M91/38 bolt-action rifle) do exactly this. Even an untrained marksman like Teller (who does have experience with stage guns) can fire off as many shots as Oswald did.

Many conspiracy theories fall apart once some real testing is done.


I honestly would recommend watching JFK over such movies as "Angels & Demons" or "Da Vinci Code."  The reason is that there is the underlying assumption that everything portrayed could have happened that way AND you can see how it could have happened that way.   Obviously, the realization of the underlying fallacies pulls the rug from under the whole thing.

Otherwise, it is a great step-by-step process on how to create a conspiracy theory investigation.  Oliver Stone may be obsessed, but he knows how to tell a good tale. Plus Tommy Lee Jones is brilliant in this. If you set your game in the "Paranoid 90s" then this is a must-see.

There is an old joke about time travel and Kennedy's assassination that there were so many time travelers on the Grassy Knoll when Kennedy was killed that there was no room for another gunman.  This got me thinking about a potential time travel story with Kennedy.  The Umbrella Academy did it. Quantum Leap did it. I think there was even a Star Trek episode planned, but never filmed that wanted to do it.   Just not 100% sure I would want to do it.


The NIGHT SHIFT RPG is available from the Elf Lair Games website (hardcover) and from DriveThruRPG (PDF).


Arlee Bird said...

I saw the Oliver Stone film in the theater when it was first released and quite enjoyed it. Recently it played on TV so I recorded it so I could watch it again to reassess it. Now you've encouraged me to watch this sometime soon.

One of my favorite JFK imagination films was the episodic film interpretation of the Stephen King book 11/22/63 and that is because I'm such a fan of time travel stories. Some of the theories can be rather convincing I think. Whether or not Oswald acted alone or in cahoots with some group, there was enough chicanery surrounding the incident that it leaves so many questions to speculate. I'm sure there will be those who will continue the stories and the theories for years to come. A good story is always worth reviving.

Arlee Bird
Tossing It Out

Dino said...

Whilst I find most conspiracy theories hilarious, I actually quite enjoy the ones around JFK.

doccarnby said...

Through various time travel shenanigans, the CIA has three JFKs and half a dozen Lee Harvey Oswalds in custody and have no idea what to do with them.

martine said...

Hi, thanks for your visit, and what a fab theme for your A to Z. There is something utterly fascinating about the JFK shooting, it is like one of those iconic moments in history. Have you ever read 11/22/63 by Stephen King, it is about a man going back through a time portal to try and prevent the Kennedy assassination, a gripping and brilliant story.

JazzFeathers said...

I watched the movie sooooooooo many years ago, and remember very little, apart from the fact that I enjoyed it.
As far as conspiracy theories go, they tend to be very likely. Everything seems to add up. Which, I htink, it what should ring a bell.

The Old Shelter - Enter the New Woman

John Holton said...

Is your "K" going to be about Dorothy Kilgallen, who was murdered shortly after she interviewed Jack Ruby?

J-Dub said...

Alright I'm hooked. I really enjoy conspiracy theories. I did see Oliver Stone's JFK way back when. And I agree with your point regarding Tommy Lee Jones. He's pretty good in most everything he's in. Fun fact Mr. Jones is a resident of my fair city. My husband did some restoration plasterwork on his home.

Idea-ist said...

I knew there was a conspiracy theory about multiple gunmen because "back and to the left" but i never realized it had been inspired by a movie. i'll have to watch it on a rainy day! @GetLostInLit

Timothy S. Brannan said...

@doccarnby, HAHAHA that is great!

@idea-ist, the movie only popularized "back and to the left" the conspiracy theories began soon after Kennedy was killed in 1963.

@J-Dub, THANK YOU! and that is very cool.

Thanks everyone for stopping by!

Cheryl said...

I haven't read much about the conspiracy theories surrounding JFK, but it's hard to hear bits and pieces through the years. I never watched Stone's film, but I recall the Quantum Leap episode.

Thanks for sharing.


Carrie-Anne said...

I watched JFK many years ago. My best friend and I were fascinated by his assassination and all the conspiracy theories in upper elementary school, and even wanted to build a time machine so we could find out who really did it.

Tim Knight said...

Red Dwarf did this scenario as well, in the first episode of season seven (Tikka To Ride)

Anjela said...

I am SO fascinated by your theme! Though I am only sporadically commenting now, know that I plan to go over every single of your AtoZ posts when I have time. (I had no idea how mentally gratifying conspiracy theory could be. Haha!)

Now, I definitely have to check out that JFK movie!


Jayashree Srivatsan said...

I have not seen the movie. Conspiracy theories usually seem practically possible , dont they ? Like always there is what is told, what is believed and what actually happened in every single event in history !
Jayashree writes

PT Dilloway said...

The "Great Man" theory definitely has no basis in reality as every president who has been assassinated was killed by a relative unknown. John Wilkes Booth was probably known in some circles but he definitely wasn't a household name. The assassins of Garfield, McKinley, or even Martin Luther King or RFK or the attempted assassination of Reagan were just crazy guys like Oswald. They weren't famous or highly-trained, world-class assassins.

Some people it seems have to live by the opposite of Occam's Razor. Instead of the simplest explanation being the most likely, they have to believe the most convoluted explanation is the most likely.

Pun Isaac said...

I've never watched the flick, but now I want to.

Charlie Warren said...

It's been so long since I watched this movie that I need to watch it again. I've read several books on JFK conspiracies. Interesting topic.