With writers, often the first thing that you write is awful and/or does not meet with enthusiastic response. I've never had a short story or book published but I can remember the first items that I submitted for consideration back in the early 80s. They were awful. Sunday morning on National Public Radio, I heard a book critic rate Go Set A Watchman as "messy." According to a July 11th Wall Street Journal article, Harper Lee's father was a segregationist who had a change of heart. He was a young lawyer when he unsuccessfully defended two black men in court. They were hanged for murder. There's been speculation that her father's bad day in court coupled with the nation's attention to the murder of black teen Emmett Till in August 1955 inspired Lee to write To Kill A Mockingbird. A huggable and well-liked Chicago teen, Till was visiting relatives in Mississippi. Accused of whistling at a white woman, he was kidnapped and killed. Till was beaten beyond recognition, shot, and his body was thrown into the Tallahatchie River. His body had been tied and weighted down with a heavy appliance from a cotton gin. The two white men accused of the murder were declared not guilty after the all-white, all-male jury deliberated for one hour and seven minutes. Later, in a magazine interview for which they were paid, the men admitted to killing 14 year-old Emmett Till. It's been written that Rosa Parks said she thought of Emmett Till when she refused to sit in the back of the bus, a landmark moment in the Civil Rights movement. A PBS documentary on Emmett Till can be seen on YouTube.
I agree with NPR's Scott Simon. Did Lee want her first work published? Has she issued a statement about it? I'd like to know. I read To Kill A Mockingbird again just this year. The undeniable relevance that it has today was like a bucket of cold water to the face. The "Black Lives Matter" protest theme will find significance and a friend in that novel. Even the June racist murders of nine black people, shot to death by a visiting young white man as they sat in their church, made me think of To Kill a Mockingbird. Calpurnia, the maid in the Finch home, takes one of the Finch children to her church. There's immediate friction. Members of the congregation are suspicious of seeing a white face enter their church. That's a scene not in the 1962 classic film adaptation.
I feel that after Harper Lee wrote Go Set A Watchman, things changed. Her father had changed, America was changing with the Civil Rights movement and in the attention national press was giving to racial inequality (the Till murder trial was national news). And she was changing as an artist. The message she wanted to convey was crystallizing more. Also, there was probably advice from her friend, Truman Capote. Harper Lee said that one "should write about what he knows and write truthfully." She wrote truth in her second novel, a book that no one has ever called "messy". For me, Atticus will remain the Atticus of To Kill A Mockingbird on page and film.
Minions made $115 million over the weekend. Those little yellow creatures brought in some big green bucks at the box office. I totally enjoyed myself watching Minions. Scroll down to read my recent review. I read some reviews by film critics and I wondered if they saw the same feature. Minions is nearly 90 minutes of brisk animated goofiness. It's for kids. It's for working parents who need family time with the kids and want to take them to the movies over the weekend. Relatives with AARP cards will also dig it because of its funny 1960s references that the little Millennial kids won't get. It references a classic number from a classic MGM musical. The name of the hit documentary salute to MGM musicals applies to Minions -- "That's Entertainment." A few critics reviewed Minions as if they were reviewing Birdman, Boyhood or a new drama by the Coen Brothers. They went on about plot holes, a mediocre script and vocal actors not projecting enough charisma. I wanted to say, "Lighten up! It's a full-length cartoon!" And it's fun. And Jon Hamm did good comedy work voicing the hipster husband to the main villainess. He did not sound like Don Draper on Mad Men at all.
The box office proves the public often has more of a clue than high-tone critics do.