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HBO's The Plot Against America feels more relevant now than when it premiered in March

  • David Simon's "confident, chilling" six-episode TV adaptation of Philip Roth's 2004 alt-history book imagining Charles Lindbergh defeating Franklin D. Roosevelt in the 1940 presidential election "stuck largely to Roth’s story, with few changes. The biggest was to that ending, which he reimagined in ways that get more unsettling and relevant as our own election season goes on," says James Poniewozik. He adds: "Plot premiered in March, just as the Covid-19 pandemic was exploding in America. Maybe as a result, for all its focus on the dangers of demagogy and state-sanctioned racism, it got less attention than other political parables — like The Handmaid’s Tale — have in the Trump years. It was as if viewers decided: Yes, yes, we’ve heard about all that, but we’ve got other problems now, like finding masks and toilet paper. But I have thought about those closing five minutes over and over since they aired. I have especially thought about them lately, amid headlines about whether the president would discredit or reject the election results; whether the pandemic might be leveraged to suppress turnout; whether the gutting of the U.S. Postal Service would cripple mail-in voting — and whether that was exactly the point. Simon’s klaxon doesn’t pierce through just because of an endangered election. It also sounds a larger systemic critique that marks all of his work. The conclusion of his Plot is not, as in Roth’s telling, that the biggest bad apple has been eliminated and the rest of a small bad bunch can be dealt with. It’s a story in which America comes to realize that democracy is merely a choice, not an inevitability. That choice, Simon argues, must always be made and remade, and there is no reason to assume it will always come out the same way." Simon tweeted a link to Poniewozik's article, adding: "There was a reason we stepped sideways to adapt a 2004 novel about a 1940 presidential election that never happened. But in all the carnage of 2020, I nearly forgot what it was."

    TOPICS: The Plot Against America, HBO, David Simon, Joe Biden, 2020 Presidential Election, Trump Presidency