A Hollywood History of the Scopes Trial
74 minutes / 2004
In 1925 teacher John Scopes was found guilty, and fined $100, for violating a law which prohibited the teaching “that man descended from a lower order of animals.” But while the court found him guilty, the US media championed him in their papers, and fed the public a distorted account of events that made the anti-evolutionist prosecuting attorney, William Jennings Bryan, look like a fool.
A play about events, called Inherit the Wind, often produced by high schools and colleges, spread the distorted account to subsequent generations, and a 1960 film of the same title (starring Spencer Tracy) took the distortion to a whole new audience. There was no attempt at fairness - in one bombastic scene the town’s fundamentalist Christians are portrayed as an angry mob, marching on the jail to lynch the evolution-teaching teacher!
This, then, is another caricature of creationists, but bigger than most in that it’s portrayal of creationists as violent, dim-witted and bigoted has impacted public perception for generations.
One of the best responses to the film is a lecture done by Dr. David Menton. In his presentation Inherently Wind: A Hollywood History of the Scopes Trial he deconstructs one outrageous lie after another by showing a scene from the film, and then explaining the actual facts of the matter. Even if you’ve never seen or heard of Inherit the Wind before, it’s still worth watching this lecture just to learn about the contempt and hatred Hollywood has historically had for Bible-believing Christians. And if you have seen the film Dr. Menton’s presentation will blow your mind. You may have realized the film was propaganda, but you never realized just how little regard the filmmakers had for truth, fairness and honesty.
This great presentation can be viewed free online here.