Corrections Department #4: VHS and W.
March 23, 2009
This weekend I watched Oliver Stone’s W. It’s not as good as many of Stone’s earlier films, namely JFK and Nixon, but it does deliver the dose of cathartic, undiluted Bush-mockery that I expected and needed. Stone’s style of satire is more silly than scathing, but the offenses of the Bush administration are so vast that I’m not sure how, at this point in history, a more serious approach could wrap itself around them.
Conservatives and devotees of truthiness probably take issue with the ways in which Stone plays fast and loose with facts (changing a lot of Bush’s public utterances into private ones, for instance, so as to include a compendium of famous Bushisms). I could care less.
One glaring and particularly irksome historical inaccuracy caught my eye, though, mainly because it’s relevant here (sort of; at least, I doubt it will be documented anywhere else). It’s in the scene in which W. is depicted as the impresario behind the Willie Horton ad, which helped his father to defeat Michael Dukakis in the 1988 presidential election. W. (Josh Brolin) shows the elder Bush (James Cromwell) the ad on a videocassette which is identifiable, from the distinctive red and white sleeve design, as a TDK AQ brand T-120 tape.
The problem is that TDK’s AQ series cassettes weren’t introduced until 1995 or so. I first remember seeing them in the local music store not long after I moved to Los Angeles and began my studies at USC. That was also the period when the TV Land channel (now a waste of cable bandwidth) was new and still broadcasting a plethora of rare television shows without any cuts. I still have scores of episodes of Mannix, Burke’s Law, The Dick Powell Show, etc., piled up in those gaudy red sleeves. The AQ series was TDK’s budget line, and reluctantly I bought them rather than the TDK E-HGs (as in, “extra high grade”) because I was a starving college student without an income.
If W.‘s prop department had wanted to avoid this anachronism, they might’ve chosen one of these cassettes:
I know that because 1988 was around the time that I became interested in old TV shows and started recording The Twilight Zone, The Fugitive, and Alfred Hitchcock Presents on the tapes that came in those very sleeves. (I remember Scotch and Fuji brand cassettes too, but for whatever reason, we were primarily a TDK family.) Most of those tapes are long gone now, and good riddance to them. But I still have a stack of twenty year-old Alfred Hitchcock Hours on top of my kitchen cabinet – and, nope, not a TDK AQ among them.