Was that the point of the History Channel’s documentary on Ben Franklin that debuted over the weekend? At the very least, it’s a paraphrase of one of the headlines in a four-page insert in Saturday’s New York Times, which, on its front page, depicted the inventor of electricity and signer of the Declaration of Independence being caressed by two cartoon lovelies under the headline, “Ben Franklin left his electricity on.” Then on the back, in case we didn’t get it the first time, there’s a color photo of “Ben” being escorted by several model types, seemingly several sheets to the wind, looking as though he is on his way into—or being thrown out of—Bungalow 8.
Those for whom the titiillation worked would open up the insert to find out that there’s even more about ol’ Ben than even those with more than a passing familiarity with his sex life could have imagined. Some choice tidbits:
”Ben Franklin didn’t always look like the fuddy-duddy you see in all those reproduced paintings…”
He had “rock-star popularity” and was “attracted to women, and attracted by them, flirtation being one of his lifelong preoccupations.” Then there’s all that boring stuff about his being “the greatest experimental physicist of his century” and a founder of our country. Blah, blah, blah.
But the best line, in a way, is the one that tries to explain why we should care about the guy’s social life: “Ben Franklin’s genius will dazzle you. But his humanness will fit you like a glove.”
Oh, so the point of this documentary is to humanize him? Forgive us for thinking it was for ratings or to show that if Ben Franklin were alive today, he’d end up on Page Six as often as Tara Reid or P. Diddy.
—Posted by Catharine P. Taylor