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Representation of John Adams in an HBO Miniseries: Analytical Essay

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John Adams is an HBO miniseries based on the book John Adams by David McCullough. The miniseries was written by Kirk Ellis and directed by Tom Hooper. The original release date is March 16th-April 27th, 2008. This miniseries portrays John Adams and the events that transpired in colonial times with the Thirteen Colonies and their mother land, Great Britain. The first two episodes show the events of the Boston Massacre and the time when they decide to break off from Great Britain, leading the road to the American Revolution. Before going into the main part, lets talk about the director to give us an idea of how his past works and directing style may play a part in the directing of this miniseries.

The director Tom Hooper got his education at a school in Westminster. He also studied English at Oxford University where he has directing some theatre productions. He first started in British television by directing episodes of Byker Grove and EastEnders and made the transition to film quite easily. From then he has directed many movies such as Elizabeth I, The Damned United, The King’s Speech, Les Misérables and of course John Adams. Fun Fact – The John Adams miniseries has won 4 Golden Globes and 13 Emmy Awards! So how does Tom Hooper make his movies work? According to Tom, it is thanks to his experience in directing theatre productions that gave him so invaluable skills for his directing style. One skill is the concept of playing the truth of the moment in which you try to work out the dynamics in each individual scene. For this miniseries specifically, Hooper worked with the actors and did research to try and get the scenes to be historically accurate.

So, what are the first two episodes of John Adams movie series about? In the first episode “Join or Die”, we can see that the event portrayed was the Boston Massacre. John Adams hears the bell ringing-usually for a fire- only to stumble upon some dead and some injured. The captain, Thomas Preston and his men are taken to jail and so he asks John Adam to represent them for the case. During the case, most of the people in the town were trying to get Thomas Preston and his men to be proven guilty but after many trials, Adams was able to get them to be acquitted.

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Moving on to the second episode, we see that this episode covers the founding fathers in the Second Continental Congress discussing various issues. John Adams brings up the issue of breaking off from Great Britain and declaring independence only for there to be opposition Throughout the episode, we see the Founding Fathers continually discussing and John Adams trying to persuade the other states that this action is necessary, leading to all but New York to vote yes.

This movie is made to help us see the historical events through the perspective of John Adams. They can be quite persuasive about this by utilizing his thoughts and traits to portray the actions and positions in which Adams took in a suitable manner. One such trait about Adams is that he is quite stubborn and does what he believes is right even if it were to be an unpopular opinion. The miniseries illustrate this trait well in the first episode when it shows Adams taking the case for Captain Preston regardless of the public criticism. Another instance of this is when he believes that we must break ourselves from Great Britain and even though many were against this idea, he would go to such great lengths to argue his point going so far as to insult John Dickinson, stating that he “suffers from a religiously based moral cowardice” in the second episode. In addition, this helps to enhance our understanding of the events leading up the American Revolution and why we did such things by giving us an understanding of the mindset of our founding fathers had through the re-enactment in the miniseries.

Overall, there was nothing I think the miniseries was missing or should have added. As someone who is not an enthusiast of history, this film was interesting and in my opinion was able to depict the historical events in a manner presentable to both non-enthusiasts and history buffs alike. I would most definitely recommend this to anyone whether you enjoy history or not as this miniseries gives perspectives to the well known historical facts.

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Representation of John Adams in an HBO Miniseries: Analytical Essay. (2022, August 12). Edubirdie. Retrieved February 8, 2023, from
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