Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of Ethel are when Ethel's personal concerns for her family collide with the national figures and events that now reside in American history textbooks. Ethel and her children recall Bobby Kennedy standing up to Joe McCarthy, staring down Jimmy Hoffa, rallying for Cesar Chavez, and their decision to stay in Washington during the Cuban missile crisis. Hearing about these events was especially enlightening for Rory, born six months after Bobby's death, wasn't alive for most of the Kennedy-high period.
"There are obviously the historical events my father was involved in [with] my mother and my family. I knew what happened, I read a lot of books about them," says Rory, "But there's something to be said to really try to understand what was going on internally with my family during those times."
To relive these watermarks of the mid-20th century is where Ethel finds its strength. As Rory explains it, "The parallels of what my family was going through was so consistent with what so many people were dealing with in the country—there's something ... affirming about that process and feeling like you can speak to people in a wider, bigger way."
Ethel premieres Thursday, October 18 at 9 p.m. on HBO.
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Tierney Sneed is associate editor of U.S. News Opinion. You can follow her on Twitter or reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.