5 Pop Culture Portrayals of Benedict Arnold

5 Pop Culture Portrayals of Benedict Arnold

January 28, 2020

Benedict Arnold’s journey from a once-ardent hero of the Revolutionary cause to its most dishonored traitor is well-documented in historical works. Despite Arnold’s complexities, his name remains synonymous with the word “traitor” throughout pop culture in the United States. From Civil War-era political cartoons to N.W.A.’s beef with Ice Cube in the early 1990s to today, Arnold’s fateful decision infamously endures 240 years later.

On Thursday, Jan. 30 at the Museum, historian Stephen Brumwell will discuss his book Turncoat: Benedict Arnold and the Crisis of American Liberty. Tickets can be purchased online, and a livestream of the event will be available. An excerpt of Turncoat was also a featured Read the Revolution selection by the Museum.

We surveyed Museum staff members for their favorite representations of Benedict Arnold in pop culture, in no particular order.

Turn: Washington’s Spies
In AMC’s period drama that aired four seasons from 2014-17, Arnold is portrayed by Welsh actor Owain Yeoman. The series is based on the 2007 book Washington’s Spies: The Story of America’s Spy Ring by Alexander Rose, which was previously featured in the Museum’s Read the Revolution series in March 2016.

Drunk History: Benedict Arnold Betrays His Country For Love
Comedy Central’s sketch comedy, sort-of-education show explored Arnold’s story in a 2014 episode titled “Philadelphia.” The episode features Chris Parnell playing Arnold and Winona Ryder playing Arnold’s wife, Peggy Shippen. Watch Online Here

Liberty’s Kids: Benedict Arnold
PBS and PBS Kids’ popular 2003 animated historical fiction series tackled Arnold’s story in episode 32. The episode looks at Major John André’s capture, which subsequently unearthed Arnold’s plot. Dustin Hoffman provides the voiceover for the animated Arnold. Watch Online Here

Benedict Arnold: A Question of Honor
This 2003 TV movie puts Arnold’s dramatic switch from the Continental Army to notorious traitor in the spotlight. Aidan Quinn stars as Arnold, while Kelsey Grammar plays the role of General George Washington.

The Brady Bunch: Everyone Can’t Be George Washington
In season four, episode 12 titled "Everyone Can't Be George Washington," of The Brady Bunch, Peter Brady, played by Christopher Knight, tried out for the role of George Washington but was cast as Benedict Arnold. The Brady Bunch also featured a season three episode titled, “My Sister, Benedict Arnold.”

What’s your favorite pop cultural depiction of Benedict Arnold? Share your opinion with us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram and with #HowRevolutionary.

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