The Supreme Court says that pornography is any act that has no artistic merit and causes sexual thought. That’s their definition essentially … no artistic merit causes sexual thought. Hmm, sounds like every commercial on television doesn’t it?. – Bill Hicks.
The new millennium has been quite an adventure so far for the world’s sole super power. One would have to have been hiding in a cave for the last four years to not realize that the United States hasn’t been very united of late. In fact, I’d make the argument that the country hasn’t been this polarized since Jefferson Davis decided he was the President and half the country agreed with him. We just saw an election where one candidate won by a infinitesimal fraction of the country, and nearly four years later most people can’t even agree about which candidate that fraction favored.
Need more proof? Ronald Reagan just died and it got roughly the same coverage of say Elvis and JFK’s death combined, and yet Bill Clinton, his philosophical opposite, has his autobiography sell more copies in its first week than any non-fiction book in history less then a month later.
Here’s where I really see the dichotomy, though. The two biggest movie events of the year and nothing will come close for quite some time are two slavishly produced propaganda movies made by charismatic polar opposite true believers; Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ and Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11.
Who would have thought that six months ago when Leni Riefenstahl died barely noticed and little mourned that the Propaganda movie would be the breakout moneymaking trend of 2004? Both Moore and Gibson are going to wind up handsomely rewarded financially for the risks they took. People both enamored and repulsed flocked to see what the Gibson fuss was about, and the same thing is going to happen world wide with Moore’s film.
Whether you like either of these films, and chances are not many of you are going to love both, you’d be a fool to say these guys don’t have huge cajones. Gibson put a sizable portion of his net worth on the line to make a film that every sane person around him told him would end his career. In so doing his name fairly or not became linked with anti-semitism on the internet about as many times in a Google search as Adolf Hitler’s.
Moore is a little different, because he lives for the confrontation. Hell, his film debut was nothing short of him trying to have a confrontation with the CEO of General Motors for 90 minutes. Here you have a guy whose ovation for his Oscar win for Best Documentary came full circle in about forty-five seconds after his anti-Bush acceptance screed almost got him lynched by maybe the most liberal industry in the country. Bill O’Reilly just compared the man to Joseph Goebbles and New York Post film critic Jonathan Foreman jumped on board seconds later by being what I’m sure will be the first of many to play the Leni Riefenstahl card.
Now, I hope the absurdity of comparing a guy who makes an anti-war movie to someone who was the press agent for history’s most publicized exhibition of genocide is readily apparent to you, but if someone played the Hanoi Jane card at Moore it would be hard to disagree. Here’s a guy, who debuted his film that is about as critical of the current American administration as one can be to a raging standing ovation in France, a country so low on most American’s lists that we all suffered through the “Freedom Fries” debacle. I may call it heroism, but I’d bet my life Attorney General Ashcroft calls it treason. Moore’s going to make sizable money on this thing, but I’m not being facetious in the least when I say that I hope he uses that money on bodyguards, because these are fractious and dangerous times. A woman accused a basketball player of raping her and two men were arrested for trying to kill her. You don’t think some NRA member wouldn’t love to have Moore’s huge ass mounted up on his trophy wall?
So in the summer of propaganda here’s some things to think about:
1. Perhaps America’s most loved filmmaker made an incredibly racist propaganda film for the Government during the second World War. His name was Frank Capra and it was called Why We Fight. Check it out from your public library and see how you feel about a film that stresses freedom and tolerance, while calling the “Japs … Hitler’s buck-toothed pals!” Beware of any movie put out by any Government.
2. Be an active watcher. A propaganda movie is one that is trying to convince you of something. Be aware of those techniques. Marvel at the way Oliver Stone almost subconsciously tries to sway you to his side in JFK, but make sure you go running for some books when you’re done watching to get as much info as you can. There’s more subliminal imagery in JFK than in the sum total of backward masked satanic messages in the history of Rock and Roll. Don’t prove those morons who think that they can watch and rate pornography, but it will turn you into a sex offender right by turning off your brain and going off half cocked because a filmmaker made really funny use of the guitar riff from Eric Clapton’s Cocaine over a picture of a youthful George W. Bush.
3. Call these guys on their inaccuracies. When I first heard that Michael Moore had showed events out of chronological order in Roger and Me, I felt about as cheated as I did when I found out Larry King really wasn’t friends in high school with Sandy Koufax. You know, like you did when you found out there was no Santa Claus. Michael Moore can call the President of the United States Satan if he wants, despite what the Attorney General, the FCC, and the Patriot Act say that’s what America’s all about, but he’d better have his facts straight, and he’d better not kill the anti-war movement after some creative but questionably ethical editing is revealed. I better not find out that those dead blown up children in Moore’s movie were really midget terrorists or there will be hell to pay! Frankly, Fahrenheit 9/11 may not sway the election, but I’m almost sure that it will lead to the highest registration levels in years from both sides of the slate and only Florida’s Kathleen Harris is against that.
4. Never forget what Bill Hicks knew and raved about until the day he died. You see dozens of propaganda movies every day. They’re called commercials.