VULTURE DROPPINGS OF THE WEEK: Anti-Michael Moore Propaganda
Its Friday! Which means it’s time once again for the weekly roundup of my favorite pop culture atrocities, misfires and entertaining trainwrecks. This week’s theme: Anti-Michael Moore Propaganda.
No matter what Michael Moore throws on the plate, there are as many people applauding as there are people who want to wring his neck. Not since Leni Riefenstahl has a filmmaker been so controversial. In a recent interview with Tim Ryan of Rotten Tomatoes, the progressive icon responded to the visceral reaction that his films elicit:
It doesn’t bother me. Listen, the other side, they don’t want the status quo to change… I’m a bit of a threat because my films reach a wide audience.”
Make that a major threat. Moore’s new doc, Capitalism: A Love Story, opens nationwide today, after a limited release last week, and publicity has been brewing for months. It will undoubtedly polarize audiences as much as his last films have… and a whole slew of conservative critics will be unleashing the attack dogs.
Defaming Moore has become a business in and of itself ever since Fahrenheit 9/11 was released five years ago. There have countless books, movies and websites all dedicated to the same, unwavering goal: to destroy the baseball cap-wearing, corporation-hating punk from Flynt! Fortunately for Moore, none of those projects made any impact at all. In trying to combat his “propaganda”, Moore’s haters ended up emulating his style and becoming even more propaganda-like.
1. ‘AN AMERICAN CAROL’ (2008)
After the events of 9/11, writer/director David Zucker felt compelled to join the Republican party. He, along with such collaborators as his brother, Jerry Zucker, and Jim Abrahams, is responsible for the comedy classics Airplane! and The Naked Gun. On his own, he has made a career out of directing hit-or-miss spoofs including BASEketball, My Boss’s Daughter and the last two Scary Movie sequels.
It was only a matter of time before the born-again Republican would attempt a political satire. That time came during the election season of 2008. Zucker dreamed up the idea of doing a comedy for conservative audiences–that may or may not influence the impending election.
So who became Zucker’s subject? Barack Obama? His historic two-year campaign, with all its grandiose progressive rhetoric, was ripe for parody.Nope. Not him. Instead, Zucker chose to lampoon Michael Moore.
Huh? Not only did Moore not have a doc out that year, but he had consciously stayed away from the limelight since George W. Bush‘s re-election in 2004. That means that Zucker was about a half a decade too late with his satire.
The idea became An American Carol, starring Chris Farley‘s brother, Kevin Farley, as Michael Malone, a extremist activist/author/filmmaker who makes it his liberal mission to abolish the 4th of July Holiday. That’s a pretty subtle commentary, there, Mr. Zucker!
Carol was released two weeks before Oliver Stone‘s W (another subject that was five years too late) and a month before the general election. It did not become the hot button comedy that Zucker had hoped for. Not only did it tank at the box office, but it was pummeled by critics. The Toronto Star’s Susan Walker called it
“utterly asinine, sophomoric,” and “tasteless.”
At the time of Carol‘s release, Zucker told The Village Voice:
James Woods makes a joke in the movie where he says: ‘You know, Michael, people who like your movies don’t actually go to movies.’ I don’t know if this will actually get a conservative audience to come out. I do think that it’s the most radical movie of this kind that’s been made—left or right. I don’t think even JFK was as politicized as this. [But] I wasn’t trying to press the point without being entertaining; I was very conscious of that.”
Apparently, he wasn’t conscious enough because not even Republicans turned out for it.
2. ‘FAHRENHYPE 9/11′ (2004)
Although Bush, Jr. ended up being re-elected in the wake of Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11 in 2004, there’s no denying that the documentary had a major impact on the political climate that year. It grossed well over $100 million at the box office, for God’s sake. People were riled up on both sides of the aisles. (And, if you ask me, if John Kerry hadn’t been the Democratic candidate, Bush would not have won.)
I still look back in amazement that a political documentary was able to turn into a summer blockbuster. Fahrenheit clearly scared the bejesus out of the Republican party. How could they not be nervous when people were attending Moore’s anti-Bush film in droves. By the end of the summer, many anti-Moore campaigns were well underway.
The silliest counter-doc to emerge was the ridiculously titled Fahrenhype 9/11 (although, Celsius 41.1‘s title is slightly more ridiculous). Fahrenhype, not surprisingly, was released straight-to-DVD–strategically at the same time of Fahrenheit‘s home video release. The purpose of this “doc” was to, as the tagline suggests, unravel
the truth behind Fahrenheit 9/11 and Michael Moore.”
It features such prominent and relevant talking heads as the late actor Ron Silver, former NYC mayor Ed Koch, Dick Morris and Ann Coulter. Her scene, in particular, is golden. She blasts Moore for making such a big deal about Bush’s slow response time when the planes first hit the towers.
What did the liberals want him to do? Run in front of the planes, rip off his shirt and scream ‘Take me first!’?”
Fahrenhype fails as a political expose because all director Alan Peterson does is dissect Moore’s doc, scene by scene, pointing out every possible misleading cinematic device. He doesn’t uncover any ugly hidden truths about progressives. He just proves that Moore is an effective political filmmaker, whether you agree with him or not.
3. ‘MICHAEL MOORE IS A BIG, FAT, STUPID WHITE MAN’ (2004)
Of all the anti-Moore books to hit the shelves, this is one of the worst. Its title is a riff on Moore’s Stupid White Men and Al Franken‘s Rush Limbaugh is a Big, Fat, Idiot. Authors David T. Hardy and Jason Clarke try so hard to expose Moore’s agenda, that they come off as even nastier and snarkier than Moore ever was–while using tactics that he made famous no less!
The book begins with “An Open Letter to Michael Moore”, an obvious copy of Moore’s “An Open Letter to George W. Bush” in Stupid White Men. Here’s an excerpt:
…We’re your ‘wacko attackos’, as you’ve so affectionately dubbed us. We’re among the many who’ve been keeping an eye on you–and piping up–over the years. And well, we thought you deserved a response to the many unanswered letters you’ve sent to the high and mighty… so here goes… from the early reviews of your career, to the personal accounts of your former fans, to the best evidence of all–your very own work–we’re throwing the book at the King of Deflection once and for all. We’ve collected more than enough evidence to prove that you are the most fictitious character of our times.”
I love the carefully chosen phrases such as “fictitious character”, an obvious reference to Moore’s controversial Oscar speech in 2003. The authors might as well be thanking him. Why not? They admire his style so much so that they blatantly copy it. And it worked out well for them.
Upon its initial release, Big Fat Stupid White Man landed on the New York Times bestsellers list. Ironically, its publisher, ReganBooks, also had Moore’s Stupid White Men under its belt. The company reveled in owning this combo. They took out full-page ads in newspapers that summer with the two books pictured side by side, followed by the headline: “We Publish, You Decide.”
It seems that, for all the profits that Moore himself has reaped from his work over the years, his haters have been just as profitable. That’s capitalism for ya!