Michael Moore so Controversial? Term Paper

Pages: 15 (4482 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: ≈ 8  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Communication - Journalism

But, does this mean that his films are altogether false -- are they not real documentaries?

To consider this accusation let is use an example. FOX News -- a clear right-wing mouthpiece -- every hour of every day claims to be presenting America with a "fair and balanced" account of the news. No honest person would ever believe that FOX News is unbiased. So, if we are to admit that FOX News is biased, are we then also forced to admit that what FOX News covers is not real news? No. Although FOX News may be very selective, and indeed biased in what news stories they choose to cover, it would be irrational to conclude that what they do cover is not the news. Similarly, just because Michael Moore chooses to reveal some facts in his films and not others, does not make it logical to conclude that his films are anything other than documentaries.

What is Michael Moore's Formula?

Roger and Me, Bowling for Columbine and Fahrenheit 9/11 have achieved much notoriety and gained Michael Moore an extraordinary amount of fame. Most documentary filmmakers fail to make such a name for themselves. Clearly, Michael Moore has found some way to send his message through a media that does not usually attract the movie-going crowds. He accomplishes this in two general ways: first, through humor; and second, with a clear argument and main theme that runs through each of his movies.

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Moore begins Roger and Me with a brief account of his early life growing-up in Flint, Michigan. He unveils it as a mid-sized, working-class town that experienced a reasonable amount if prosperity in the decades following the second world war. These are things that most Americans can identify with, and most Americans can remember the times when being a factory worker and a member of a union were good things to be.

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From this familiar launch pad Moore injects some of his classic, warped humor. The movie cuts to half-century old public relations videos hailing General Motors as the ideal place to start a career, and Flint as a fantastic location for families. The footage employed by Moore gives 1950's Flint the feel of a "Leave it to Beaver" episode rather than an actual place. But the fun ends abruptly, when Moore shows us shots of modern-day Flint in the midst of a crippling economic downturn. This is a common tactic used by Michael Moore in several of his films.

First, he begins by introducing the audience to a familiar setting. In Roger and Me it is an ordinary Midwestern town, in Bowling for Columbine it is an ordinary Mountain town, and in Fahrenheit 9/11 it is the recent Presidential election. In all three he uses clips from some public relations firm trying to attract employees or buyers or voters to take part in their community. Why would he do this? Simple, because these films are funny. Everyone can see through the false sincerity and false optimism permeating such films -- that is why they're funny, and that is why they provide the perfect contrast for the devastating images that Moore slips into the documentary next. Whether it is school shootings, downtown ghettos, or planes flying into buildings that he shows next, the point is clear: this is not the America many of us would like to believe it is.

In Bowling for Columbine Michael Moore employs a video clearly used at some time to attract business people to the town of Littleton, Colorado. It is described as "a quiet town... without the problems of a big city." (Bowling for Columbine, 2002). Immediately afterwards we are shown the horrible chaos that followed the shooting at Columbine High School. This use of humor allows Moore to start out on recognizable ground, and then ease into subject matter that may be very upsetting to some audiences.

The beginning of Bowling for Columbine is a classic example of Michael Moore's brand of humor. He enters a bank which clearly advertises a free rifle to anyone who opens a new account. Moore proceeds to open an account with this bank, receive his gun, and then stride through the lobby and outside -- all the time brandishing his newly acquired weapon. This is one of the funniest and most telling parts of the film. After exiting the bank's main entrance, with gun in hand, Moore gives the camera a strange look. He does not have to say anything, the point is clear: the United States has gone crazy for guns. Michael Moore commonly uses humor to make his points; rather than telling the audience that there is a bank you can walk through carrying a rifle, he shows them.

Another theme running through all of Michael Moore's films is that of confrontation. In his first film, Roger and Me, he spends half of the film simply walking into General Motors headquarters and asking to speak with Roger Smith, the corporation's chairman. It seems that because he is armed with a camera very few people are willing to throw him out on the spot. Moore is forced to ask the big questions of the General Motors underlings who obviously wish little more than to keep their jobs and for him to leave.

Moore also wanders onto the grounds of factories as they are closing down, and on more than one occasion is asked to leave. It seems that in these confrontations he is more concerned with catching the real-life reactions of the workers around him than reaching any real conclusions to his main questions: is it wrong for corporations to do this, and is it possible for them to be stopped.

When it comes to confrontations Moore's second film, The Big One, is full of them. The movie follows him as he goes on his nationwide book tour for Downsize This! Random Threats From an Unarmed American. This format provides him with the perfect stage for confronting many of the individuals he believes to be corporate criminals. Moore travels to Payday candy bar headquarters, Pillsbury headquarters, Proctor and Gamble, and Nike all to present the company with awards for being corporate criminals and checks covering the first hour of pay for one of their employees in a third world country. None of these checks exceeded eighty cents.

Bowling for Columbine is also scattered with confrontations. Moore faces the corporations and organizations he feels are responsible for the current state of the nation head-on. He travels to K-Mart headquarters in Michigan to return bullets lodged in the bodies of two victims of the Columbine shootings. He and the victims also ask that the company stop selling ammunition for hand guns. This is one of the few confrontations in any of Moore's movies that bears any fruit -- K-Mart eventually apologizes for the boy's plight and agrees to discontinue the sale of pistol ammunition.

In Fahrenheit 9/11 Michael Moore stops United States Senators on the streets of Washington and asks them if they would like to volunteer their children to be shipped off to Iraq. Some of the reactions he receives provide some of the most comedic moments of the film, as well as illustrate his point that the people who have the least in this country, during times of need, are asked to give the most.

Moore also exhibits his confrontational brand of humor when he endeavors to read the entire Patriot Act including all of its articles from an ice-cream truck outside the Nation's Capitol. Again, Michael Moore is clearly trying to set an example. He wants Americans to shake things up, to make some noise, to voice their convictions and dissatisfaction.

The final confrontation in Bowling for Columbine involves movie star and president of the NRA, Charlton Heston. Perhaps because of Michael Moore's growing notoriety at the time, Heston agrees to speak with him on camera. The interview ends with Heston leaving the room rather than answering a tough question. The movie ends in this manner, as do the majority of Moore's documentaries.

Michael Moore seems to try ending every one of his films with the person who he feels has the most explaining to do. In Roger and Me he tries to conclude the film with a Roger Smith interview that he never gets. The Big One ends in an exclusive interview with Philip Knight, founder, owner, chairman, and CEO of Nike. He ends Bowling For Columbine with "gun nut" Charlton Heston. And Fahrenheit 9/11 ends after Moore asks George W. Bush a question and is blown-off.

It appears that Michael Moore is trying to show the American people just how difficult it is to get these so called "criminals" to answer for their crimes, if the person asking the questions is just an average joe like them. His pattern of wantonly strutting into a corporate office and demanding answers to pressing social issues may seen simplistic and in most cases futile, but the point that… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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