Last week, Danielle and I saw Fahrenheit 9/11. Everyone who has read RollingDoughnut.com knows or can decipher the basics of my political philosophy. I’ve been clear about my feelings regarding the upcoming election, so no one is surprised that I believe President Bush isn’t fit to be President of the United States. I knew going into Fahrenheit 9/11 that Michael Moore wouldn’t change my mind because I already “agreed” with him. He’s aiming for those undecided voters who can be swayed. Like I said, not me. I went into the theater hoping that Fahrenheit 9/11 would sway undecided voters away from President Bush.
Too bad Fahrenheit 9/11 is a piece of shit.
Walking out of the theater, I felt as though I’d been treated to a live-action Jackson Pollack painting. A dab of red here, a dollop of blue there, a dose of yellow on top of all of it. This isn’t what a film should aspire to… lots of pretty pieces but thematically incoherent. No individual part added to a single, obvious revelation. President Bush is “stupid” and “arrogant” and “corrupt”, but what does that have to do with soldiers not knowing why they’re fighting and dying? I can make the connection, but I shouldn’t have to work extra hard to do it with the presented information.
I’m going to ignore the factual misrepresentations and lies because I don’t know the validity of Mr. Moore’s truths. I’ve read enough information on both sides of his arguments to understand that Mr. Moore slants the facts with misrepresentations and/or lies. This is a shame, because I think he could’ve made a great film. At least one that would withstand even a minimum level of scrutiny, which is what I hope anyone would apply when seeing a political propaganda film.
Before seeing Fahrenheit 9/11, I’d had friends and various media recommend it as important. When deciding which movie to see (we also considered Before Sunset, which we saw tonight), a man came up to us and asked if we’d seen it. We said no, so he told us we didn’t need to think any longer, that we needed to see it. His reaction was exactly what I expected from the “I don’t question facts, I only see something that confirms my view” crowd Mr. Moore panders to, especially with this film.
Mr. Moore’s thematic failing with Fahrenheit 9/11 is obvious. The movie consists of three “acts”, with no glue to hold each act with the one before or after. First, he opens with Election 2000 in an effort to show that Al Gore won the election but Bush became president because of influential friends on the Supreme Court. Next, he considers the war in Afghanistan. Last, he addresses the war in Iraq.
I know that Mr. Moore’s theme is supposed to be “the failings of George W. Bush as president”, or something similar. What he shows is anecdotal evidence that President Bush is a puppet for Saudi Arabia, that President Bush didn’t use enough force in Afghanistan (Mr. Moore opposed this war), and that America is a bully to innocent Iraqi civilians. Mr. Moore ignores anything that supports a different view of his beliefs and doesn’t bother to discredit opposing views. To his credit he doesn’t claim to be “fair and balanced” so that he can sway you away from President Bush. That doesn’t make his film’s failing excusable.
While waiting for something compelling to wrap up the movie, Fahrenheit 9/11 lost me when Mr. Moore started Act 3. His presentation of Iraq in Fahrenheit 9/11 is manipulative. He never attempts to put the buildup and eventual war in Iraq in any context. What he does is show U.S. soldiers as militant mercenaries; callous, unfeeling human beings who listen to rock ‘n roll before going into battle. We are to believe they take glee in shooting and killing innocent civilians. Mr. Moore intends for us to hate them and laugh at them for being lower life forms.
A few minutes later, Fahrenheit 9/11 shows dead soldiers as Mr. Moore introduces his tale of a mother who taught her children that the military is the viable option for getting out of lower class life. From the beginning of this segment, we know that her story will not turn out well, so she’s the victim of President Bush’s “crimes”.
I might accept that if Mr. Moore hadn’t followed this with images of soldiers disrespecting Iraqi captives. Again we’re shown that soldiers are bad. We’re supposed to hate these vile soldiers but feel bad for the poor mothers left behind. That doesn’t work for me.
Fahrenheit 9/11 left me feeling incomplete. I knew what I was supposed to believe, but if I’d just flown in from another planet, I wouldn’t understand why I’d sat for two hours watching scene after scene thrown at me. Fahrenheit 9/11 is like an Italian chef who throws boiling spaghetti (real Italians bend and taste the spaghetti) against a wall to see if it’ll stick. When something sticks, it’s done. Until then, keep boiling and throwing.
Michael Moore throws, but none of Fahrenheit 9/11’s spaghetti sticks.