Andy (acetabulum) wrote,
Andy
acetabulum

Jon Stewart is my hero, and other observations

A couple weeks ago saw the much anticipated DVD release of Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11. Sarah and I saw it in the theatre here in New York on the Friday that it opened nationwide. Both of us, two very like-minded progressive types, found the film compelling in moments, but far too snide and propagandizing to be considered good as a piece of documentary filmmaking. Whether it be the sarcastic narration, the condescending montage paying "tribute" to the countries involved in the coalition, or the implication that not only did the administration--thanks to Bush/Bin Laden/Saudi Royal Family ties--give special treatment to foreign nationals with possible links to 9/11, but that they also only fought the war in Afghanistan to forge way for a new pipeline, the film's absurdities seemed to act as more of a powerful indictment against Moore than it's strong third act did against the president's pre-emptive war in Iraq. The audience we saw the film with disagreed. They took all the bait the film cast out, and cheered with thunderous applause while they were gleefully reeled in.
What I think upset us more than the movie itself was the assumption most people tended to draw when they found out our reaction to it: that we had to be Bush supporters. That was as far as the logic of these otherwise smart people could take them. These are people who had long hoped for a strong response from the left to conservative talk radio. It's simply not enough to demand competent journalism, we also deserve an opportunistic advocate who will conceal facts that do not support the face of a story he is trying to present. Simply put, these people wanted their own Rush Limbaugh, and now they have him. Michael Moore, a bigger, fatter idiot than Limbaugh himself.
He released his movie and has since been heralded with unimaginable praise from the left while receiving charges of anti-American, treasonous activity from the right. A patriot to some. A traitor to others. Michael Moore, like the president himself, did not create the polarized political atmosphere we live in. He is profiting off of it, though. And, in the end, it might be realized by all that the world has become a worse place thanks to the work of people like Michael Moore and President George W. Bush.

Earlier today, Sarah and I went to see Team America: World Police, the new movie from South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone. A Jerry Bruckheimer style action film with a cast of players comprised entirely of marionettes, it's a conceptually brilliant endeavor. It's also a pretty biting satire of the polar opposites contained within "our side" of the war on terror. The nationalistic and hawkish right is represented only by Team America who, in their defense, are effective at defeating terrorists, but fight with arrogant and reckless abandon often destroying landmark structures like The Great Pyramids at Giza and the Louvre Museum in Paris. The self-righteous left is characterized by Film Actors like Alec Baldwin and Sean Penn who sit in a secret society style Conference Auditorium and dictate how to best subvert Team America's desire to police the world at all costs and spread peace. The organization's name, Film Actors Guild (often referred to by the acronym FAG), is one of the more obvious running gags Stone and Parker return to throughout the film for a guaranteed laugh. Other easy laughs come from puppet-on-puppet oral sex and puppet vomit. The funniest moment in the movie involves panthers, and it is far too good to be given it away.
For all of the great moments in Team America, I have to say that it would have worked much better had it been shown on television as a mini-series. It drags way too much, and the running jokes I think would have worked better in short thirty minute sprints than they did over the course of the 90-120 minute marathon of watching it all at once. Being played in it's current state on TV would be difficult because of numerous FCC regulations including ones opposed to the word "Fuck" (which, as you might expect, shows up a ton of times over the course of the movie) as well as others which if they didn't exist before certainly do now. There are some things not even puppets can do on television. Still, I think all of the jokes and even much of the satire would have felt much better in three or four installments. In its current state it felt too forced.

The problem with a lot of the political satire that's out there right now is that it has to exist along side--and begs the comparrison with--The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. To quote a Bond song, "Nobody does it better." And Stewart, Colbert, Cordry, Helms, and Bee do it four nights a week. It's truly the greatest show on television, and is quickly becoming the one cable show which most resembles news programing. Constant assertions of "fake news" notwithstanding. Studies are constantly finding more and more people get their news from these guys. More telling than that, though, is the finding that their viewers are exceedingly well-informed. Translation: Either both of the studies are nonsense, or they do a better job of reporting the news than actual journalists.
On Friday Jon Stewart appeared on CNN's Crossfire. The moderators were Paul Begala "From the Left" and Tucker Carlson "From the Right." Stewart was on for three segments of the program (in theory) promoting America (The Book): A Citizen's Guide to Democracy Inaction, but he did a little more (and a little less) than that. As he would admit, he went on the show to confront Carlson and Begala for the part he said their show played in "hurting America." In promoting political talking points over actual debate and in further dividing the nation.
Apparently expecting some sort of attack--or hoping to instigate one--Carlson had questions ready to be put on screen from Stewart's September interview with Senator John Kerry. The Kerry interview was a softball one by anybody's standard, but it did occur while the presidential candidate was receiving nothing but bad press based in large part on inflammatory and false charges over his history before and after Vietnam. Plus, it was on Comedy Central. Stewart was ready and willing to compare the theatre of his show with that of Crossfire, but as he said, they're on CNN. His show's lead-in is puppets making crank phone calls. The very fact that such a comparison seems apt to anybody seems very telling of the current state of journalism.
Anyhow, Stewart went on and threw down. It was two days after the debate, and the last two news cycles had been focused not on the president lying to the American people about a well known and often repeated quote he made concerning not being concerned with the whereabouts of Osama Bin Laden, but instead with Kerry's utterly awkward utterance of the word "lesbian" at the same debate. Apparently, when it comes to television, lesbians will trump liars every day of the week. Also making more news than the president's--shall I say--gaffe was Bill O'Reilly's new sexual harassment scandal. Frankly, it's always been my opinion that working on The O'Reilly Factor was reason enough to be subjected to forced sodomy, but the media, especially CNN and MSNBC, seem more than happy to allow Fox News' bad boy's problem to monopolize what air time was not taken up by Mary Cheney's lesbianism.
Stewart was even asked his opinion of the O'Reilly thing, and asked what he thought he simply said "I don't." Yet another in a long line of refreshing moments of the interview. Anyhow, yeah, Jon Stewart's my new hero.

Here's a link to the video and transcript of Jon Stewart on Crossfire. http://mediamatters.org/items/200410160003
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