I was thinking more about Fahrenheit 911 this morning, having heard it’s not going to be shown here until September, and having been reading about it lately. When I saw the movie I cried and raged at all the bits I was meant to, but one sequence really took me by surprise. What on earth was Michael Moore thinking to represent the nations of the “coalition of the willing” in such an overtly racist, ridiculing manner? Vikings for Iceland, joints for the Netherlands and monkeys for Marocco? Cartoon-like voice-overs and open mockery of man nations just to make the point that most of the world opposed the war on Iraq? The English-speaking members of the coalition weren’t mentioned, interestingly enough, nor were the Spaniards.

I know ridicule, racism, sexism and other kinds of oppression are far more easily perceived when you’re on the receiving end, but it seems hard to believe that Moore could condoned such a sequence without seeing what a stupid white man perspective it is on the world.

3 thoughts on “ridicule and fahrenheit 911

  1. Kate Pullinger

    Hi Jill, we met at Incubation. I went to see ‘Fahrenheit 9?11’ last night and was alternately entertained, moved, and appalled. You are right about that ludicrous short-hand to the coalition sequence, but I also thought it was incredibly strange that he left Britain out of the picture completely. Maybe it really is true that, as far as Americans are concerned, the involvement of the UK in this war is of no consequence or importance – which somehow makes the whole thing even more depressing.

    The most interesting bit for me when was Moore shows the marines recruiting very young men from the poorest of the poor in his hometown of Flint.

  2. Jill

    I know. It was a huge deal for Australia, too, to be involved, and all the more pointless to be involved in a stupid war to please big brother America when big brother doesn’t even care. Well, at least Australia got their free trade agreement with the US. Yee ha.

    I guess the movie was very much made for an American audience. But it would be nice if someone as aware of the existence of other countries as Michael Moore would, well, realise that a lot of people in other countries will be watching this movie too.

    Watching that sequence about how the army recruits the poor and the unemployed I for the first time almost felt happy that Norway simply has mandatory conscription of 18-year-old men. I suppose at least that’s fairer. Perhaps it actually makes us warier of going to war: almost every male in the country has been in the army. Of course, if I were male, and a Norwegian citizen, and 18, I’d be a conscientious objector, and I don’t like mandatory conscription – still, seeing Moore’s perspective on a professional army certainly made me wonder.

    I’m looking forward to trying out your Breathing Wall, Kate. I still haven’t got the software and a windows machine in the same room (I have a mac at home) but I definitely will! It was great meeting you!

  3. Anonymous

    I know what you mean, Jill, but I’d argue that caricature has always been an essential part of Moore’s arsenal. He used it to brilliant effect in TV Nation and Bowling for Columbine, and Fahrenheit 9/11 is no exception. Part of what makes his anti-Bush message so persuasive is precisely the element of parody/distortion/exaggeration (even Moore fans generally admit to the distortions.) Caricature is an incredibly effective political/creative tool, and no one does it better than Moore. Maybe the problem here is that he’s using it a little too indiscriminately?

    I’d add that as an American, I see acid caricatures of the US every day (e.g., as a nation of power-mongering, obese, vulgar, jingoistic, oil-grubbing people). What’s interesting is that the source of these parodies isn’t always foreign–i.e., Americans have a healthy capacity to parody themselves–to take it as well as dish it. Moore is part and parcel of that tradition. Still, as a champion of the underdog, the disenfranchised, the less powerful, maybe he should have rethought the “coalition of the willing” sequence.

    On F 9/11 as intended for a primarily US audience: I don’t think it is. Moore has toured Europe extensively to screen and discuss the film. One of the central messages he’s exporting is, as one pundit has put it, that “Americans are kind of crappy.”

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