Friday, July 23, 2004

Daniel Henninger on Moore's Smug Condescension

In today's Wall Street Journal, Daniel Henninger takes issue with Moore's condescending portrayal of lower-middle class ("Carpet-Bomb Filmmaking" July 23, 2004):

Moore's on-camera characters are invariably lower middle class and inarticulate. In fact, no one is physically attractive or stylish, which allows Moore's big-city target audience to stay inside its normal film-going comfort zone of smirking condescension.

The U.S. soldiers who speak onscreen in Iraq come across as bloodless killers with Southern accents. They sound stupidly unfeeling about the war's destruction. It wasn't clear to me that even this audience was in sync with the filmmaker's willingness to make a mockery of American soldiers. Moore's misanthropy is equal opportunity; he shows a greasy white guy in Flint, Mich., with a tattoo on his arm, whose thoughts on domestic security are that you can't trust anyone anymore, even people you know. That got a big laugh. All the people in Moore's beloved Flint--which appears in "Fahrenheit" as a few bombed-out housing blocks--are either dopey white trash or oppressed blacks. Two Marine recruiters walking around a U.S. shopping center are manipulative and opportunistic. They're made to look bad.

To make some point about domestic security, he shows a passenger's encounter at check-in with an improbable airport security guard--a befuddled, older woman in glasses, curly white hair and a Midwestern accent. Moore doesn't give this woman the courtesy of identifying where she works. She's nowhere.

Even the Iraqi victims in Baghdad are props. A baby's corpse is lifted from a dumpster, bloodied limbs are shown, people wail--but in a succession of quick frames. Moore never spends any time with these people. They just, so to speak, blow by.

In a sequence on the U.S.'s allies, Romania is depicted with a movie-stock Dracula figure (these are the people who freed themselves from Ceausescu), and Morocco is represented by monkeys scampering along the ground. That got a laugh, but not a big one. . . .