Fearful Symmetries

Witness a machine turn coffee into pointless ramblings...

07 July, 2007

Like Roger Hodgson Said

An acquaintance of mine recently sent out an e-mail to everyone in her address book, including me, imploring us to go see Michael Moore's latest bit of agit-prop, Sicko. I enjoyed all of his films except Fahrenheit 9/11 but wish he were on television again because TV and The Awful Truth were great. Anyone remember the bit from the latter (methinks) shot here in Madison with those folks dressed as Pilgrims running around Library Mall? I nearly pissed my pants during the scene with the woman writhing on the ground who said, "Orin Hatch killed a man just to watch him die!" I think it was Hatch, anyway. For some reason, I have no intention of seeing Sicko. It just holds no appeal for me. I've read about it and eagerly watched an interview with Moore on NOW last week and I just feel content as far as the film goes. (I'm also happy that the film has prompted less mudslinging and instead more genuine debate about the issue.) I'd just rather read a book on the subject than see a Michael Moore documentary about it.

Regardless of my film viewing preferences, there's no doubt that Moore's films rally the liberal troops. I recall people showing Fahrenheit 9/11 in their homes and inviting strangers over to watch. It was required viewing for Lefties just as, say, Noam Chomsky is required reading. These people found something of such importance in the film that they just had to share it with others. A similar thing happened with An Inconvenient Truth. People would try to encourage their friends and family to see it because the film had a message that these folks wanted to be spread. So why does a film by Al Gore or Michael Moore inspire such people to e-mail their friends & family when similar messages in other media do not? It seems that folks don't send out mass mailings urging others to watch Frontline or read a book. The price of admission for Frontline is owning a television set that gets PBS and while books have the virtue of being able to give much more information and are available at the library for free. It's almost like a subject isn't an issue for concern if it isn't give a stamp of approval by a film.

Are you one of those people that e-mailed everyone in your address book imploring them to see An Inconvenient Truth or one of Moore's films? If so, why? Were you completely ignorant on the topics addressed in the movies and so moved that you felt compelled to get others to see them?

I also wonder what happens after the lights go up. You watch the film, get all pissed off at the system, and then what? Our health care system is very complicated and I highly doubt that Moore had the time to give a textbook lecture. Besides, it would probably be a pretty boring film. What have these movies inspired you to do? Anyone go see An Inconvenient Truth and then takes steps to lower their carbon footprint? Anyone reading this see Sicko and feel inspired to find out more on the subject? Write a legislator? I am curious to know whether these films actually light a fire and get people active in trying to change things or if, perhaps, they merely do a good job of getting choirs gathered in theatres to be preached at. Or some point in between.

I think one reason this came to mind was because I've gotten all charitable. The last time I gave money to a good cause was about 3 years ago when I helped pay a friend's mortgage after his wife had a stroke. And just a couple weeks ago, I read something at a blog which made me feel strongly that I should be charitable. My giving began that day with a donation to the Freedom From Religion Foundation. Firstly, I support the cause of separation of church & state and secondly, I was renewing my membership and the form also came with one for donating to their special projects. And so I did. Yesterday was payday so one of my weekend projects is to get another check written. I'm not wealthy but, if Sally Strothers in right by saying that a $0.25 can feed a child for days, then what I give out can certainly be helpful. Every bit counts. Since the blog post which inspired me was at a feminist blog such as Feministe, I think that I'll donate to the Dane County Rape Crisis Center.

But what about next time? Do I give to local charities or international? When you, dear reader, donate money, to whom do you give it and how do you make that decision? As far as international charities go, I've got a short list which I meticulously compiled after 10 minutes of research on the Internet:


Doctors Without Borders

The Nature Conservancy


Here are a few local causes to which I intend to donate:


Planned Parenthood of WI

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Dane County

If you are a fellow Madisonian, to what local charities do you give?
|| Palmer, 9:18 AM


Because you'd mentioned your philanthropic feelings, I actually decided to donate to The Womens Medical Fund once my house is sold (and then again as I can). They provide partial funding for abortions to women who cannot afford them.

From their site: "Women's Medical Fund, Inc., a non-profit, charitable organization, provides direct financial aid to Wisconsin women who are seeking to terminate an unwanted pregnancy and cannot afford the entire cost of an abortion.

The Fund does not question a woman's reasons for having an abortion; women seeking assistance only have to demonstrate financial need.

When money is available, the Fund usually grants or loans up to one-half the cost of an abortion, although in tragic cases more money is often granted.

Over 99.5% of all donations go to directly fund poor women's abortions."

It's also run by FFRF founder Anne Gaylor!

Next on my list is Family Enhancement, which runs a respite center, caring for the children of families in crisis. I had to take my kids there when things were very bad at home, it was a great resource.

Also, the Rainbow Project, which I know does good things in the community.

Palmer, I have to say I find it really odd that a cinephile such as yourself would wonder about the power of film - although I do think that many people see a film like "An Inconvenient Truth" and then do nothing - but having that message out there being consumed by people who would otherwise *not* read a book about it, that can't hurt, IMO.

I see your point, but offer the counter point that a film like Sicko is widely advertised, is more "on demand" than and ep. of Frontline, and does not require going to the library and getting a book. Also, it promises entertainment, not just education.

I watched Sicko on Google Video, and I thought it was actually much more likely to rally people than F/911 was - because it was about people that they knew, or were like. There is definitely less likelyhood of a "red state/blue state" divide over this issue. Moore is absolutely brilliant at what he does.

the D
Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:51 AM  
I wasn't questioning the power of movies but I was instead wondering why no one seems to email all their friends saying, "This is a must read!" And Frontline is very much on-demand. It is re-run (on "free TV") and the show's webpage archives the current season and past couple as well as a select group of older shows. I don't see how going to the library and checking out a book for free is more of a burden than going to the cinema.

I'm not trying to be critical of people who watch Moore's films and/or e-mail their friends to do the same; I am wondering why it is that films inspire such behavior whereas other media don't and what changes the films inspire. One idea is that these films are the new pamphlets - Sicko is the 21st century equivalent of Common Sense. But why would a film that costs $8-10 to see assume that role when television programs that are cheaper and easier to access do not.

Again, I'm not trying to bash anyone but merely pondering how people use the various media.
Blogger Palmer, at 10:27 AM  
This blog post gives some insight to how people are reacting to this film (follow the link to Moore's website and read the memo which is mentioned).

The more I think about it, the more I would encourage you to see the film (when it comes out on cable/DVD).
Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:44 PM  
Anon - thanks for the link. That review seems to be a fairly common reaction. I may watch it someday but I personally would rather read a book or just find something perhaps a bit more nuanced. We'll see.
Blogger Palmer, at 8:18 AM  

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