a jackrabbit gets addicted to road-running, it is only a matter
of time before he gets smashed-and when a journalist turns into
a political junkie he will sooner or later start raving and
babbling in print about things that only a person who has Been
There can possibly understand."
Hunter S. Thompson
muckraker, and liberal activist Michael Moore dares to take
his camera where no one has gone before. Anyone familiar with
Roger & Me or TV Nation will know his style; everyone else
can learn about it by watching one or both seasons of The Awful
Truth. Moore's modus operandi as a public advocate includes:
Find someone whose doing something that pisses him off.
b. Visit the offending party at their home or office.
c. Confront the person in the most offensive manner possible.
Sinclair Lewis at the turn of the last centaury or Hunter Thompson
at the beginning of the 1972 presidential election, Moore sees
himself as a renegade on a quest. "No one else will tell
you the truth," he seems to say. "But I will."
When Moore is firing on all pistons, his creative rough &
tumble is worthy of Swift.
a few episodes of The Awful Truth reminds one of what 60 Minutes
might have looked like if Saturday Night Live had produced it.
In one scene, Moore travels to Ken Starr's home with a small
group clad in Colonial clothing. Like the citizens of Salem,
they are here to show Starr how to conduct an economical witch
trial. Crackers, the crime fighting chicken, travels to Disney
World to have a heart-to-heart with Mickey about unfair labor
practices, while the Sodomobile, a pink van loaded with gay
men, travels from state to state fighting for homosexual rights.
These particular scenes are very funny and make great theater.
course conservatives will hate The Awful Truth as much as liberals
hate Firing Line. They might even be so rude as to point out
that Moore never deals with real content (as if Buckley did).
But The Awful Truth isn't a news magazine or an exercise in
investigative reporting. Mostly it's a good excuse to harass
companies that pollute, fail to pay insurance claims, and sell
cigarettes to kids. In one scene Sal, the Bill Collector, visits
the UPS office to interrogate a couple of VPs over a supposed
contract violation. Even though Sal isn't real, the two stiff
shirts defend their contract to Sal, on camera. The viewer never
receives enough information to understand the UPS contract,
much less if it's been broken. And it doesn't really matter.
What does matter is that the two guys with the ties don't have
better sense than to talk to Sal, the Bill Collector, making
both executives, and UPS, look like idiots.
Awful Truth does have one or two drawbacks, even for the bleeding
heart crowd. Moore is front-and-center a little too often, and
eventually his self-righteous whine grows tiresome. This is
especially true when Moore pursues the bad guys and gals as
opposed to a personality like Sal. When this happens, a typical
episode runs as follows.
Moore delivers the opening monolog.
b. Moore institutes a new program called "work care"
and illustrates its usefulness.
c. Moore delivers a second monolog.
d. Moore begins a campaign to deliver TVs to Afghanistan.
this set-up, The Awful Truth begins to look like a program about
second and worst offence is that even when Moore is interviewing
someone he's sympathetic with, that person may be the butt of
a joke when the footage runs on the program. When he talks to
a number of "locals" in a sketch about the crazies
who live in Montana, their answers are meant to seem odd and
funny. Bill Nichols asks a similar question of an earlier Moore
film. "Is it all right to make Miss Michigan look foolish
by asking for her opinion about local economic conditions
one scene from Roger and Me?" In both cases, Moore seems
to make an ethical breech by ridiculing innocents.
will find solace in both seasons of The Awful Truth, because
TV programs from a liberal perspective are a rare find. It will
help take the sting out of an unfair world as well as balance
out that windy guy on the radio named Rush and the right-wing
cadre of reporters on the Fox News channel. Even liberals need
a little red meat now and then. Sitting down and watching an
episode in the evening could be the perfect antidote to the
latest calamity from Bush II. Michael Moore sooths us by demonstrating
that no one, be they high, low, or in-between, can escape from
The Awful Truth.
D. Lankford, Jr.
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