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The Personal Price Of Speaking Up

The Personal Price Of Speaking Up

After a massively successful weekend at the box office, Fahrenheit 9/11 seems to have withstood the criticism and scrutiny of the American moviegoing public to become something of a phenomenon. People everywhere are talking about the film, exchanging ideas both in favor of and against the arguments presented in the movie. But people on both sides of the philosophical divide seem to agree on one thing: Michael Moore is a fat slob.

What I find completely outrageous about the way in which people have personalized Moore’s ideas and filmmaking as being somehow transcendent of (if you like the movie) or an example of (if you’re opposed) Moore’s personal appearance is not simply the inherent anti-intellectualism in these arguments, but the fact that even the most so-called responsible film critics and thinkers have resorted to commenting on his appearance. Let’s take a roll call shall we?

David Edelstein, praising the film in Slate:
“Along with many other polite liberals, I cringed last year when Moore launched into his charmless, pugilistic acceptance speech at the Academy Awards. ‘Oh, how vulgar,’ I thought ‘couldn’t he at least have been funny?’ A year later, I think I might have been too hard on the fat prick.”

Christopher Hitches, in a negative review in Slate:
” I never quite know whether Moore is as ignorant as he looks, or even if that would be humanly possible.”

James Verniere, Boston Herald:
“Moore, a political caricaturist and a walking caricature, reiterates all the usual anti-Bush talking points…”

The list goes on and on.

Now, looking at the little box on the right hand side of this web page, the one with my photo in it, it’s pretty clear that I myself am no piece of eye candy. However, I would like to believe that when people read what I write, engage me in a conversation, or review the product of my work, they would basically ignore that picture and focus on the quality of my ideas. And Michael Moore deserves that as well. I understand that his on-screen persona is up for discussion, and that his tactics personalized the politics of the war. I don’t debate that. What I do want to know is when it became ok to call someone a fat prick in a film review.

What I think bothers me the most is not so much the personal attack, but more the moral relativism of these statements. You can imagine the slippery slope of this line of reasoning, where politically conscious filmmakers and other artists are ridiculed for their looks, and their works judged by their appearance. Just ask Spike Lee, who was always the ‘angry black filmmaker’ in his early career.

But to me, that seems par for the course in America. The great reality (and irony) is, NO ONE is qualified to speak against the status quo, regardless of their looks. If Tom Cruise or Brad Pitt stood up, they would be shouted down as Hollywood pretty boys using their celebrity inappropriately. When did America remove its conscience from its entertainment? Why is the common man no longer respected in the marketplace of ideas? Not to call for a Frank Capra revival, but our society has clearly fallen prey to the Cult of the Expert, where only certain individuals who specialize in narrow fields and subject matter are taken seriously. Apparently, the rest of us are blowhards who are not qualified to speak.

I guess I’ll just have to let my fat, stubby fingers do the talking in the voting booth.

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