Michael Moore is the newest guy to pull a Radiohead, but not with music (though if it were, I’m sure it’d be somewhere in the general stereotype for emo these days – whiny and overly-dramatic). Moore released his newest piece, Slacker Uprising, on the net for a free download yesterday, perfectly timed with the upcoming elections. I was as moved by Bowling for Columbine as any other kid my age who saw that movie must have been. But this? Well, see the trailer for yourself:
True, it’s only the trailer, and I may have had some ideologically perplexing opinions about first-impressions in my last post, but it’s clear that’s just as far as Michael Moore will go to approach a subject. I never took Moore’s words at face value; he’s always been relatively upfront about not wanting to be called a documentary filmmaker, as that would imply seeking to find some indefinite fact. Moore’s work is the kind that seeks to persuade first, inform later. But that’s even harder to swallow when the subject he’s attempting to cover – rousing young Americans into voting – is given the finishing polish of a stereotype.
With the trailer, Moore paints himself as the patron saint of liberalism – the youth the lost in a dark and depressing world without his kindness. They are the “slackers” of the title, whom he rallied to vote for John Kerry in a supposedly unprecedented landslide in that demographic. What is this, the early 90s? The slacker is the prototype for Gen Xers and could hardly describe individuals of my generation who first voted in the 2004 election. Growing up, I remember reading and watching countless news stories about how overworked, over-committed, and over-stressed my generation is. Not only that, I’ve lived it (although to a lesser degree of other individuals); I carried book-bags that weighed more than me to school, spent hour after frustrating hour doing seven classes worth of homework an evening, and (most recently) drove myself towards sleep deprivation with extra-curricular activities.
Moore seems to forget an important point that I’d like to kindly lift from Thursday’s Geoff Rickly; every action you do is inherently political. The idea that voting is absolutely revolutionary – while true centuries ago and in some respects today – is a little old. And its dis-empowering. If this country was built on the idea of the people governing themselves, than any action one does can have some positive (or negative) end result. Punching some ballot (or pressing some images on a computer screen) every two years is hardly revolutionary. The work people of my generation have done – from volunteering, to community building, to simply creating and implementing whatever creative idea they have, is just as powerfully political as single vote.
Moore’s assertion that young people today are “slackers” is the kind of crap that has had an affect on low-voter turnouts in the youngest voting age demographics. It may not be a singular cause, but the fact that most politicians completely ignore this demographic certainly has a large impact. And Moore is simply feeding into that idea. As an icon for liberalism, he’s doing a pretty terrible job as well, merely reiterating stereotypes about liberals and negatively affecting the left side of the American political divide even more. As Thomas Frank asserts in What’s The Matter With Kansas? , the image that a large number of Mid-Western Americans have of liberals is that they are leeches on society, merely doing and producing nothing of value or sustenance. Sounds a little like the definition of a slacker. With that portrait of the most liberal voting demographic, is it any wonder why certain portions of American society have moved to the right. (I realize this is a massive generalization, just on piece of a very complicated puzzle that Frank addresses quite thoroughly and provocatively in his book, but it is still a part of the picture, and an important one at that).
Still, I might watch the movie. It’s hard to tell though, being a slacker and all. I just don’t know if I have the energy or motivation to watch a documentary.
*The New York Times‘ coverage of My Bloody Valentine’s performance at ATP ends with the following quote:
“You can’t do anything with sound,” Mr. Shields had said, “unless there is emotion.”
And again, there is a case against the idea of “emo” as a viable term for a genre of music.
*The MacArthur “Genius” Awards were announced, with Alex Ross being one of the notable recipients; his book, The Rest Is Noise is a tremendous work on classical music in the 20th Century. I’m part-way through and can’t wait to pick up some Richard Strauss. One of the more interesting narratives for the winners is that of Walter Kitundu, who combines turntables and stringed instruments into some pretty intense works of art (and great instruments in and of themselves):
*TV on the Radio’s Dear Science, is out everywhere. Expect something resembling a review soon…