In June 2004, my best friend and I attended the premiere of Fahrenheit 9/11. The theater was almost full. The audience lustily cheered, booed, and otherwise loudly reacted to what was playing on the screen.
On September 21, 2018, we attended opening night of Fahrenheit 11/9 at the same theater. I bought our tickets online a couple of days before, because I remembered the crowds and wanted to make sure we would get seats.
I really shouldn’t have bothered. There were 6 people in that theater. SIX.
In the words of Michael Moore in the film: “How the fuck did we get here?”
Oklahoma is still Oklahoma, a red state struggling mightily to be even a little bit purple. The economy relies heavily on oil and gas, and elected officials rely heavily on purported “Christian values.” In the recent gubernatorial runoff on the Republican side, the candidate who ended up winning trashed the other candidate by running ads proclaiming his opponent didn’t support Trump. To me, that was a point in the guy’s favor. The defeated candidate had been mayor of OKC for a long time, and had done a lot for the city’s growth. Granted, these infrastructure improvements have not been entirely smooth. The sales tax keeps going up to fund them, and the construction crews working on things like building roads and putting in trolley tracks don’t seem to coordinate with one another at all, leading to frequent driver frustration when a trip that should take 5 minutes takes 25. But overall, Oklahoma City now is a different place than Oklahoma City 2004.
But the real differences between 2004 and 2018 are not just physical. There is a divide between have and have-not that keeps widening, and the have-nots aren’t looking to the right place to fix the problem. Those (white people) who lean to the right have embraced a party and a president that really could care less about their best interests….but the party certainly doesn’t like brown people. Or women.
That’s one thing the film got right: it pointed out the obvious fuckery going on in the GOP, the blatant disregard for the huddled masses yearning to breathe free, even if those huddled masses are hunkering down in the heartland. The voice-overs and comparisons to Nazi Germany were well done.
But then he forgot something. He covered Trump’s inauguration, and BRIEFLY mentioned the women’s march the next day. That was a big mistake. That march has spurred the ones that followed it. Crowd shots of the inauguration and the march might have very clearly illustrated the divide…but he didn’t show those. Instead, he marched right past women and started discussing the kids in Parkland, Florida.
*record scratch* What? How did we suddenly end up in Bowling for Columbine? The point he was trying to make, I think, was that the young people responsible for organizing the marches and protests associated with that school shooting were the future, that they were trying to encourage people to vote the assholes out of office who don’t understand what their gun laws are doing. But for a movie about how we got Trump and how we’re going to get rid of him, that’s a lot of screen time that should have been spent on other things.
Moore trashed himself. He trashed the Democratic party and its disregard for the primary results when it selected Hillary Clinton as the nominee. He trashed Obama, and Pelosi, and of course the GOP leadership. He pointed out that 100 million people didn’t vote. He talked about teacher strikes in West Virginia and tangentially, the rest of the nation. And he also spent a great deal of time talking about the water crisis in Flint.
But to what effect? He was trying to point out how Trump won Michigan. Trump actually visited Flint, visited the water plant there. Clinton did not. And Obama’s visit to Flint did not result in any changes or help for the problem there. So you have disenchanted voters, which led them to either stay home or vote for Trump.
In its entirety, Fahrenheit 11/9 is disjointed and does not have a cohesive narrative. Chronologically, it’s confusing. The film jumps around between before and after the election. If we’re supposed to understand how we ended up with Trump as President, a more linear timeline would help. The story being in chronological order would also help to show the correlation between Trump’s election and the protests that followed.
Instead, Moore spent his time on Michigan, West Virginia, and Florida. Important? Yes. But not the whole story by a long shot. The Florida footage, combined with all of the other mass shootings, could make a powerful follow-up to Bowling for Columbine. This film, if it was going to do what it said, should have focused on how the women’s march spurred a wave of activism, a wave that has targeted the midterm elections. He discussed a few candidates, but again. Not enough. There should have been a lot more coverage of the days after the election, of how women organized and got together to form a protest movement. There should have been some coverage of all the firings and hirings and lies from the present administration. If you want to convince people to vote out the establishment….do more explaining about why. Do more to explain the people actually RUNNING for office, not just two or three of them (in Michigan, New York, and West Virginia).
He ended the film with coverage of the fake ballistic missile alert in Hawaii and Emma Gonzalez reciting a list of the victims. Powerful images; powerful voices, but WHY? Why did he end the film on a note of almost hopelessness? The hopeless feeling that things will never change is why 100 million people stayed home. If you want them to leave their house, give them a feeling that things will be better if they do.
I want to believe that change is still possible. I want to think that women will be believed without having to strip themselves bare before the world. I want to know that even if the “wrong” candidate gets elected, that person will at least do their best to make laws that help and protect everyone, not just those who have contributed to their personal success.
I want basic human rights. For all basic humans.
Get your shit together, Michael Moore.
And get your shit together, fellow humans. Vote these fuckers OUT.