Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Moore, Mimesis and Documented Truth

Michael Moore is a Big Fat Stupid White Man reads as ugly as its title sounds. Between repeating the same points about Michael Moore's duplicity - yes, he did wrong by his writers, by his subjects, by the notion of truth, but developing an argument is, like, a thing - authors Hardy and Clarke betray their obvious frustration at his success. Sure, the book was written before Moore lost his credibility, so their resentment at Moore's hypocrisy had currency back then. 

But being spiteful about his weight and wealth does get in the way of their thesis that Moore's documentaries are dishonest. Judicious editing, and reconstructions of events, allow Moore to play loose with the facts. His general arguments, that 'Merica is bad, okay, and that individual acts of violence are expressions of wider cultural values, are supported by half-truths and melodramatic posturing. In particular, the manipulation of chronology, and a conversation with Charlton Heston are called out again and again.

Moore defends his slap-dash approach by pointing out that he makes entertaining, popular film. To bring in Aristotle, he is not making history, but poetry, which is more about the universal than the particular. In other words, so what if the facts are mangled? There is a bigger picture.

It's the same problem that verbatim theatre has: the use of real life
people and events lends an aura of authenticity to the work, but then makes inaccuracies less forgivable. Poetry, as Aristotle explained, is better than history because it does not rely on specifics, tending towards broader ideals. 

For Aristole, mimesis was the thing. Roughly translated as imitation, it is the process whereby nature becomes art. Poetry has particular aesthetics and epistemologies (got it in!). The problem with Moore is that he fakes historical aesthetics. 

He's pretty much like most journalists, then. Hardly fair to pick on just him. Is it because he's fat?

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