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would you vote for tom? October 14, 2006

Posted by Brad Richert in media, politics.
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No, not Myspace Tom. I saw “Man of the Year” last night. In my humble opinion, Robin Williams pulled of a great balance between humour and politics, never dousing us with too much of either (although people who hate politics would probably argue otherwise). Sure, the film could have been better, could have been more controversial, could have been pushed farther, could have been released four years ago – although who knows, Robin would have had to go on hiatus with the Dixie Chicks. Now that its cool to be disallusioned with the American political system, everyone seems to be jumping on the bandwagon – not that I am complaining. And yes, I know that Williams and others have not exactly been big fans of the Bush Administration for a while, but most people in the United States were not exactly scratching their heads in the important days of late 2001 while the Republicans were cramming the PATRIOT ACT down the throats of Americans (and the rest of the world).

For those who have yet to see it and have somehow not heard of the movie, “Man of the Year” is about a comedian, Tom Dobbs (Robin Williams), who runs for President. The advertisements make it seem like it is some sort of joke to make a statement, but viewers quickly learn that it was more of a Nader-style candidacy: making a serious run for Presidency to get the issues out in the open while never really expecting to win. The plot of the story itself is actually quite petty and inconsequential, most likely done on purpose. For those interested in the movie, it is really just political eye-candy. There are no new ideas, no “Wag the Dog”-style challenging scenes. The one thing you can get out the film is the same thing you can get out of just watching the advertisement: questioning whether, in a time when more people vote for the American Idol than the President, would you vote for Tom Dobbs?

On the Dobbs for President website it is quite apparent that this is the question Robin Williams and Barry Levinson (Dir.) want you to answer is whether our western democracies are no different than glorified high school elections. Would you vote for a comedian, using his or her talents, as a President of the United States? On the site, Williams states that the idea is no far-fetched as many Hollywood personalities have become Congressman and Senators, not to mention the Governator of California and ex-President Ronald Reagan himself. The difference, Williams points out, is that a comedian like Dobbs would use his comedy as a tool for election rather than wiping his true nature aside and “play politics”.

The film also has another, probably more serious, question about the underlying democratic system itself and the idea of the legitimacy of the President. Under my bias, the film harshly fails to challenge the status-quo on this idea although it is continually raised. For the sake of those who plan to see the film, I will not get into it, but I challenge those who watch this film to ask themselves how the filmmakers fail to ask the hard questions of Presidential legitimacy while it is staring at them in the face.

One final thing: at the end of this film I could not help but wonder why Americans do not ask themselves why they only two political parties. The rest of the democratic world has realized the pitfalls of the two-party state, yet the status-quo remains because it benefits the two parties in power, but not the American people.

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