Published: October 25, 2006
Over the weekend I went to the movies and saw Man of the Year, starring Robin Williams as the host of a Daily Show style television show who is urged by his audience to run for President of the United States. The movie itself was terrific, although it had a darkness to it that did catch me off guard. But this is not a review of that movie, it is my observation of how the audience responded in relation to the politics of the character in the film. Williams’ character, Tom Dobbs, is a beloved political comedian who seems to win voters over with his irreverence and back-to-basics view of the role of government. One of Dobbs’ most memorable lines states that he believes that democracy is “a collision of ideas” and feels that his cabinet should be made up of people from many different schools of thought. He also urges people to move past all of the red state/blue state posturing, and reminds them that questioning the government is a liberty that this country was founded on. I knew going into this movie that the film would question a lot of the current state of politics, but now the film was actually starting to get smart. Maybe too smart? I was curious about how the audience was going to perceive this. The theatre I watched it in was packed with what I saw to be a pretty diverse gathering of people representing our conservative little town. I knew that the Colbert/Stewart fans like me would be there, but I was sure there had to be at least a few people watching that were just not going to accept these kinds of viewpoints. Everyone got the jokes, but what I really wanted to see was what they would do about the politics. Dobbs began to weigh in on relevant issues, voicing his mistrust in politicians whose priorities lie in repaying the special interest groups that financed their campaigns rather than the voters that expect to be represented. He, and the film, began attacking politicians on everything from how they sell themselves in commercials to how they prattle on thanking their families as a means to wedge themselves into the minds of all the voters who fall for the phrase “family values”. I remember the 2004 election and the bitter dissent that the campaigns brought. The debates felt like the Super Bowl; everyone started picking sides. I remember all the people who willingly chose to ignore things (like how absurd it was to call a two party duopoly of the voting ballet an actual democratic election), and proudly drew lines in the sand separating them from those of us unpatriotic enough to vote against our wartime leader. Pay not attention to the man behind the curtain. In Man of the Year, Tom Dobbs mentions flat out in his campaign that the government gives way too much attention to trivial topics to keep people from looking at the real issues: health care, education, and everything else that makes things hard for us while we sit around telling gay people not to get married. And what happens to this unpatriotic loudmouth during the course of the film? He wins the election. Does this mean that when it really comes down to it, America is one country after all, and its citizens can agree on a leader that comes from the middle class, favors diversity, and chooses to work for the people? It sure sounded great to me. But then again, I don’t know all that much. I’m only twenty-one, and I sucked in High School Social Studies. I get my news from the Daily Show, and my politics basically come from punk rock and Hunter Thompson. I suppose things here aren’t that bad. I mean geez, over in Russia journalists that criticize Putin are mysteriously assassinated execution style. Thank God I don’t have to worry about that. But the neatest thing happened when the movie was over, I kept hearing people turn to the friends that they had gone to the movie with and tell them “I would have voted for him”. People just kept saying it. I was amazed. I didn’t want to get my hopes up, but what if this movie really started something? What if we could start believing again in the power of the people, and we could once again feel comfortable questioning our government? It might sound too good to be true, and ultimately out of reach, but from what I saw, the people of that audience are waiting for a real life Tom Dobbs to come along.