Saturday, July 16, 2011
I always approach such films with a bit of trepidation. After all, no matter how well done, the natural skeptic in me always wonders if such a movie will play only to a niche audience, but will be less appealing to a wider audience. This is the gamble with any such documentary, and it's why documentaries are not exactly the stuff of Hollywood blockbusters. Attending the opening night for The Undefeated at the AMC Theatre in Grapevine, Texas, I met a great number of like-minded people, all chomping at the bit to see the movie, or overwhelmingly pleased with what they had seen, but now I'm going to tell you why that won't matter if we don't take the salient lesson offered by the film and apply it to our activism: Stephen Bannon said this movie must be seen not by the people who already adore Palin, and support her wholeheartedly, but much more importantly, it must be viewed by the wider audience of people who have in some measure accepted the media portrayal of Sarah Palin. After viewing the film, I can tell you that while the film will be appealing to any audience, nothing will turn the closed minds of the intransigent Palin-haters, for whom no piece of information would be sufficient to change their pathological rage. It is most important to note that the film, for all of its effectiveness, will only be so effective as its viewing is broad-based. It will be up to you to see to that.
I learned tidbits about Sarah Palin I hadn't known, and was impressed with the depth of detailed information offered. I particularly enjoyed seeing clips of her speeches, particularly in the campaign season of 2010, that I hadn't seen before, and from which I had caught only media sound-bites including "fight like a girl!" The media has used such clips to trivialize Mrs. Palin, by pretending that the entirety of her speech on that occasion was summarized in the pronouncement of those four simple words. Now I know what I had only suspected previously: The media dare not show you the entirety of her speeches, because Palin is a passionate, well-spoken, and thoroughly polished speaker who knows what it is that she believes, and why she believes it.
The film raced by. I never found myself wondering about the time, or wandering mentally to other tasks. Few things hold my rapt attention for so long as did this film. Like Sarah Palin herself, the film was engaging. It wasn't only me. The audience, admittedly predisposed mostly to liking the film, also went through a bit of a transition starting from an expectation, moving to belief, and on to conviction. If one of the aims of this film was to more accurately give an accounting of Sarah Palin, it succeeded effortlessly.
I paid particularly close attention to the manner of things addressed by Mark Levin and Andrew Breitbart on the subject of the Republican establishment in DC. Breitbart's use of the term 'eunuchs' to describe Republicans in Washington and their failure to defend Palin when she came under withering attack seemed particularly apt, especially when considering Mitch McConnell's tepid stance on the debt ceiling of current controversy. "Eunuch" hardly ever seemed a more fitting term. Bannon was able to create what I believe to be an accurate impression of the GOP establishment that is more concerned with maintaining some pretense at political power than with serving the agenda for which the voters entrusted to them such power. It's clear that if you're a firm Romney republican, you may not entirely like the film's treatment of the subject.
The film is also intended to cause an emotional stirring in the viewer, and it succeeds in many moments throughout its length.The opening gives you a taste of the sort of attacks Palin has come under, many of which the media has not reported. Prepare to feel shame at what's been done. Steady yourself for the sadness at the realization of what's been done to this woman and her family. Know that it will anger you to see the litany of four-letter harangues and threats aimed at Palin. For a parent, in an emotional sense, it's a bit like watching helplessly as your own daughter is violently assaulted. If it doesn't get a rise out of you, you're likely dead inside, and this movie isn't for you. You may want to wait for the next 'zombie' film, not as a viewer, but as an extra.
After that, you become acquainted with Palin's early life through a sort of photo and video essay that shows you she was just another kid growing up in America, simply like you and me. After this re-introduction, Bannon details the challenges she faced in her political career, starting in Wasilla and ultimately culminating in her vice presidential candidacy in 2008 with John McCain. You will be astonished at what you hadn't known. You will be shocked at what the media had never bothered to tell you. It's small wonder that Palin coined the term "Lamestream Media." They are quite thoroughly 'lame' in the parlance of our time.
Tammy Bruce, Mark Levin, and Andrew Breitbart were the anchors to the latter portion, and their points were clear and unambiguous.Tammy tells you Palin is a fearless warrior for America. Mark Levin tells you why Palin can win if she chooses to run for the presidency. Andrew Breitbart explains why the Republican establishment is a greater obstacle, not only for Palin, but for all conservatives in moving the country forward. They all made compelling arguments, and perhaps the most enduring argument was offered by Levin in comparing her to Reagan. He's right, of course, but you'll have to see the film to know why he's right, and how thoroughly right he is.
Bearing this in mind, there's a point that cannot be made often enough: For this film to succeed, it must be seen. It must be seen by moderates and independents as well as its natural constituency. Those of you who already support Governor Palin now need to carry the film's message to the unconverted. Take people to see the movie who have mixed feelings about Sarah Palin. I went with my daughter and son-in-law. He's a soldier, and while he's a conservative, he was less than thoroughly convinced about Palin. His remarks on the long drive home from the theater told the story. He offered that it was odd, baffling really, to go to see a movie and feel so at home with his fellow viewers. Waiting outside, or during the previews, conversations struck up amongst complete strangers. He said it was a bit like being among family, and what he saw on the screen merely served to strengthen that sense. He wasn't just watching a documentary about a politician, but instead he saw his own life, and his own dreams and goals and aspirations. The picture of the Palins with their eldest son Track, in uniform, shown briefly on-screen, reminded him that they were just ordinary people, like us. The audience all around was more or less like us. This strange familiarity with one's fellow movie-goers wasn't so odd after all. The America in which we believe is not dead, and is evidenced in the reactions of the audience. These were Americans, and that's the only constituency group that mattered.
There's also a sort of restoration that results when you watch this movie. If, like me, you're terribly worried about the direction of the country, this film serves as both a reproach and a revelation: Do not so easily cede your beliefs to the conventional wisdom the media packages for your consumption, and while we face overwhelming and terrifying prospects, all is not lost. There is still time to save the country. It won't be done by a government run by elitists from the NY-DC corridor. It will only be done by us. This movie really isn't about an election, or a string of them. It's about the indomitable spirit of a warrior. It's about every person who rises despite the long odds and all the obstacles laid out before them. It's about seeing the machine gun nest and charging it, each of us in our own way. At heart, in all the ways it really matters, Sarah Palin is America. In spirit and devotion, despite all our travails, we and she are The Undefeated.