American Dream and Roger and Me

Topics: Documentary film, Michael Moore, Barbara Kopple Pages: 19 (6400 words) Published: December 9, 2012
Documentary Film and the Power of Interrogation: "American Dream" &"Roger and Me" Author(s): Miles Orvell Reviewed work(s): Source: Film Quarterly, Vol. 48, No. 2 (Winter, 1994-1995), pp. 10-18 Published by: University of California Press Stable URL: . Accessed: 09/12/2012 08:12 Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at .

JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms of scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact


University of California Press is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to Film Quarterly.

This content downloaded by the authorized user from on Sun, 9 Dec 2012 08:12:27 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions





Miles Orvell

-i-: -?C

.i i B a




Roger and Me: Roger Smith, of Chairman GeneralMotors


Nonfiction films rarely reach beyond a devoted congregation, but in recent years two small, works in particular have realized a mass audienceBarbara Kopple's Academy Award-winning American Dream (1991) and Michael Moore's widely celebrated and controversial film, Roger and Me (1989). That they have gained this wide audience speaks first of all to the fact that both films deal with the fate of the worker at the hands of the modern corporation, a subject that has been the focus of public concern for more than a decade, inflected most recently by the predicaments of postindustrialism: Given the new order of global capitalism, what power can labor unions claim against management? and what responsibility has management toward workers and their communities? Yet despite these similarities in subject matter-both films also happen to deal with plant closings in the beleaguered Midwest-the two could hardly be more different, stylistically and rhetorically. Kopple works within the relatively traditional documentary forms that Bill Nichols calls expository and observational; American Dream conforms to our customary documentary expectations as viewers that we are comfortably in the hands of an all-seeing, allsympathizing film-maker, expectations that have been part of the documentary mode since its inception

in the late nineteenth century. Exercising the authority of observation (an authority that is visible in ethnography, sociology, and psychiatric observation as well), the documentary film-maker establishes an ethical norm that is implicit in the narrative and that we are asked to identify with: we are "for" the victims of oppression. But the ethics of this mode, and of Kopple' s film in particular, are not quite this simple. Stylistically altogether different from Kopple's film, Moore's Roger and Me eschews the tradition of observational documentary and opts instead for a more complex rhetoric, a hybridization of (again in Nichols' terms) the interactive and the reflexive modes.' Moore does not invent this mode-it has its precedents in several other projects dating at least from Kit Carson and Jim McBride's quasi-documentary, David Holzman's Diary (1968)-but he carries the form well beyond its predecessors to the level of significant social commentary. What is especially in-

This content downloaded by the authorized user from on Sun, 9 Dec 2012 08:12:27 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions


la F -p ow'-I








teresting about American Dream and Roger and Me is

theirconcern,in quite differentways, with power,not only the power-or powerlessness-of...
Continue Reading

Please join StudyMode to read the full document

You May Also Find These Documents Helpful

  • The American Dream Essay
  • American Dream Essay
  • Roger and Me Essay
  • The American Dream Essay
  • Essay for Movie Roger and Me
  • Reaction Paper on Roger and Me
  • american dream Essay
  • Roger and Me Research Paper

Become a StudyMode Member

Sign Up - It's Free