Just in from Paris: Who gets to tell the story? Narrative Theory.
Ric, our friend who publishes MetropoleParis sent this mid-week.
The Michael Moore Film Fahrenheit 9/11 has opened in France.
Eight euros? That's 9.91 dollars at the current exchange rate. Bummer.
If your French is up to it, here's a link to the lead items from Le Parisien.
Michael Moore a bien r?ussi son coup
? Fahrenheit 9/11 ?, percutant pamphlet anti-Bush, s'installe aujourd'hui sur 220 ?crans fran?ais. Pour le r?alisateur, la partie est gagn?e : apr?s avoir rafl? la Palme d'or ? Cannes, son documentaire triomphe aux Etats-Unis.
Le Parisien , mercredi 07 juillet 2004
Rick's photo of a ? Fahrenheit 9/11 ? promotional poster MetropoleParis - Paris Posters II on the streets of Paris.
And the cover of everyone's favorite left-leaning French national newspaper. As I have mentioned elsewhere, Lib?ration is one of the major French dailies - actually one of the founders was Sartre, or was is Camus? I forget. Lib?ration is a bit to the left... well, it's a lot to the left. I think I first noticed the paper back in the sixties when I saw Claude Lelouch's film "A Man and A Woman" (Un Homme et Une Femme) - that was 1966 - and the gorgeous Anouk Aim?e was reading a copy of Lib?ration in bed and smiling.
Back home? One of the more interesting comments on the film in the America comes from Eric Alterman in his MSNBC column - suggesting the political issue with Moore's film is story telling.
Back in June of last year this idea of news being a narrative form came up in Just Above Sunset (June 22, 2003), in The BBC versus We Report, You Decide, or "Tell Me A Story." - and that started out as a discussion of whether or not the rescue of Jessica Lynch was staged propaganda. The BBC was pumping of facts. Fox News was "on the story".
And this was tied back to how the Watergate "story" had been covered.
Things are changing. Michael Moore is taking the same footage (and a lot that was discarded) and is writing a different story line. He doesn't "connect the dots" the way we've been told they are, really, connected.
This is a problem for Fox News, and for the other major purveyors of these familiar narratives - CNN and MSNBC and the broadcast networks. And for the print media too, of course. One might say they all, and each, have a commercial interest in keeping their viewers (and readers) coming back for more (not Moore) of this ongoing saga.
The narrative flow of conflict and resolution has been set, and expectations have been raised. Ratings depend on that. Tune in for the next episode!
And of course the sale of on-air advertising depends on those very ratings. And the return on stockholders' investment in News Corp or Time-Warner depends on those very advertising revenues. The ROI determines whether the organization can survive as a going concern. There is a whole lot riding on maintaining the accepted narrative.
And now this blow-hard from Flint, Michigan proposes an alternative narrative for the same events. Damn.
This is a real threat of the most basic kind - as economic survival is the issue.
Moore is attacking the media as much as he is attacking Bush. He keeps saying just that in all the interviews he's been doing.
On the June 21 NBC Today show, Katy Couric of course had to ask Moore, in her interview with him, why he didn't get the narrative right - the narrative that Saddam was a bad man and we were the good and noble liberators and it was a simple and plain and true as that - no more, no less. Didn't he have "the story" all wrong?
Moore doesn't dispute that Saddam was a bad guy. That's fact. He simply disputes the framework into which that one fits the particular fact - this "story" we are being told:
There's another side? We were told there was GOOD and there was EVIL. Pick one or the other. Moore doesn't like the story that flows from those assumptions.
Yep, the current administration wants to simplify matters, to make it an easy story. And the news folks can sell that one easily - easy plot, recognizable black-hat and white-hat characters, lots of inspiration. Ratings and revenues will go up and stay up. It's a whole lot harder to sell a nuanced plot line with ambiguous characters. We know that well out here in Hollywood - an action hero flick will out-gross any art house "serious" psychologically detailed noir film in some odd foreign language, by ten thousand to one.
But people are going to Moore's film. For a change of pace? Perhaps.
And Bush is still reading "My Pet Goat" to those Florida schools kid, isn't he?
This is a fight for something very odd - for just who gets to tell the story.