Although the movie Wag the Dog is a comedy about a completly fake war, written and produced by a top Hollywood producer and a presidential Mr. Fix-It in order to take the focus off of a presidential sex scandel 11 days before the election, it does have a serious message to impart – Don’t believe everything you see on TV. Sure, parents tell their kids that the man on TV isn’t really dead, it’s all fake, and we all know that movies and sitcoms and dramas aren’t real, they’re written and acted. But we believe the shows not labelled fiction.
We watch documentries and biographies and absorb the information as the truth. When we watch the news at 6:00 pm every evening, and read the paper over coffee and breakfast, we believe everything reported. And why shouldn’t we? Isn’t it our right to know what’s going on in the world and to not have the struggle of trying to separate fact from fiction? Unfortuantly, we may think this is our right, but we do have to take a more critical look at the information departed from the media. In this movie a war is created when allegations of sexual misconduct are directed at the president 11 days before the election.
Mr. Fix-It, Conrad Brean (Robert DeNiro) is called on by the President’s staff to take the heat off of the President. He comes up with the brilliant idea to create a false war with Albania. “Why Albania? ” “Well, what do you know about Albania? ” “Nothing. ” “Exactly. ” He hires top movie producer Stanley Motts (Dustin Hoffman) to help him with the story and details and to use the endless amount of visual tricks available to them. They create a short grainy news footage piece of a young girl running from her village holding a kitten.
She is in fact an actor and running through an empty studio. The kitten, village, and sound effects of screaming and sirens are added in later. This piece is played on the evening news and touches the heart of millions of Americans. They innocently trust what they are seeing because it is on the news. The news is not supposed to be fiction, it is supposed to be an accurate, objective view of what is happening in the world around us. It is not supposed to be made up to influence such things as who we decide to vote for.
It is interesting to note that after the video was shown, many newspapers didn’t even have mention of the Firefly girl that accused the President of sexual misconduct. The power of the media is such that even though we think we can trust everything we hear or read, we have to view it objectively and not absorb the opinions professed as our own. These opinions are often sublty mentioned to influence us and our opinions. The media already influence us and our opinions too much already. For instance, our opinions on what the ideal is for beauty.
The media constantly portray the beauty of women being in their non existent weight. If you actually look at most of the models on the runway, you’d be thinking yuck!! But because they wear a size -3, they are considered beautiful. It’s the same with men. The bigger the muscles, the better looking they are supposed to be. It’s ridiculous, but, again, it’s the subtle influence of the media on our opinions. Many people look through magazines and say to themselves, I can’t look like that! I can’t lose that much weight or gain that much muscle. 44
This movie shows that we can’t take what the media tells us for granted. It is interesting to note that this movie came out around the time Clinton/Lewinsky sex scandel was being aired and at the same time the air strikes against Iraq. In light of this movie, Clintons motives for the bombings were suspected by many people. There was talk of impeachment and a bomb is dropped. Would Clinton have been so quick to make that decision if not for the scandel? For that matter was the situation in Iraq even real? Like in the movie, there were a great many details told to us that made the situation very real….
Of course, in real life there were many other sources other than the US from which information came to us, which is something the conspiracy in Wag The Dog lacked, although I’m sure something could have been thought of. It is obvious to me, and watching this movie has served to reinforce this, that there is a fine line between Hollywood creation and the news we take for granted as truth. Throughout the times, there have always been theories of conspiracys. Even in a democratic society, we are all oppressed in certain ways.
We have given up a portion of our freedom for a larger freedom, but those who we elect to serve us, serve themselves far more. Trusting a politician is a running joke, and yet we trust them with our very lives and livelihood. We are in danger of being manipulated so much that maybe we will never know half of what is going on around us, much less all of it. Watching this movie, a comedy, evoking many laughs such as when the opposition catches on to the hoax and publicly announces that the war is over, without the ‘permission’ of the wars creators, was also a sobering experience on another level.