Roger and Me1
Roger and Me is the story of Michael Moores quest to right the wrong done to Flint, Michigan by Roger Smith, CEO of General Motors.GM factories closed down in Flint, resulting in unemployment for of thousands of workers. These laid off auto workers are products of generations of auto workers. GM has been a Flint way of life since the factories first opened. But, finding that operation and labor costs were substantially less in Mexico, Roger Smith filled for bankruptcy and closed the plants down. The consequences of this shut-down were devastating to Flint. The rat population exceeded that of humans, houses were abandoned, and families who couldnt afford the rent were evicted. The citizens who remained in Flint were now residents of the city with the highest crime rate in all of America. These are just a few of the issues which spurred Michael Moores pursuit for the illusive Roger Smith.
Roger and Me, on a basic level falls into the Interactive category with its involved interviews and archival footage. On page thirty-three, Nichols comments on the use of archival footage in the Interactive Mode of Documentary. Writing that old news clips are often appended onto expert and witness interviews as to avoid reenactments and voice of god commentaries.
Moore uses archival footage in several different ways. First, he uses it to show the way Flint t used to be. There are shots of a parade used while Moore talks about growing up in Flint. Moore also uses clips from the nightly news when discussing the high crime rate of Flint.
The substance of Moores documentary is made up of interactive interviews.
On page fourty-four, Nichols writes of the Interactive Mode:
The filmmakers voice could be heard as readily as any other, not subsequently in an organizing voice-over commentary, but on the spot, in face-to-face encounter with others. The possibilities of serving as mentor, participant, prosecutor, or provocateur in relation to the social actors recruited to the film are far greater than the observational mode would suggest.
In Roger and Me, Michael Moore interviews many laid off auto workers, the city council of Flint, Michigan, representatives of upper-class Flint, and in the end, he finally speaks briefly with Roger Smith. In the majority of these interviews, Moore is actively involved, either in a visual or audio sense.
Moores substantial involvement in the film does cause it to cross into the Reflexive mode of Documentary.As Michael Moore takes center stage, acting as hero for his hometown of Flint he employs the stylistic reflexive mode of documentary. Nichols writes on page sixty of Representing Reality,
The reflexive mode of representation gives emphasis to the encounter between filmmaker and viewer rather than filmmaker and subject.
Moore acts as the narrator/protagonist throughout Roger and Me, ushering the viewer on a guided tour of his observations and actions. This is a potentially dangerous role to play as a filmmaker. Nichols addresses this problematic situation on page seventy-one, writing,
The use of stylistic devices to achieve a reflexive effect runs the risk of manipulating social actors for textual effect rather than provoking a reflexive consideration of how texts are constructed.
In other words, Nichols opinion stands that Moores controlling role in the film inadvertently undermines the social and moral issue he intends to examine, because he portrays the very people he is fighting for as ignorant victims. I do not agree with this statement. Nichols seems to be looking at the residents of Flint through snobby eyes. Not everyone uses big words, like he do. The factory workers speak down-home language, and this style of speech sometimes includes double negatives and profanities. Moore can not reprogram them to sound smart during their interviews. The auto-workers may not have gone to college, but they are wise in practical matters. Nichols does not take different types of intelligence into account when he accuses Moore of making his Flint interviewees look like victims or dupes (71).
The Interactive, self-reflexive route worked well for Roger and Me. Im very pleased that we didnt have to get to know a select few special auto workers. Similar to the spoon-fed care about this issue, because you care about people strategy both Spike Lee and Ana Carringan use in their films Four Little Girls, and Roses in December. That option would have been tempting, Im sure, but Moore sticks to the issue, trusting his audience will realize on their own that over 33,000 families are suffering. He already assumes we care about people, so in turn, we will care about the issue being examined. He uses his film time wisely. Moreover, in not getting to know any of the laid off auto workers on a personal, intensive level, Moore stays with his theme of examining the inpersonal coldness of corperate big businesses.