Man of the Year was an interesting movie from various points of view, but not without flaws. Many religious reviewers berated it according to their usual revolving laundry list of complaints. In any case, the movie lucidly illustrates the quagmire of situational ethics [amoralism] that gladly sacrifices honest practices for gratuitous profits; a commentary on real life, e.g. Enron or Arthur Anderson. This movie also highlights how the news-media and public interest reduce candidates to a spectacle of failings and character flaws; commonly at the demise of any serious discussion of policy or issues. In a word, this movie exposes the triteness of most political campaigns.
Man of the Year is one of Robin William’s funnier films in recent years. He rattles off his usual rapid-fire improvisations. He employs bawdy humor, but with a point to it. Religious people have great difficulty with subtlety, irreverent humor, and biting satire; categories they do not understand or tolerate very well.
Robin Williams – Tom Dobbs
Christopher Walken – Jack Menken
Laura Linney – Eleanor Green
Lewis Black – Eddie Langston
Jeff Goldblum – Alan Stewart
Faith Daniels – Debate Moderator
Tina Fey – Herself
Amy Poehler – Herself
Doug Murray – Mathias
Chris Matthews – New Anchor #1
James Carville – Political Commentator #1
Rick Roberts – Hemmings
One of the major flaws of this movie is the presupposition it is based upon. An Independent candidate is not going to be the silver bullet that will fix the corruption and partisan gridlock of a two-party political system. Another detail, the political arena is not going to let some Johnny-come-lately candidate take center stage in political debates or campaigns and get on ballets across the nation as this movie depicts. There is also a lack of plausibility regarding certain parts of the storyline. Additionally, a presidential candidate, especially after a win in an election, is not going to allow just anybody to get close to them. In real life, Eleanor Green [Laura Linney] would not last a New York minute posing as an FBI agent, as a means to get a word with the President elect. Aside from these flies in the ointment this movie still has significant value.
Tom Dobbs [Williams] is a typical stand up comedian. During one of Dobbs’ monologues a fan suggests that Dobbs run for President. He brushes aside the notion, however after a ground swell he reconsiders.
Dobbs moves into the political arena. Questions fly about his background; is he solid, is he married and has he done drugs. A crescendo of the usual campaign drivel drowns the airwaves with everything but substance.
Dobbs feels that a presidential campaign is about issues, but comes to the stark realization; it’s about everything else. Instead the campaign forum is about posturing and giving the appearance of attention to issues. He finds himself buried in the superficiality of what political issues appear to be about. Dobbs begins to loose what people initially loved about him; his flippant and sardonic exposure of the political charade foisted on the public.
Dobbs goes back to barnstorming the political arena with total disregard for protocol and convention. At a presidential debate he wrestles control with a few quips. He follows with a string of attacks on issues, which the other candidates avoid. His barrage invigorates the debate, bumping him in the polls.
The implication is of course, the typical candidates in the two political-party system are obstacles to progress. This is where the movie exposes its presuppositional thinking. Man of the Year tacitly floats the idea that an independent candidate will give the voters what they want. This is at best simple-minded thinking.
While Dobbs hammers away at the hypocrisy of presidential party politics, Man of the Year veers into questioning the electronic voting systems. This secondary plot picks at a sore in the memory of the America voter because of the controversy surrounding the ‘04 Presidential election. Man of the Hour succeeds in raising some significant questions, even amidst the improbabilities of the secondary plot.
The electronic voting system in the movie alleges the minimization of fraud and disenfranchisement while simplifying vote tabulations, yeah right! This proposition is not without skepticism in the movie as well as real-life.
Eleanor Green works for, Delacroy, a manufacturer of electronic voting systems. As Dobb’s is pounding away at the political arena, Green tests the voting system contracted for use in the upcoming presidential election. Green runs one test where fictitious candidate “A” wins over candidate “B” even though the second candidate has three times the votes. At first failure appears to be an anomaly. No prior tests exposed this kind of problem.
Green continues to test the problem while she tries to warn Delacroy’s CEO: Hemmings [Rick Roberts]. Green’s emails go unanswered, which weighs upon her. Green continues her inquiry out personal contentiousness because the potential impact on an election.
Green has been watching the presidential campaign. She notices that Dobbs is not up in the polls as much as he should have been to win the election, it defies logic. During the election a corporate celebration is held. Green sees Delacroy’s CEO, Hemmings, and approaches him about the software’s tabulation problems.
Delacroy’s fast talking lawyer, Alan Stewart, [Jeff Goldblum] intercepts Green. Instead of validating Green’s discovery Stewart takes the party line of corporate success; never mind the consequences of false results or suppressing them. Stewart’s mindset is that the public trusts the process; actualities are trivialities. Stewart states, “Why destroy the pubic trust in a system [voting] just to make sure the right candidate is put into office, when the public believes that the system works fine.” He argues, being honest maybe more harmful than being pragmatic.
Stewart represents how business can bend rules, smoothing over the harsh corners of truth, in the pursuit of profits. Green becomes a liability to Delacroy’s continued success because she knows something is wrong with their voting system. Public knowledge of a real glitch could ruin any accomplishment the company may seem to have achieved thus far.
The company musters “dark” means to discredit Green and keep her from going public. As a result she ends up melting down at work being dismissed in disgrace, thus effectively silencing her. The movie demonizes big business in this segment. There are examples of this type of malfeasance in corporate dealings but it is certainly not a typical mark, at least not to the degree depicted in Man of the Year.
The rest of the movie deals with how the characters handle the situation caused by all the pressures of their individual situations converging on one another in the presidential election. Amoralism runs head-to-head with almost obsessive contentiousness. The guy with a heart of gold wades through the caldron of dirty national politics only to be conflicted by the awareness of a system everybody trusts has gone awry without the public knowing it. What should be done? Can a little bad be done that great good might come of it? How will the country respond? Can everybody live with themselves once what’s done-is-done?
Why is this movie interesting to Kingdom Citizenship?
Man of the Year capitalizes on the fact that many people in real life are frustrated with partisan politics; the kind that promises everything from either side of isle but delivers very little. Christians, who in many ways are much like Dobbs; underneath his comedic critique of the political system, believing that an election is about issues… This movie effectively depicts that elections are only about gaining power, issues are merely means to an end, period!
This movie illustrates why believers should become Kingdom people and stop empowering the political system by cooperating with it. Man of the Year utterly fails on one point. A third party candidate will not be a boon; it will most certainly be a bust. It will make it easier for either of the candidates causing the gridlock to win. The foolish hope in a third party shows why a non-political alternative will be more effective. This is where the Kingdom of God comes into play.
We can make statements by what we do. We can decentralize and depoliticize the real problems issue are built around while we meet needs; utterly disenfranchising and upstaging the political arena.
This movie accurately shows that elections are not trustworthy. People of the Kingdom of God ought to be surer of leaving an election in God’s hands. Security does not come from the ballet box or a candidate. The Kingdom approach is not about stick your head in the sand, it’s about pulling out of political sand and putting it into action in the Kingdom of God, just as Christ did.
Kingdom people should see the foolishness of the election process, effectively depicted in this movie. Kingdom people should see that it doesn’t matter which party wins, it’s the same party: the ruling class of the world’s system. God’s way cannot be politicized unless God’s people abdicate to the politician’s ways of solving problems. Kingdom people realize that looking at issues the way the world does merely disenfranchises our position as an alternative.
Man of the Year is funny, yet poignant, exposé but not totally plausible, crass but not without reason, symbolic but yet very much true to life.