Roger and Me
Michael Moore’s “Roger and Me” is a perfect metaphor for the search for the culpability of corporate America. The film follows Moore searching for GM chief executive Roger Smith to bring him to Flint, Michigan to see the devastation the closing of the plants (which were the economic backbone of the city) has done to the community. This film follows a clear path and there are no extraneous moments. It is a three year culmination of events detailing the personal and communal tragedies of a formally prosperous town. Though this vision is decidedly anti- corporation and is edited in a way that shows both sides, the weight of the argument on the side of the fired auto workers is clear.
Moore’s genius in this film is his clarity. From the beginning the viewer is clear on his position and can thusly posit themselves in a way that avoids manipulation. Even those not suffering from the lay-offs and with a set position of “it’s not that bad” can see how it is that bad for others. Those feeling the effects of the economic downsizing can feel they have a champion and know their story was told. Those outside of Flint can make their own decisions and still have a choice in their opinion on the facts of the case. Yet, Moore has told the audience from the beginning whose side he’s on. He told his history in the town and how he’s a part of it. Although it’s a documentary this film isn’t a documentary with no comment. Moore has the advantage of having a personal history with these people in addition to being a journalist, which adds to the different dimensions of his evaluation.
While trying to interview Roger Smith and bring him to Flint to see the ghost town it had become, Moore made a poignant comment on corporate America. Corporate America was given a body and a name- Roger Smith. The elusiveness at finding someone to hold responsible in corporations is clear. The levels of bureaucracy are so deep and multifaceted, yet Moore’s tenacity and subsequent failure at even speaking to Roger Smith is a painful illustration of how powerless individuals can be in the face of corporate power. This story doesn’t have a happy ending. People are displaced. Communities are destroyed and it’s “nobody’s fault”… it’s just how business has to be in a competitive capitalist society. That’s a sad but true statement that was beautifully illuminated in this film.