Tuesday, May 09, 2017

Weiner: Dog

I'd heard great things about last year's documentary Weiner, a chronicle of disgraced Congressman Anthony Weiner's attempt to get back into politics by running for New York mayor... only to implode spectacularly in a second sex scandal. It wasn't released widely in theaters, and then by the time it was accessible to watch at home, it didn't exactly seem like fun entertainment. (To the degree that Weiner's sex scandal spilled over in the final weeks of Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential campaign and drove one more nail into the coffin.) Still, I finally did make time for the movie recently... and basically wished I hadn't.

Weiner is a curious documentary in that it's certainly not the one the filmmakers set out to make. They were surely expecting to tell the tale of a soaring political renaissance. There's a point in the New York mayoral campaign where Weiner is on top of the polls and seems to have all the momentum. It's all coming together. Here's a man with great ambition, and the means to connect with people authentically!

But, as we all know before watching this film, that's not what this is. This is actually the story of a man with a spectacularly combustible personality -- a lack of impulse control and a profound need to fight. When that lack of control is seen to be tearing down political norms, and the need to fight is perceived as being in defense of the little guy, the public couldn't get enough of him. When that lack of control has him repeatedly embroiled in sex scandals and cheating on his wife, and when his need to fight is directed against anyone and everyone in a desperate bid for attention, the public couldn't get rid of him fast enough.

The movie is an all-access pass to Weiner. The problem is, he's not all that complex. And his personality type has become exhausting in a very short space of time. This man is just another raging id in politics. He's all about self-satisfaction, to the point of self-delusion. Near the end of the film, there's a segment where he's completely lost his cool on a TV interview, and he thinks he's come off looking good.

Now go back and read those last two paragraphs with Donald Trump in mind instead of Anthony Weiner. You see my issues with watching this movie. The only differences are the core political beliefs, and that we haven't reached the "public couldn't get rid of him fast enough" point for Trump. It's well past time we stopped pretending that this type of psyche is hard to understand. It's well past time we feed oxygen to the fire.

Weiner (the movie) may be there in the trenches to show us the warts and all of a political campaign. But there's really nothing revolutionary or even novel about Weiner (the man). I think I would have found the movie boring in any case; now, as a sad wing of the "Non-Presidential Library" for Hillary Clinton, it's even less appealing. I give thWe documentary a D+.

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