Whether it’s music or cinema, we throw around a lot of genre jargon when it comes to describing art, and Michael Moore’s Where To Invade Next is a bit confounding because I’m not sure if I watched a documentary, a horror movie, a comedy or a tear-jerker. The film starts out by noting that the U.S. military hasn’t won a proper war in seven decades and that the solution is to send Moore overseas to “invade” other nations and plunder their respective treasures. (Didn’t he already do that in Canadian Bacon?) Anyhow, even as a pacifist I have to admit it’s strange that with all our military invasions none of them yielded any winnings in the form of territory, resources, technology, cool relics (Spear of Destiny, anyone?), secret family recipes… nothin’. I’m beginning to think us Americans might not be cut out for this invading stuff, but I digress. Moore is here to put us back on the imperialist track and score a long overdue victory for Uncle Sam.
His first invasion takes the audience to Italy where we meet a middle-class couple who share their culture and way of life. They have more vacation time, better work conditions, maternity leave, badass Ducati motorcycles and so on. Moore even makes a point to recognize—as will anyone who has traveled in Italy—that the people have a post-coital glow about them at all times. That’s a recurring theme in this movie: the connection between sensible policies and the love that results. The Italian interview takes a sudden dark twist, however, when they learn American workers are afforded such little vacation time. “Only two to three weeks?” they gasp.
He goes on to invade Finland, Germany, Tunisia, France, Slovenia and more. I’m not so naïve to think that these places are Utopian and without fault, but as Moore states in the film, he’s come to “pick the flowers, not the weeds.” These are all salt of the Earth folks that we meet throughout his raids, but it doesn’t take long before we learn these countries have figured out ways to better serve their poor and working class. Without getting too #FeelTheBern on you, the facts bear out that socialized programs lead to all-around higher standards of living, and in each of these countries the workplace perks and social benefits result in a happier, healthier citizenry that lives longer. Hell, even Germans working in a pencil factory were cheerful. To twist the knife even further, a few of these foreign devils admit that some of their superior practices/policies actually have origins in the United States. For example, the Norwegian prison warden cites our Constitution when explaining why they don’t resort to cruel and unusual punishment. Ouch. Another recurring theme we pick up on as we meet our European counterparts is the value of human dignity. Law enforcement officers in Portugal seem to genuinely pity us when they discuss police-community relations in America.
Moore presents a lot of facts and undeniable truths, but I wish he would have connected some of the dots. Most specifically on citizen apathy and how women’s rights correlates to a nation’s well-being. To be fair, we can’t blame the corporatocracy and our lawmakers for everything, because Americans remain mostly disinterested when our well-being is challenged. For example, there was a serious attack on women’s health issues just last week in Ohio, but most were pre-occupied with Kesha’s record contract. This film demonstrates that great things happened in Iceland and Tunisia when women organized and exert their electoral power. Turns out, having control over laws that pertain to your own body is the lynchpin for women’s right and essential to an egalitarian society. This movie is a valuable civics lesson for all Americans, but more importantly for women in America that seemingly need motivation to get involved and start voting for their best interests.
Moore is thought by some to be off-putting because he is smug and heavy-handed, and his detractors will no doubt find that here again. For a leftist like me, he is confirmation bias incarnate, but you can’t deny that Michael Moore is a patriot and loves his country. We hear a lot of angry people give lip service to the term American Exceptionalism, but how many of them are willing adopt new (actually old) ideas in an effort to better our society? Learn from the French?! That’s downright un-American! Except they were our first allies, gave us the Statue of Liberty, invented democracy…
It’s important to show support for progressive voices, so vote with your dollars and go see Where To Invade Next. You can hear a Distillers song at the end and maybe learn something. Plus, there’s a lot of laughs, but I have to warn you: Most of them are at our own expense.