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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

the hacktacular “journalists” of ‘Swing Vote’

There’s an odd bit of nonsense in the ends credits of Swing Vote:

The CNN Journalist portrayed is a fictitious character

I’m not sure which character this is meant to refer to. I suspect it’s the TV news reporter played by Paula Patton, the one who befriends Molly, the little girl, but she’s not a CNN reporter: she works for a local station and her report is picked up by CNN, but that’s not the same thing.

What strikes me as downright weird, though, is that so many real “journalists” appear here as themselves: Chris Matthews, Larry King, Tucker Carlson, folks like that. It’s bizarre, frankly, because the kinds of issues Swing Vote thinks its satirizing are partly a result of talking heads like these guys. I mean, they’re part of the problem in that they don’t do their jobs by speaking truth to power but instead cave to the powers that be by being their mouthpieces; they’re stenographers rather than journalists. Lots of movies these days slap the faces of TV personalities — and that’s really all you can call these TV news people — up on the screen to lend a certain versimiltude, but it’s truly weird, in this case, that none of them seem to recognize that they’re being made fun of as well (or would be, if the movie had any real balls). Only Bill Maher can be excused. He appears as himself here, too but — as is often the case in real life, too — he’s the only one being honest about what a farce American public life has become. Well, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert serve that vital purpose, too, but neither of them appear in the film, to their credit.

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  • don’t forget my man, Keith — he didn’t appear in this, did he? please say he didn’t….

  • MaryAnn

    No, Keith does not appear in this. I was surprised to see Ariana Huffington, though — that disappointed me.

  • Ryan H

    To be fair, I doubt the news people did a big script review first, or even got a copy of the whole script for the small parts.

    A casting agent or a producer went around to various talking heads and told them they were making a political comedy and needed some talking heads. And instead of using actors, they thought it would be fun to get real talking heads. The talking heads agreed that showing up in a film for ten seconds would be kind of neat.

  • but the appearance in movies of actual news personalities has been a disturbing (at least, to me) trend in recent years — just emphasizing the fact that these are not, in fact, reporters of news but entertainers. and surely these people (chris matthews in particular) have seen enough of themselves in slight, trite and idiotic parts in slight, trite and idiotic movies to know that they aren’t contributing to any sort of artistic vision or even political or cultural statement. bleh! they know exactly what they’re getting into and they just don’t care. they have no reputations to maintain and no point of view to put forward — corporate shills on the “news” and corporate shills in movies.

  • MBI

    Huffington wrote a column saying the movie was great. (I’m sure the fact that she was in it had no bearing on her reception of it.) I saw a similar piece in National Review saying that they also loved it.

    As Marge Simpson would say, that’s the best kind of satire: the kind that doesn’t offend anyone.

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