The reel deal: Michael Moore, political documentary and the discourse of celebrity
While Michael Moore has been credited with transforming the look and feel of the contemporary documentary film, perhaps his most indelible effect has been upon the popular image of the contemporary documentarian. From his debut as a jovial, anticorporate rabble-rouser in 1989, to his infamous Oscar speech in 2003, to his public attempt to sway the 2004 presidential election, Moore has transformed the role of documentarian from 'fly-on-the-wall' observer to highly visible celebrity; but while this celebrity-status has won Moore a large, loyal audience, it has also undermined his legitimacy as a 'working-class' filmmaker and political analyst. This essay analyses three ways in which popular discursive understandings of 'celebrity' have worked to undermine Moore's political goals: by re-framing Moore's structural critique of the economic system within narratives of individual success; by transforming his image from working-class activist into that of audacious celebrity provocateur; and by re-articulating his working-class background as a hypocritical 'pose'. Taking Moore as a case study, this essay seeks to illustrate the tensions that exist between the progressive goals of political documentary and the ideological contours of contemporary celebrity discourse. © 2010 Taylor & Francis.
Oberacker, J. (2010). The reel deal: Michael Moore, political documentary and the discourse of celebrity. Celebrity Studies, 1 (2), 170-188. https://doi.org/10.1080/19392397.2010.482279