Buffy the Corporate Vampire Slayer

Recovering from a late, late night last night. Things went well past 9 PM, the official end of the art opening, so late in fact that Pizza Hut seemed like a good idea toward the end of the night (and it’s certainly a better idea than at least one other pizza chain). I like Mark’s art quite a bit, so it was cool to see several pieces together in a single space. Also enjoyed catching up with old colleagues and meeting some new ones.

While getting my day started, I came across Shroom’s review of Control Room (my review) and The Corporation on Milk Plus (and I liked the review even before I noticed that he’d mentioned me in the comments). As regular readers will know, I’m a big fan of documentary film, excited to see the number of critical documentaries that have been released in the last year or two, and I think that Shroom’s discussion of The Corporation, especially, adds an important perspective on the film that I’d missed, at least on a conscious level.

In my review of The Corporation a few weeks ago, I made the initial observation that the film

is almost certainly the most intelligent documentary I’ve seen all year. More than any other oppositional or broadly political documentary I’ve seen, this documentary treats the corporation as a systemic problem rather than seeing corporate abuses as the bad behavior of a few “bad apples” who took their greed a little too far.

I’d still agree that the film’s argument is far more rigorous than anything I’ve seen this year, but I’m a little less optomistic about the film’s effect on its viewers. The Corporation ultimately overwhelmed me, and I’d guess that other viewers of the film might have the same experience. The music, graphics, and information verged on sensory overload in places, and as Shroom notes, the effect is strangely like watching a horror film:

The Corporation was a like a really long, really scary version of PBS’s Frontline. […] Given the film’s implications, The Corporation is perhaps the most effective horror film I’ve seen in a long time.

I’d agree with him that The Corporation seems oddly linked to the horror film, although I’m not sure I realized that on a consious level immediately after watching it. In fact, while thinking about my orginal review, I actually imagined a fantasy sequel, “Buffy the Corporate Vampire Slayer,” with various CEOs and corporation-friendly Congresspeople as villains. There was even a degree to which I felt physically affected by the images and sounds, and like a horror film monster, the psychopathic charatcer, “the corporation,” stalks the entire film.

Whether this horror film effect is productive or not is another question. Shroom makes a powerful case for the pedagogical effect of the film, which challenged him to think critically about his own role in working for a corporation. Of course, it would be very easy to allow this stream of information to become too overwhelming to mount a clear response. I’d also be curious to hear from people who’ve seen the film about whether or not the film equips viewers with the critical thinking tools to critique for themselves or whether they feel as if the film is doing the critiqing for them, a distinction that I think is far from trivial, and one for which I don’t have a clear answer.

Note: I’ve been thinking about these issues from a much different perspective because of my paper on Fight Club and pedagogy, which I’m currently writing and I’d rather not discuss in detail (I’d rather work out those ideas in the paper itself, but I’ll keep you posted).

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