Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Fahrenheit Flop

It's hard to believe that, just a few months ago, one of the most heated political issues in this country was the controversy over Michael Moore and Fahrenheit 911. I weighed in with my own views numerous times, simply search my site or browse my archives from June-September 2004 if you're interested. Suffice it to say, I found the film to be shamefully and appallingly dishonest, as I expected. If you want to know why, see this exhaustive debunking from the Ethics and Public Policy Center.

Anyway, remember how Fahrenheit was supposed to swing the election and ensure Bush's defeat? Yet George W. remains in office, while Michael Moore is well on the way to becoming a footnote to history. How is this possible? The answer, as Byron York of National Review explains, is that the impact of Moore's propaganda "masterpiece" was greatly exaggerated:

To make a comparison: Which film had a better opening weekend, Fahrenheit 9/11 or Barbershop 2: Back in Business? The correct answer is Barbershop. In terms of opening receipts, Mean Girls also beat Fahrenheit 9/11, as did Starsky & Hutch, Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed, Alien vs. Predator, 50 First Dates, and several others. The year’s big hits, like Shrek 2, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, and Spiderman 2 all had openings between four and five times the size of Fahrenheit 9/11’s. In the end, Fahrenheit 9/11 had the 32nd-best opening weekend of 2004, taking in $23,920,637 in its first days.

Still, that did not answer the question of whether Fahrenheit 9/11's appeal was nationwide, as Moore had claimed. The reporters and commentators talking about the film could not have known the answer to that question at the time they were confidently asserting that the picture was indeed doing well in red states as well as blue. Sold out in Tulsa? A standing ovation in Greensboro? That sort of thing was anecdotal evidence at best. To learn how well the film really did would take weeks and would require a detailed look at its performance everywhere it played. The newspapers and magazines didn’t have time for that.

Michael Moore and the Myth of Fahrenheit 9/11

As York thoroughly demonstrates, Fahrenheit was very much a "Blue State" phenomenon. It did extremely well in large left-of-center urban areas, yet bombed in most of the country. This really shouldn't come as a surprise. The film was so tendentious and one-sided that it could only have produced the polarizing effect it did. While a few undecideds who didn't know better may have been persuaded by it, Fahrenheit was ultimately not about convincing the unconvinced. As I wrote at the time, the film was so over the top that it was little more than ideological masturbation material for Bush-haters. That is why it was so popular with many liberals and leftists in 2004, and also why the DVD version is headed for a bargain bin near you in 2005.


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