Underground Film Journal

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Movie Review: Dancer in the Dark

By Mike Everleth ⋅ October 6, 2000

Ok, where was I…

Oh yeah, even though I feel lucky to publish the Underground Film Journal I don’t think the Internet, at least if we keep going down the road we currently are, is going to be a communications “utopia”.

The person I was arguing this subject with said that “samizdats” brought down the Soviet Union and thus the Internet will bring down the stranglehold of the corporations have on communication. For those of you not familiar with the term, “samizdat” refers to dissident writing, usually written by political prisoners, within the Soviet Union criticizing the government. It was illegal to speak out publicly against the Russian communist government.

There’s no doubt that communication brings about revolution, but I thought my opponent’s interpretation of history was overly simplistic and somewhat naïve. Regardless, in America we have free speech, so we don’t have to rely on “illegal” underground writing. This country has had critical underground writing for years, if not always. What we don’t have is a government that is truly responsive to the needs of the people.

I think this is going to be a historical Presidential election. Everyone that I talk to seems fed up with the two political parties and believes in neither of their presidential candidates. When die-hard Republicans ask me about Ralph Nader and what he’s all about, I know the system is in trouble. Are “samizdats” (if we want to apply that appellation to things such as the Underground Film Journal) bringing about this revolution? No, but I like to think I’m helping to do my part. I know when I never see my presidential candidate, Nader, in the news, I have to do whatever I can to get his word out.

In the past couple years, this country has seen an unprecedented amount of media mergers in all fields, including radio, TV and newspapers. One of the big ones recently was AOL-Time Warner. When I was discussing the “freedom” of the Internet with my opponent, we also talked about this merger. To me, it smells like a really bad idea. My opponent, however, said it didn’t really matter because people who think the Internet is just AOL are “stupid”.

This is another thing that bothers me. I really like to pay attention to how people speak and this is a phrase that I’ve been hearing a lot lately: “People are stupid.” I don’t know what started it, but people who use AOL are “stupid”. People who are going to vote for Bush are “stupid”. People aren’t going to vote for Nader because they’re “stupid”. People who think “this way” are “stupid”. People who think “that way” are “stupid”. “This movie” wasn’t popular because people are “stupid”. People watch “this show” because they’re “stupid”.

You know what, I want to go on record to say that people are NOT stupid. In fact, they’re quite smart. And if you can point out to me a specific example where I recently accused people of being “stupid”, I will admit that I have probably used this phrase no more and no less than anyone else. But I at least have recognized that I have used this phrase and vow to try not to use it again. I think we have to stop being so disrespectful of each other.

By saying this, I expect the criticism to come flying: “Uh oh, here comes the PC Thought Police.” I don’t want to tell anyone what to think or say. I also might be going out on a limb here to claim that the reason we as a society are becoming more disrespectful of each other is directly caused by media conglomeration.

People don’t have a voice anymore. A college professor of mine said once, “TV breeds a culture of two kinds of people: People who have interesting, exciting lives and the people who sit home and watch them.” And that’s what corporations want us to be: subservient, consuming automatons. This is what fuels our economy. How often do we hear about Wall Street these days? And what is the value of the stocks of most companies based on? By how many products they sell.

This is not an essay to promote socialism. I am not saying capitalism is evil. But this leads to my earlier point that people are NOT “stupid”. People know that there’s something “wrong” these days. They know something is wrong even if they can’t put their finger on what the exact problem is. And the reason they can’t put their finger on the problem is because the problem is not popularly discussed. And the reason it’s not being popularly discussed is because the real debate is not being allowed in the media. And the media are not going to present the real debate because they are owned by the corporations who also sell us the stuff that keeps them in business.

So, what’s the solution to stop this vicious cycle? I don’t know and I’m not sure if anyone else does. But this is why I think this is an historic presidential election year. I think people are going to start demanding more from our politicians. I think this is the beginning of the end of empty promises and non-representative government. It is the “new millennium” after all. It’s about time we deserve better.

Finally, I somewhat apologize for my left-wing rambling here. DANCER IN THE DARK really is a tremendous film. It’s one of the most devastating and heartbreaking films I’ve ever seen and I think I might have to even consider it a minor masterpiece. It’s the kind of flick that’s going to stay with you for a while. I feel like I should have written more on it, but I also think this other shit is more important right now. Oh well, what am I gonna do? I am what I am.