Wednesday, November 10, 2004

One Thing I Can Do

In the woeful aftermath of the election, I've been racking my brain for what little I, personally, can do.

I can think of one thing--show movies to my students.

I'm a college prof who teaches business students--undergraduate and MBA--who traverse a curriculum ingrained with the worship of the profit motive.

A useful tool to shake things up a bit in the classroom might be the use of movies for consciousness-raising.

I'm thinking of some recent films, mostly documentaries, which might fit the bill--like The Corporation, The Yes Men, Stephanie Black's Life And Debt, and Ken Loach's The Navigators.

From what I know of my students, few of them watch independent or foreign films, which might be a hurdle for my project.

But I can think of one film that might break the ice.

The Yes Men is a hilarious piece of "satirical activism" (cool phrase--I'd never heard it before).

In it, two activists set up a website that mirrors the World Trade Organization (WTO) site, and get accidentally invited to business meetings and conferences around the world.

They take full advantage of this delicious error to impersonate WTO officials and make sharp Powerpoint presentations of their own devising. At one conference, they argue for the re-establishment of slavery. At another, they unveil a gold-lamé body suit with a giant phallic appendage which has a computer terminal, used to control slacker sweatshop workers in real time around the world.

The weird thing about all this is that the business audiences at these presentations accept and applaud these presentations as if they were serious!

Which proves The Yes Men's point that these outrageously fascist proposals are actually quite in accordance with both current and future business thinking! (Scary).

We all know that laughter is one of the world's great disarming devices. I can see my students cracking up over the shenanigans of the Yes Men, rendering the class perhaps more sympathetic to the political arguments of the film.

There is something moving about the resolute manner in which the two activists go about their performance-art pranks. The film captures, straight-faced, their strong spirit of absurdist subversion. Luis Buñuel would surely have approved.

If you have suggestions about films I might show my students, I would be most eager to hear them. Please drop me a line.