Dredging up tired old myths about America while concocting misleading new ones, the documentary Generation Zero assembles a host of valid gripes currently troubling the nation, but is more than careful to detour around any proposed remedies anchored in reality. In other words, all dressed up in undercover Republican in rebel’s clothing, and with basically nowhere new to go.
Written and directed by reactionary Reagan partisan propagandist Stephen K. Bannon (In the Face of Evil: Reagan’s War in Word and Deed, and Border War: The Battle Over Illegal Immigration) the inaugural Tea Party cinema documentary Generation Zero boasts an exceedingly odd couple combo of assorted right wing egghead think tank rhetoric talking heads and angry white middle class rants. And all wrapped up in highly sophisticated production values fueling alarmist high speed imagery, and topped off with a musical score seemingly gleaned from really scary slasher movies.
Invoking intimidating biblical scriptures that are fused visually with looming tornadoes, rotting fruit, paper money on fire, and a man versus lion beatdown, Generation Zero gets down to business on fast forward by blaming the current economic crisis retroactively on Lucifer, Woodstock, Dems, post-hippie yuppies lighting up cigars with burning Ben Franklins, Hollywood, Black Panthers, anti-war protesters and disrespectful post-WWII youth. Which might leave the marginalized left in this country scratching their collective heads while caught between pondering these neo-McCarthyite attacks, and shock that they seem to wield such enormous power over the course of history.
At the same time, the right wing populist thrust of this documentary mourns the economic tragedy of the Great Depression, while reticently longing for the good old days of capitalism unregulated by the government. History alert, that’s exactly what led to the Great Depression. And in glaring contradiction, the current ‘incestuous’ relationship between government and big business is condemned as contributing to the economic woes facing us today. But if in reality those two entities have merged into one and the same with politicians the actual under the radar conflict-of-interest corporate partners, isn’t that unregulated capitalism after all?
In a case of repeatedly not saying what you mean moviemaking in the extreme, Generation Zero is ironically advocating in its own way, a utopian nation grounded in a prevailing small business society that no longer exists, and is in effect hardly different from the hippie fantasy back to nature version of the world. And in this small business interests butting of heads with big capitalism that is the core grievance of this film, where exactly do the American masses you’re inflaming – with no businesses of their own, let alone even a job or home in many cases – fit in?
Now while there’s nothing wrong with spouting your opinions loudly in a movie, at the same time it’s respectful of your audience to come out of your political closet and say so. Instead of manipulatively shouting at viewers about everything that’s ailing America and rightly so, while quietly tiptoeing around your own hidden agenda solutions that’s really a same politics, different day, voting booth Republican pep rally.
Generation Zero: A Tea Party animal all steamed up, but whose tempest in a teapot is basically empty.
PRAIRIE MILLER is a WBAI film critic, and host and executive producer of The WBAI Arts Magazine. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.