Saturday, June 30, 2007

Destroying the world one happy face at a time

I just watched Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price. WOW! What an absolutely amazing documentary. Produced by the team behind OutFoxed (documentary on Rupert Murdoch's Fox News), this movie uses the stories and literal tragedies of real people (not professors discussing regression analyses of tax revenues or even noted Wal-Mart hater Al Norman) to SHOW how Wal-Mart is ruining our economy, our environment and people's lives. I defy anyone not to get outraged when H & H Hardware in Middlefield, OH goes out of business, because this third-generation family-owned hardware store can't compete with the world's largest corporation and it's hundreds of thousands of dollars in government subsidies.

I defy anyone not to have their heart break a little when Jordan Esry cries while talking about her grandfather's grocery store in Hamilton, Missouri going under when Wal-Mart moved in on the backs of more than $1 million in government subsidies. (continued below)

This movie ranks along with Spellbound, Murderball, Capturing the Friedmans and Hoop Dreams as my favorite documentaries. Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room could have learned a lot from the Wal-Mart movie, which eschewed too many re-enactments and a really loser score and instead got out of the way and let the people who were hurt carry the movie with their genuine emotions and ideas.

Of course, like anything that pokes at the people in Power, this movie was attacked. John Tierney of the NYTimes (former conservative voice on the Op-Ed page) went Swiftboat on it (I can't take credit for that term, but Jim Gilliam who wrote about the movie for the Huffington Post can.). And I'll agree that the film isn't explicitly clear about when H&H hardware store closed (it was in fact prior to Wal-Mart opening), it also doesn't lie and say that it happened after Wal-Mart opened. But it's not like stats are provided showing a sales loss or even interviews with anyone asking about their shopping choices, so there's no outright decpetion. One thing I would like to have seen included in the film though was comments from Hunter about how some of his own poor decisions also contributed to his closing the store.

Also, in the interests of not getting OutFoxed here's a commentary from the bow-tied --------- (I had included a sharp profanity here on first draft, but decided against it. Not because I know students of mine take a look at this from time to time and not because I've gone soft and orally moral. But mainly because it seemed like NOT the BEST word and a replacement escapes me. DAMMIT.) Tucker Carlson about the movie. He, of course, hated the movie.

To me the two most damning parts of the movie though aren't even the emotional tear-jerkers of smalltown life getting thumped by the corporate monolith. It's the section on parking lot crime (usually caught on tape b/c Wal-Mart has parking lot cams designed to spy on union-organzing employees), which is literally frightening and tragic. And then the section on healthcare and how store managers are trained to refer employees, who can't afford the world' largest company's health plan and have to make choices between feeding the kids and going to the doctor, to get assistance from MedicAid, WIC, food stamps, Section 8, etc. ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME?

So go see the movie. Rent the movie. Netflix the movie. Whatever it takes. Hopefully it will get us out of Wal-Mart. Or watch it on cable:

Starz Cinema: July 25, 11:15am
Starz Cinema: July 25, 8:20pm
Starz Cinema: July 26, 3:14am
Starz Cinema: July 30, 6:00pm
Starz Cinema: July 31, 4:00am
Encore Drama: August 21, 2:20am

Oh yeah, if you need more here's a link to the Los Angeles Times' startlingly enlightening, Pulitzer Prize winning series on Wal-Mart.

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