The Importance of Social Ranking in Michael Moore’s Roger and Me Michael Moores film, Roger and Me is about the closing of several General Motors plants in Flint, Michigan and the effects that the situation imposes on Flints citizens. Throughout the movie, Moore, the director and narrator, tries to reach Roger Smith, chairman of GM, to let him understand Flints suffering and devastation. Flint, after all, is the birthplace of General Motors. The citizens therefore feel that Roger Smith owes it to Flint to keep the plants alive. The story begins as an autobiographical film about Michael Moore. It explains how growing up in Flint, Moore never realized the significance of GM to the town. Nevertheless, he soon learns that the towns entire economy is based on General Motors.
Moores film utilizes various narrative techniques to emphasize that only an elite few have control over issues that may affect others whose voices are ignored. The use of major figures, point of view, and overall tone help him to make his argument. Moores film is told from a first person perspective which allows the viewer to sympathize for the narrator. Moore is presented in the film as the main character while he continues to play the role of an insignificant individual: himself. Though Moore is a part of the community of Flint, he can still be described as an underdog. He is an average, unattractive, and poorly dressed man. Taking advantage of his ordinariness, Moore represents the everyday citizen of Flint who has to succumb to policies and standards set by the crme de la crme of Flint.
An intriguing part of the film in which the narrator represents himself as an average man is the scene in which Moore gets thrown out from a country club in which Roger Smith would allegedly be found. Access to the country club is reserved strictly for wealthy, significant people, and Moore clearly does not fit this criteria. He also gets denied entrance to Roger Smiths office after many stubborn attempts. At one point, Moore gets a chance to speak with Smith by posing as a major shareholder in GM, but Smith ignores him after learning that Moore is an impostor. When Moore tries to interview a former spokesperson for a GM plant that was recently closed down, she refuses to be interviewed because Moore does not represent any major news network. Ironically enough, the woman is also an average nobody. Moore chooses not to edit the rejections from his film in order to mock the way that people are brainwashed into only yielding to some and not to others based on their social ranking.
He avoids his own appearance in the film while he still maintains a first person point of view. The overall tone of Moores film further illustrates the ongoing struggle between the powerless and the dominant elite. Moore contrasts the lifestyle of the members of Flints upper class with that of the rest of Flint and illustrates the apathetic attitudes of the rich towards the rest of Flint. He shows wealthy people attending parties, playing golf, and enjoying life without a worry in the world. In fact, some of them go as far as to accuse the poor of simply being lazy and choosing not to work. On the other hand, Moores film helps the viewer to understand that the poor people of Flint are, in fact, trying to survive.
Moore gives the viewer a look at the so-called lazy peoples attempts at making a new living. One lady, for example, decides to begin a business that determines the different colors of the clothes that people should wear based on the complexion of their skin. Moore describes the utter ridiculousness of her new business as well as that of another citizen of Flint who raises and sells rabbits. To further emphasize the unsuccessful efforts that the town is making to recover, Moores film depicts several multi-million dollar projects aimed at attracting tourism to Flint. These efforts, needless to say, are done in vain.
They still, however, help to prove that the rich people are wrong in saying that Flint is simply being lazy. In a town where poverty prevails, almost every way to make a living fails. There is, of course, one exception to the trend of useless jobs. Deputy Fred Ross, the man in charge of evicting people from their homes, holds the one job that remains necessary as the town gradually becomes more and more impoverished. His job is a representation of the tone that Moore has towards the way that the elite gain more power at the expense of others.
Finally, Moores use of major figures helps to undermine the importance of the destitute citizens of Flint. The main figure of the film is Roger Smith. Smith can be described as elusive and evil. In the film, Roger Smith is one of the leading businessmen at the time and is highly revered throughout the world. His decision that ultimately crushes the town of Flint is a selfish, yet wise business move.
Indirectly, it raises his salary by two million dollars each year. Another highly respected figure in the film is a man named Pat Boone. Boone is a spokesman for GM, a singer, and an entertainer. Though he appears in events held by the town of Flint and pretends to care about their dilemma, he is truly indifferent to Flints situation. Boone is a man with enough money, fame, and power to actually help in the towns restoration, but does nothing useful.
Bob Eubanks, host of the television show The Newly Weds Game, also has a social ranking that would enable him to save Flint. Nevertheless, his crass and perverse manners prove that he is self-centered and unreliable. He speaks of nothing but sex and hypocritically denies the vulgarity of his television show. Important political and symbolic figures of Michigan also portray their unwillingness to help anybody other than themselves. The Governor of Michigan and Miss Michigan appear on an event held in honor of the surviving sit-down strikers simply to satisfy their own political or public interests.
They are two figures who are not only capable but also responsible for making a difference and who, like the rest of Flints elite, choose not to. Michael Moores film utilizes several different narrative techniques not only to tell the story of Flint, but to make a point. Roger and Me, helps the viewer to gain sympathy towards the thirty thousand people who lost their jobs and portrays their individual powerlessness. They are mainly seen as a group of workers that is brought down by the decisions of an extremely dominant individual, Roger Smith. Notwithstanding the ex-workers of GMs affiliation with what is known as the United Autoworkers Union, they remain simply a meaningless coalition of unemployed nonentities who strongly rely on one persons authority. Through the use of point of view, overall tone, and important figures, Moores film exemplifies his disagreement with the natural tendency for society to be headed by a few talking heads who call themselves leaders.