Michael Moore’s latest documentary, Where to Invade Next, disguised as a European road trip with lessons about social institutions, is designed to foster a dialogue about what America possesses and what America lacks.
Where to Invade Next features Moore “invading” different countries, starting in Italy and ending in Iceland. He looks at some cherry-picked aspects of each country, providing the audience with a view of what the rest of the Western world enjoys but America is missing. His idea for the film is that America needs to take a look at and adopt the different sociopolitical “perfections” of the countries he visits.
Watching the documentary made me feel like I was deprived growing up. Despite all of the great qualities of each country — productivity, education systems and happiness of their people — the depressing qualities — war, greed and corruption — were also present.
If you’re looking for a completely unbiased look at social institutions, then this isn’t the documentary for you. Michael Moore’s bias appears throughout his work. His film, Speck, which looks at health care in the United States, uses specially picked information to show a one sided argument.
With Where to Invade Next, Moore’s bias is alive and well, and he doesn’t hide it. Going in, you’ll clearly see his agenda for social change. Nothing is hidden for you to find; it’s all up front and face forward. Is he shoving his view down your throat? Kind of. But, is he forcing you to agree with him? No. He’s sharing his view with us and guides us through the different points he wants to make. We are touring the Western world, and it is his job to show us that world. We are shown the amazing aspects of each country in an in-your-face “look at what they have that we don’t” manner.
Moore expertly plays a naive, everyday American making his way through Europe. Naivety makes him relatable to the audience, letting us to see him as a person that we might, under other circumstances, be friends with. This attachment is exactly what makes the film work — I wouldn’t care about his escapades if I didn’t identify with him. And unlike his other films, the nonchalant tone brings me on a vacation, experiencing his experiences as if they were mine. In Moore’s other work, surprise ambushes and an up-in-your-face attitude work in Moore’s favor, forcing people to see his side of the story. In Where to Invade Next, time becomes irrelevant; each social issue is introduced and discussed slowly and calmly.
With each new place, I became increasingly jealous of the people living there. But with each silver lining, Moore also showed some negative aspects to the countries. Moore wants his audience to change America, not to leave it. He goes as far as to straight up tell us that he’s only showing well-researched and hand-picked aspects. We are meant to see the parts these countries excel in compared to the U.S.
Now, why should we care about what Europe has? Well, Moore contrasts each visit to schools, workplaces, prisons and hospitals with America, calling us out at every place. He is determined to attack the American Dream by telling us that our dream is gone. He isn’t invading Western Europe; he’s invading America. And with this attack on America, he wants us to care enough about change to defend ourselves from this invasion.
Watching Where to Invade Next caused an internal battle of spite and admiration. Part of me feels like I’m being duped into believing that utopias do exist, but my other half wants to believe that this spectacular world he tours through is real. I know it’s not all rainbows and unicorns, and he even tells me that he picked the qualities out for a reason, but I still couldn’t help wishing that these aspects were present in America. This internal battle that Moore managed to elicit from me is not a negative thing. It made me think critically, and it made me want change, thus achieving the goal of the film.
My favorite stop was France. Moore narrates the transition from the previous location, Italy, to an “average” French school. Shots of a beautiful meal bombard the audience as the transition is completed. Moore uses these transitions to inform the audience about what they’re about to experience. Once we’re told the meal he just showed was a meal for an average French school, he shows a bleak picture of an American school lunch. Moore uses this filmmaking to increase the blow of seeing French “fine dining” school meals. He uses this technique throughout the film to make each blow sting more and reach further, with each place providing a new idea that Moore blew to an extreme proportion.
After seeing part of each country’s state of living, I couldn’t help but to yearn to live in these places or wish that the U.S. also had these social institutions. I would love to see change here, but there’s a naive optimism radiating from the film that seems to be implying that these issues are easily fixed. However, the point isn’t to fix the problems right away — it’s to make the problems known so that they can gradually be addressed. Moore never once mentions anything that’s better in the U.S. than in Europe, but then again, why would he need to show anything better?