There’s nothing the general public like more than a flawed hero. Actually no, change that. There’s nothing that the general public like more than taking the moral high ground and turning en masse on a hero, once said hero’s flaws have been suitably exposed; and boy how they turn, in their sheep-like droves.
In the case of Anthony Weiner, it was his misguided ‘sexting’ – if you’ll excuse the fashionable parlance – and the accompanying pictures of his bulging manhood, that was to cause such an affront, rendering vast swathes of the terminally morally-outraged U.S public irreversibly aghast at it all.
Never mind that this was a man whose New York City Mayoral campaign manifesto seemed personal, passionate and heartfelt, and was one rich in progressive and sensible ideas and policies designed to genuinely make a difference to the lives of the working and middle classes of New York City; and never mind that Weiner’s ‘virtual’ misdemeanours had already been forgiven if not forgotten, by his loyal, patient and politically savvy wife, Huma. No, the bottom line here was that Anthony Weiner – he of the comedy surname and heart-on-sleeve / regrettably rather injudicious, approach to life – was now perceived as nothing more than a social leper, a misogynistic arsehole, and all-round easy target number one for the mortally offended public and media alike, to lampoon and discredit at will.
I’m sure that a number of those that turned on Anthony Weiner felt they had good reason to do so and were indeed genuinely offended on both gender and moral grounds by his actions – fair enough I suppose, but the film gives off a definite sense that they are the idealistic minority and that a grateful media seized upon the unexpected Anthony Weiner windfall and milked the resulting heaven-sent circus for all it was worth. Predictably, the general public followed along obediently.
It is true that Josh Kriegman and Elyse Steinberg’s documentary is not a flattering depiction of the New York political candidate; in fact, it seriously exposes (if you’ll excuse the pun) Weiner, warts and all. It’s also undeniably true that Anthony Weiner brought a lot of it on himself with his recurring habit of shooting himself in the foot when it would seem infinitely harder to miss – think David Brent meets Alan Partridge – and I’d be lying if I denied that the whole shebang makes for superficial, yet excellent, if at times rather painful, car-crash entertainment.
Weiner though, is a film that inadvertently serves to reveal the pack mentality and sheep-like nature of people and the at times suffocating effect that this has on humanity at large, when what the world is crying out for, surely, is a little more independence of thought?
It also says a lot about the bullying nature of the laughably conservative and deeply rotten media, both in the U.S and the world at large. Such a culture of flavour-of-the-month reporting, the taking of cheap shots and the encouraging of ‘safety in numbers’ public conformity, is far more damaging to society and meaningful political policies than anything Anthony Weiner could have dreamed up, let alone actually whipped out and revealed to the U.S public.
But personal prejudices aside for just a moment, in case this review is perceived as some kind of slant at the film, it isn’t. Weiner is actually a well-balanced, highly entertaining and brilliantly put together documentary, which allows events and circumstances to unfold in as fair a fashion as is possible.
Of course, any piece that turns a full-beam spotlight on an at times hapless anti-hero, and then steps back and allows nature and fate to take its course, had better be braced for a turbulent ride. It says a lot though that any turbulence experienced through the transgressions of Anthony Weiner, is rather upstaged by the repugnant sense of public and media self-righteousness that comes across from their collective, symbiotic, bile-filled attacks on the ill-fated man himself.
For me at least, as excellent as this film undoubtedly is, it’s an aspect that can’t help but leave an unavoidably sour taste in the mouth.