“Roger and Me” is a documentary film that focuses on the events that followed the closure of General Motor’s processing plants in Flint, Michigan. This was in 1989 when Roger Smith the leader of General Motors (GM) made the decision to move these manufacturing plants to Mexico.
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The documentary was made by Michael Moore a native of Flint. The film depicts the changing economic fortunes of Flint town as well as Moore’s attempts to gain audience with Roger Smith. The closure of the plants had far-reaching social impacts especially to the thirty thousand employees who lost their jobs. “Roger and Me” tries to convey some of these impacts to its audience.
In the documentary, the GM’s board of directors decides to close the plants even though the company is making a substantial profit. The reasons given for the closure include increasing global competition and the need to reap maximum profits. “Roger and Me” depicts the flipside of this decision. The thousands of laid off workers struggle to find an alternative means of making an income. For instance, one of the laid off workers suffers a mental breakdown and ends up being admitted in a psychiatric clinic.
The film’s maker tries to portray GM’s executives as uncaring. According to Moore, the board of directors is not interested in the plight of GM’s former workers. This lack of compassion is further exhibited when Moore finally catches up with Smith. Smith seems detached with the plight of the people being evicted from their houses. At one time, he requests Moore to take up the issue with these peoples’ landlords and stop placing the blame on GM.
The film’s director and main character is the main protagonist in the film. To most people Michael Moore is a nuisance who is out to make a name for himself using GM. During the film, Moore is evicted from various buildings sometimes in a very unfriendly manner. Moore is a native of Flint town and his father used to be an employee of GM.
Most of the people Moore grew up with ended up becoming employees of GM. These scenarios justify Moore’s actions because the closure of the manufacturing plants in Flint is likely to have a direct impact on his life. Some of his acquaintances were going through difficult times after the closure of GM’s plants in Flint. Moore confesses that during his early days he witnessed several citizens realize the American dream using GM.
For most part of this documentary, General Motors is exhibited in a negative light. There is a likelihood that the film’s negative portrayal of GM is fueled by anger and it might be unjustified. However, Moore’s depiction of GM can be explained through various scenes in the film. For instance, the scene where a former employee of GM breeds rabbits and sells them for meat mimics the relationship between GM, and its employees. GM acts in the same way as the woman who raises and finally kills her rabbits.
In Moore’s view, GM does not consider its employee’s as humans but as means of making profit. When the company feels that there is no more profit to be made from Flint’s citizens, it moves on to other victims in Mexico. In another instance, the film documents the indifference of GM’s board of directors.
Moore enquires whether the company’s leader is aware of the social situation in Flint. Smith replies to this question nonchalantly further proving the indifference of GM’s executives. The only thing that matters to GM’s executives is maximization of profits. According to these executives, any action is fair as long as their profits are not affected. Smith turns down Moore’s offer to visit Flint because he believes the situation in Flint is not his concern.
The film’s audience can learn many details about America. For instance, the film depicts a major disconnect between American corporations and the country’s citizens. Most American citizens are taught to have a sense of pride when it comes to their country and its products. Some American based companies use this angle when they are advertising. However, in this documentary the hypocrisy beneath this notion is revealed. GM betrays the American pride by denying the citizens the benefits that come with having a world-class company.
It can be argued that American corporations use the sense of American Pride only when it suits them. For example, there was a time when American companies started campaigns to combat European competition using this American pride. Moore’s documentary is able to depict America in a more realistic manner as opposed to what is contained in slogans, loyalty pledges, and the national anthem.
“Roger and Me” is one of those documentaries that have had a significant impact on American citizens. GM could fault this film as an attack on its policies but the film traverses beyond the boardroom antics of the company and into the real life effects of its decisions. Moore seems to attack GM’s policies solely from a socialist point of view but the attack seems popular among the citizens. The film was well received by audiences and it was also a financial success.