A few months back Netflix released a documentary about the two Presidential campaigns of Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney. The film wasn’t anything elaborate. There was no narrator, No real interviews or discussion. It is simply a look behind the scenes look with Romney and his family. In its simplicity we see a man who is not perfect. We see the ups and downs of the campaigns. We see some of the mistakes made and the consequences of those mistakes. Mostly though, we see a sincere person who, political views aside, sincerely wanted to help the country as best he could. It wasn’t about money or power. It was about doing something he thought was important, and something he thought was right. And it was a great way to humanize an individual who had been misunderstood and demonized by many through his campaign for a number of reasons.
Mitt has received largely good reviews from critics and viewers, and has been seen in a generally positive light across the board. Regardless of political biases, it seems people can empathize with the subject of the film. And I think we need to see more things like it. I didn’t vote for Romney. But after getting an inside look at his life I couldn’t help but feel he could’ve done some really good things for the country. He wouldn’t have been perfect, but it wouldn’t have been the end of the world some people propagandized either.
Here’s the thing: People demonize politicians all the time. In our political climate, we’ve had both our current President and his predecessor compared to the most insidious, evil individuals in history, such as Hitler and Stalin. They’ve been called the most derogatory terms people in America can think of (Fascist and Communist come to mind, although I think we misinterpret those terms, but that’s a blog post for another day. We feel comfortable throwing those negative terms around because we feel like we can’t relate to these people. Half the time it seems like we can’t even see them as people. And this contributes and makes it so easy for us to dismiss anyone who disagrees with us politically (or religiously or socially for that matter).
But what if we had more documentaries like Mitt. What if we had a documentary like that for Obama, rather than the negative 2016 documentary? What if we had a documentary like this for George W. Bush instead of the irrationally biased Fahrenheit 9/11? What would the impact be if filmmakers viewed politicians in the way that Neflix’s employees portrayed Mitt: Straightforward and honest, with no bias and no politically charged commentary constantly criticizing his views. Just a human being, with a human family and a country that he loves. Even though all 3 of those people have very different political views, I think movies like that would help us to be more forgiving of our leaders.
Maybe documentaries like this wouldn’t help. But unlike the other biased films I mentioned, at least documentaries like this aren’t harmful to our ability to work together with those that don’t agree with us. But perhaps, if we had more opportunities for empathy, and more chances to see our political “enemies” as sincere, good human beings, it would help us find compromise and understanding more quickly. Then, maybe we can avoid political standstills, government shutdowns, and general distaste for our political leaders.
So here’s my request for filmmakers to follow the Netflix queue (see what I did there?). Find politicians. Show us their flaws. Show us their sincerity. Show us their humanity. Help us all to be more sympathetic. Help us to have more perspective. Help us to understand each other better, and help us not to demonize leaders because we can’t see them as human.