A few weeks ago, there was a significant hullabaloo in the American media world about whether Conan or Leno was going to get the boot from NBC. So in an attempt to form my own opinion on the matter, I started watching both shows and building comparisons in my head about which was better: Conan or Leno. In one particular episode, Jay Leno played a segment in which he walked around the streets of L.A. with pictures of important figures in the political world, from Nancy Pelosi to Kim Jong-il. Funnily enough, in his other hand he carried pictures of celebrities from Paris Hilton (yes, I do think its accurate to label her has a celebrity socialite) to William Hung. Leno showed the pictures to young people on the streets asking them to identify the individual in the picture. The results were depressing -very few young people could identify their elected officials, almost all of the celebrities were quickly recognized.
This kind of apathy plagues American culture. Media obsession and celebrity lifestyle have trumped social issue and political awareness on the ladder of importance for young people.
The short film, "America for Dummies" is a brilliant work that builds upon the ideas aforementioned. Niaz Mosharraf directs a series of media clips and personal interviews in order to create a fascinating documentary on the apathetic nature of the American youth. It is really quite jarring to hear and see people speaking their minds. The direct footage of young people (just as the Jay Leno show did) instigates thinking and self-reflection in such a way as to connect viewers to the documentary. It has that personal element into which any person watching can invest.
Another aspect to this documentary that I enjoy is its "rawness." Mosharraf is not likely to soften the blows of the ever-present truths in this film. The language is real, the people are real and so are the images. I really think this is a serious social trend: the ambition towards materialism and an obsession with material things.
What does it mean for the future of this world when its future leaders are entirely indifferent to and unenthusiastic about social issues (the issues that will make or break our ability to live happily in the future as a global society)? This seems to be THE question that is left unanswered and I like that the documentary pushes toward THE question. What will happen if we continue on in apathy?
In conclusion: I think that Conan should have been able to keep his spot on The Tonight Show. Although he's got the chin, Leno certainly does not have the hair.
p.s. Watch the film, its really great!