Factual Entertainment as a Viable Form of Documentary Film

Documentaries. We’ve all sat down to watch one at some point in our lives. It might have been a required viewing in class or simply a personal desire to gain knowledge on a particular subject. According to Wikipedia, a documentary film intends to capture “some aspect of reality, primarily for the purpose of instruction or maintaining a historical record.” More often than not, it goes beyond that to unveil some kind of hidden truth from a new, distinct perspective. In decades past, it seems documentaries were fairly objective, but today the nature of this genre has become more artistic and personalized to better appeal to the viewer. According to David Hesmondhalgh and Sarah Baker in their book, Creative Labor: Media Work in Three Creative Industries, this trend of “factual entertainment” stemmed from harsh cut backs in documentary funding as the “social value of broadcasting” faded in the 1990s. With fewer opportunities, documentarians had to adapt to this setback, and  Michael Moore and Morgan Spurlock did just that.

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Morgan Spurlock’s documentary, “The Greatest Film Ever Sold” comes to mind when thinking about this new subcategory, mainly because of its unique approach in revealing the inundation of advertisements in the 21st century. His premise, “to make a film all about product placement, marketing and advertising, where the entire film is funded by product placement, marketing and advertising,” powerfully exposed corporate manipulation in the materialistic based world we live in today. Spurlock’s message probably wouldn’t have been as effective if implemented in a traditional format. Presentation and style is an essential element in filmmaking or any type of creative work because of its ability to entice an audience. This is even true as we type up our blog posts, trying to captivate each other with thought-provoking content and expressive language simultaneously.

Spurlock and Moore’s significant presence on camera, combined with their passion for middle America, creates dynamic products. As Hesmondhalgh and Barker emphasize, the components that constitute “good work” vary from person to person, but it’s clear that in Spurlock and Moore’s case, social justice is one of their top priorities. By starring in their

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own documentaries, they are more closely connected to the work they are producing, consequently bonding with their audience on a deeper level than an omniscient narrator would. For instance, Spurlock’s “Super Size Me” is tremendously inspiring as he commits himself to a strict 24/7 McDonald’s diet for a month. Throughout the course of the film, the audience comes to know him as a friend as we delve into his private affairs and watch how this disturbing challenge affects his life. Spurlock manages to elicit disgust and fear in his audience by exposing McDonald’s impact on American obesity and health issues. “Super Size Me” has tremendous social value and that is part of its appeal to audiences. Although Creative Labor realizes that “many people may not wish to devote themselves to the common good,” Spurlock and Moore’s documentaries are so gratifying to watch because of their commitment to exposing deplorable realities and mocking them for their faults, which the majority of people love to see take place (37).

With that being said, documentaries are ideal for pursuing social justice through one’s professional career in the creative industries. Although this is by no means all encompassing, there are plenty of subjects that can be examined through factual entertainment that neither compromise one’s creative sensibilities nor the content it’s presenting. We can’t take life too seriously or else the realities of the world would overtake us, so why not shed some of that weight with humor, sarcasm and a little bit of irony.

 

“Documentary Film.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation. Web. 21 Sept. 2015. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Documentary_film&gt;.

Hesmondhalgh, David, and Sarah Baker. Creative Labour: Media Work in Three Cultural Industries. London: Routledge, 2011. Print.

“POM Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation.Web. 21 Sept. 2015. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/POM_Wonderful_Presents:_The_Greatest_Movie_Ever_Sold&gt;.

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