Out of the mouths of puppets: The message behind 'Team America'

Posted: Thursday, October 28, 2004

On the verge of a presidential election, it's easy to see how the film, "Team America: World Police," is relevant to the state of affairs in this country. It's a political satire using puppets to make a political point. But unlike the dirt-digging documentaries that seem to be rearing their ugly heads and puking on the current administration in the White House, this film is asking you to be an educated voter, instead of simply voting because Puff Daddy told you so.

We live in a country where the liberty of free speech is held by all. But sometimes the voice of one individual, one newspaper or one television station will ultimately influence the opinion, the free thinking of an entire segment of the voting public. "Team America" is packaged in the slickness of any Hollywood film, but it is not a feel-good formula. It's not about the laughs. Granted there are many, but that's not the point. The film asks the voter to believe in their political opinion not only because a news anchorman, a respected actor, a documentarian, or a newspaper says so; but because they have taken the time to get all of the facts for themselves.

The plot of the film can be summarized as follows (skip this paragraph if you do not wish to hear important plot information revealed): Gary, an actor, is recruited and successfully aids Team America in stopping terrorist plans in Cairo. After another attack is launched on Panama, Peter Jennings and the Film Actors Guild (F.A.G) blame Team America for all of the deaths.

Gary feels that his acting is responsible for all of the deaths and he decides to leave the team. As a result, the team falls apart and team members are captured by the Korean dictator Kim Jong Il. Kim Jong Il has joined forces with F.A.G and, using a peace conference as a cover-up, tries to launch the biggest terrorist attack the world has ever seen. Gary must rejoin the Team and stop Kim Jong Il.

The most important element in understanding the point of the film is the Film Actors Guild. F.A.G is a coalition of the leading actors in Hollywood banding together to promote their own political agenda. Their intent can be summarized by a marionette impersonating Janeane Garofalo. She says they will read the newspapers and say on television what they read as if it was their own opinion.

The Hollywood system has a lot of influence on the thought of Americans. In this film, Team America gets its information from I.N.T.E.L.L.I.G.E.N.C.E., a computer that simply rebroadcasts what it picks up from a major television network. This is mocking the fact that many Americans simply base their political opinions on what their favorite famous person says. F.A.G is not to be trusted because actors are, after all, paid to pretend to be someone who they are not. Instead, the film wishes the viewer think for themselves.

As Americans, we have the right to vote. We have the responsibility to cast an educated vote. This film is simply saying that by relying on someone else to tell you how to vote, you are simply a puppet on strings. Educate yourself on why you believe what you believe. A movie should not ultimately change your political opinion.

• Brice Haberger is a Juneau native who is taking a break from attending film school in Chicago.

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