Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Power of 'The Undefeated': A Review by Josh Painter

- by Josh Painter
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Here's a challenging assignment: write a review of Stephen Bannon's potentially game-changing documentary "The Undefeated" after a number of appraisals have already appeared in both old and new media, from large market newspapers to suburban dailies, from Breitbart's "Big" websites to "mom and pop" blogs. The film has been evaluated by reviewers of varying political persuasions from conservative to centrist to "progressive" feminist. They have approached "The Undefeated" from nearly every conceivable angle.

Some of the critiques are noteworthy for their excellence, including Dan Riehl's most eloquent assessment, in which he explains how the movie penetrated through his tough-guy defenses and touched him emotionally; Lisa Mei Norton's superbly detailed appraisal, in which she dares her readers to see the film; and John Nolte's politically-charged review, in which he expresses his disgust with a corrupt media which hid the real Sarah Palin from much of America, while inventing and promoting a surrealistic and demeaning caricature of the governor.

These are tough acts to follow. Reviewers of "The Undefeated" at this stage of the game have to try to plow new ground, but we can't escape a walk down some paths already traveled. So this review is meant to be neither synoptic nor rousing. That's already been done, and done very well. Instead, I'll just touch on the three major impressions the documentary left on me after viewing it for the first time.

The first of these is the initial "Three Minute Hate" sequence, which has a powerful emotional impact on the viewer. Much has been made of the foul language used by some of the more notorious among the Palin-hater demographic and how it will require director Stephen Bannon to market two versions of his film so PG audiences won't miss out on the opportunity to view it. The angrier extremists of the far left can't seem to communicate without resorting to gutter language, like so many of today's stand up comedians who use filthy epithets as a crutch to get through their acts. Lacking the creativity and talent of great comics such as Bill Cosby, Bob Hope, Jonathan Winters and Bob Newhart, this generation of comics are more than just several cuts below the greatness of the masters of their craft. But I suspect general audiences who see "The Undefeated" will find the intensity of the hate for Sarah Palin to have more shock value than the four-letter words used to express it. Coming at the beginning of the film as it does, the Three Minute Hate overwhelms the viewer with the irrationality and pathology of the attacks made against Gov. Palin. Viewers with a conscience will not be able to avoid the feeling of revulsion and even outrage over the extreme degrees of nastiness pursued in the efforts to destroy the woman. Those left of center, but of good character, will instinctively want to distance themselves from such vileness, which is exactly what the filmmaker wants them to do. Only then can these viewers, the main targets of the documentary, give Sarah Palin an even break and grant her a fresh appraisal.

Moving from the emotional to the intellectual, audiences can't help but be impressed by the accomplishments of the governor they see on the screen, as they witness the fiscal restraint, "servant's heart," and overall competence which rewarded her with impressive approval ratings in office, at least before the 2008 presidential campaign. Energy independence has always been a top issue for me, and as we see in "The Undefeated," it is for Gov. Palin as well. It is this issue which initially pulled me into her political orbit when I first began to pay attention after reading "The Most Popular Governor" by Fred Barnes nearly four years ago. Before I was even made aware of Sarah Palin, I was on board with her on the security and economic necessity of this nation deriving much more of its oil and natural gas from domestic exploration and production, while importing much less of it from potentially unreliable foreign sources. Not only would it be a shot in the arm to our ailing economy, it would help create hundreds of thousands - if not millions - of jobs. This made economic sense even back when the unemployment rate was almost half of what it is now. Today, it is nothing less than mission critical if we want to put America back to work.

Finally, the film impressed me with its great potential to change minds and thus change the game. Even if it does not move them 180 full degrees from the media-created Palin perception, that's not a problem. "The Undefeated" doesn't need to have that much of an impact on everyone who experiences it. The hard left will never give Gov. Palin an even break, but they're only about 20 percent of the population, so they aren't relevant to the mission of the this documentary (aside from the fact that they helped to perpetuate the media-driven lies about Sarah Palin by repeating them over and over again). Very few radical leftists, members of an even smaller subgroup, will even bother to watch the movie anyway. All this film need do is persuade those who sit for it to give her a second look, one not contaminated by media misrepresentation. Given that criteria, I believe that it will be a great success.

As a committed Palin supporter, it's difficult to put myself in the mind of a fence-sitter, and as a Reagan conservative, just as hard to try to image the thinking of a moderate or independent who fell for the anti-Palin media hype and accepted it as Gospel. But I do know a few things about communication and the psychology of marketing, and I'm convinced that if enough people - registered voters in particular - get the chance to see this powerful documentary they cannot help but be moved by it and have it challenge their preconceptions. Again, change enough minds, and you have changed the game. That's the emotional and intellectual power of "The Undefeated."

Cross-posted from Texans for Sarah Palin

- JP
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