July 16, 2007

SiCKO Review

This movie is *so* frustrating I want to rip our my hair. I sit in the theater gripping the arm rest cup holder. I move from depression to rage and then just a bit of relaxing laughter before the cycle begins again. I leave nearly speechless; still mad, but mostly just shocked. This could describe both the experience I had watching the movie and the experiences I've had with most people talking about it. Like all of Moore's this is a profoundly compelling movie that is misunderstood by nearly everyone I talk to, even people who agree that there's something wrong with the American healthcare system.

First, let's talk about the movie. It's actually not nearly the funniest of his movies, mostly because, to me, it was the most depressing. I suppose that shouldn't surprise me. Bowling for Columbine was a rather small tragedy in comparison and the film was more about broader cultural themes. Fahrenheit 9/11 was certainly based around tragedy, but the focus was on how badly our leaders reacted and misled us. Not since Roger & Me has Moore really let the audience soak in the tragedy, hoping the sheer stupidity of the suffering would bring us to some action. In short, I love all his movies, but this one is even good by those standards.

Now let's move beyond the movie itself. Certain people don't like Michael Moore and make it their goal to tear him down anytime he puts something out. It's partly because he's truly liberal, partly because his movies and their crazy ideas usually do pretty well at the box office, and partly because he's fat and not quietly polite, like a good liberal should be. These people either through blind hate, deliberate deception, or simple ideologically informed ignorance set the memes for the discussion early. They infect the discourse by leading people away from the central messages of Moore's films, which are simultaneously more complex and more simple than these people want you to think. And, sadly, it works. Even people I've talked to that agree that American healthcare is pretty bad latch on to little bits which might not be true, small facets of the film which don't really matter, things about Moore that aren't the perfect picture of civility.

As Ezra says, this film is not about healthcare policy. He's not laying out a detailed map about where we should go to fix the system. He's not propping up a favorite candidate to champion this issue. The point he is making is that there is a lot of tragedy going on in America that's simply not happening elsewhere. Hell, screw elsewhere, there's a lot of tragedy going on in America and are we o.k. with it? Yeah, he doesn't spend time talking about the drawbacks of the French, English, Canadian, or Cuban systems. This movie runs two hours long. It's not a PBS seventeen part series. This is not, nor should it be considered, nor is it *meant* to be a complete discussion of dirty wonky healthcare policy. It doesn't tell us what kinds of COLAs we should be applying to paid leave or how we should make the move from HMO funded equipment in hospitals to government funded equipment, or if either of those should be done at all. This is a movie about emotions, about really taking a look at ourselves as a country that we do only too rarely.

It doesn't matter if other systems have problems that he doesn't discuss. By nearly every measure Americans are getting as good healthcare as other industrial nations for much higher costs, less good healthcare for much higher costs, or no healthcare at all. If you see the movie, take this away: America is a country founded on high ideals. Are we living up to them, and, if not, are we letting our pride keep us from seeing it?

Don't get bogged down picking at nits. This is big picture stuff here.


MosBen said...

Oh, and please post your thoughts about SiCKO, Michael Moore, and healthcare policy. If this movie did anything, it made me want to talk.

Goddess Cassandra said...

I am so afraid to post my reactions about Sicko because I'm afraid I'll get the libertarian trolls out in force. I'm not sure what it is, but they seem paralyzed by the idea that they will have to pay for someone who doesn't "deserve" it. There is no greater sin then someone getting "their" money and not dying.

I do not understand this. This is not my first inclination for almost anything, yet this is what they argue.

If we want our country to be healthy, happy, and productive (which, I don't even know I would have to argue that we do, but apparently I do) we have to look at what works. What works is socialized medicine, but that system doesn't work to make money for people.

So, maybe the argument is what the definition of "work" is.