Patterico's Pontifications


Celebrating the Plucky Upstart Documentary Filmmaker

Filed under: General — JVW @ 6:39 am

[guest post by JVW]

This past Sunday my local newspaper carried a feature article in the Arts section about a female filmmaker who is exploring the resiliency of the American Dream during these dark, dark times in a new film titled The Great American Lie. The filmmaker appears to approach her subjects from a prescribed feminist perspective, with the article informing us that she “has focused her attention on stories that examine American values, and especially those values that make the playing field uneven for the women, men and children of the nation.” It then provides a bit of background about the auteur’s previous efforts:

Her first documentary, Miss Representation, looked at the ways in which the media and culture contribute to the under-representation of women in positions of power and influence.

The Mask You Live In examined what [she] describes as the “boy crisis” in America, the ways in which boys and young men are socialized into harmful ideals of power, dominance and aggression.

The same filmmaker also received a brief notice in the San Francisco Chronicle regarding The Great American Lie which, while finding some fault in wandering too far down a conventional Wymyn’s Studies narrative, still finds the effort to be “on solid ground in presenting the facts surrounding the issue,” and declares that the film “makes a strong case that the system, as it is currently structured, puts the American dream out of reach for anyone born poor.”

What’s the name of this plucky upstart documentarian, you might ask?

Jennifer Siebel Newsom.

That’s right: the wife of Governor Gavin Newsom and thus the First Lady, er, “First Partner” of the state of California.

The longer profile which ran in my paper, part of the Southern California News Group, also appeared in the Los Angeles Daily News, the Orange County Register, and the San Jose Mercury News, among others, so you can be rest assured that her opus is enjoying a very nice free publicity push, courtesy of the same industry which desires inside information and exclusive interviews from her husband. What was that we were saying about the American Dream being out of reach for everyone but the rich and connected?

The new documentary sounds pretty clichéd as far as these things go. Mrs. Newsom follows five “ordinary Americans”® as they struggle to secure the blessings of liberty, or whatever — you know, the thing. There’s Ruby, the Oakland middle school principal, struggling to reach her underprivileged students. You’ve got husband-and-wife team Saru and Zachary, activists fighting on behalf of restaurant workers and prisoners, respectively. The director hangs out in Ohio with Scott, a steelworker in a down-and-out town, then finally visits right-wing Sharon down on the Bayou, whose eyes are apparently opened to poverty by volunteering in her church. If this sounds a wee bit formulaic and contrived to you, designed to make you want to vote for Democrats now and forever — well, you’re not alone.

And on that note of the American Dream only being accessible to the privileged, the writer of the article allows that, sure, Mrs. Newsom was “born on second base” (probably third, but why quibble?) though he quickly informs us that her progressive sensibilities were honed by “gender and life experience.” Hey, what do you know: Mrs. Newsom was one of the 27 executive producers on the clumsy piece of agitprop about campus sexual assault, The Hunting Ground, a personal favorite of the guy who seems likely to be our next President! Oh, and in terms of privilege we’re told in the article that Mrs. Newsom’s sensibility for the maligned female of the species was further developed during her studies at Stanford Business School. How she overcame all of this gender persecution to become a thriving filmmaker is nothing short of a miracle.

Okay, I’m being unfair. Mrs. Newsom gets that she is one of the lucky ones:

“I’ve always been attuned to think that there’s more to life than money and power,” Newsom says. “And I really feel like because I was born of privilege it’s my responsibility to do something with that privilege and give back.

“So it’s a combination, I would say, of my personal experiences and observations,” she says. “And then really looking at the intersection in particular of gender, race and class issues.”

Forget St. Elizabeth of Hungary; the true to-the-manor-born woman using her influence and affluence to help the downtrodden is obviously Jennifer Siebel Newsom, who gets high-strung progressives to shell-out $14 to spend 90 minutes being instructed through the magic of documentary film how unfair this country is to those citizens whose votes her husband wishes to exploit. This of course doesn’t include all of the left-wing campus, labor, activist, and lobbyist groups who will almost certainly sponsor screenings of The Great American Lie, no doubt making this film a profitable little venture for the Newsom household. Speaking of Governor Hair Gel, he makes an appearance at the end of the article with a typically Hallmarkian sort of analogy which his wife attributs to him:

“You can’t live a good life in an unjust society, right? And there’s no leak, as my husband says, on your side of our boat. We are in this together, and I think that for me that is the right way to be and think and behave.”

Good Lord, these people are straight out of Central Casting.


20 Responses to “Celebrating the Plucky Upstart Documentary Filmmaker”

  1. But perhaps I am being unfair.

    JVW (ee64e4)

  2. Wait the wife of governor newsom the most oampered brat on either coast is behind this?

    Bolivar di griz (7404b5)

  3. Move over teresa heinz kerry, shades of allen drury.

    Bolivar di griz (7404b5)

  4. Is she the one, he cheated on guilfoyle with?

    Bolivar di griz (7404b5)

  5. If she were really that concerned about her privilege and doing something to help Americans lost in the “big lie,” she would lend her standing and privilege toward a fix that would directly impact those she sees as not being able to access the American Dream. Working in food banks, soup kitchens, opening her home up to those in need, etc. In other words, putting her money where her mouth is, because those not privileged enough to access the American Dream in the way that she has certainly aren’t going to be shelling out $14 to watch her film.

    Dana (292df6)

  6. God does she sounds annoying.

    I think it’s the self importance that annoys me.

    I respect when people want make the world a better place. Even when I disagree with their priorities I can respect the drive to improve society. Rallying people to a common vision is a legitimate part of that.

    I have no problem with people who want to create something. If you have the desire, skill, and opportunity to make a movie go for it. Rob Zombie made a totally pointless horror movie just because he thought it was cool and he had the means. I’m not more likely to watch that then this but I respected that he was doing something he thought was cool and fun.

    But something about the way she characterizes her endeavors feels too self important, too smug. It just completely turns me off to what she has to say beyond my general lack of interest in these kinds of movies.

    Time123 (b4d075)

  7. It must be hard looking at all those hungry faces from the window of your limousine.

    Kevin M (ab1c11)

  8. Thank heavens were not putting privileged Democrats back in power.

    beer ‘n pretzels (042d67)

  9. I noticed her first film, was financed by kickstarter, like the first season of veronica mars, it’s unclear who underwrote this one,

    bolivar de gris (7404b5)

  10. But there is a message her to all women: be born rich and marry a powerful man, and you too will get to live out your dreams. So, like St Elizabeth after all, even if living in poverty and dying at 24 isn’t your thing.

    Kevin M (ab1c11)

  11. I noticed her first film, was financed by kickstarter, like the first season of veronica mars, it’s unclear who underwrote this one,

    I’m going to assume that the simile was between VM and being unclear about the writer, not between VM and her first film.

    Kevin M (ab1c11)

  12. I have a friend whose inevitable comment towards folks like this is “Is there no end to you goodness?”

    Kevin M (ab1c11)

  13. San Angeles, here we come.

    Kevin M (ab1c11)

  14. the fund for struggling filmamakers, gag, this production doesn’t have a wiki page, even though it’s connected seven ways from sunday, I wanted to see if she has foundation support, tides, steyer et al, you ignore the picture on the cave wall,

    bolivar de gris (7404b5)

  15. How long before she and the Duchess of Sussex team up? For the sake of the underprivileged, of course.

    beer ‘n pretzels (042d67)

  16. @9 It was the Veronica Mars movie that had the kickstarter. The series was just a regular series.

    I haven’t seen the documentary, so IDK how it is. At least she had a project to work on while we are all staying home?

    Nic (896fdf)

  17. A woman’s place is in the home. Raising Newsom’s four very young children, hosting dinner and cocktail parties for his friends and associates, and standing prettily, demurely, and most of all quietly, next to him at public appearances. I’ll tell you, my friends, the kind of governors’ wives we have today … I swan, I just swan.

    nk (1d9030)

  18. Four kids–from the people who want to get all authoritarian about environmental issues. “Hey Gavin, Hypocrisy is on line two.”

    I remember a Consumer Reports article which stated that having one child more than overcomes whatever recycling or other sacrifices one makes for the environment.

    norcal (a5428a)

  19. According to Mark Twain, Brigham Young came to a similar conclusion in his later years:

    “My friend, take an old man’s advice, and don’t encumber yourself with a large family—mind, I tell you, don’t do it. In a small family, and in a small family only, you will find that comfort and that peace of mind which are the best at last of the blessings this world is able to afford us, and for the lack of which no accumulation of wealth, and no acquisition of fame, power, and greatness can ever compensate us. Take my word for it, ten or eleven wives is all you need—never go over it.”

    nk (1d9030)

  20. That’s hilarious, nk.

    I once had a girlfriend who suffered from multiple personality disorder. I felt like a polygamist.

    norcal (a5428a)

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