Dec 262018 6 Responses

Now I Feel Sorry for Dick Cheney

I’m not a movie guy but I love a good biopic. Since I love people, watching a movie which shows the complexity of someone’s life and decisions is fascinating. Walk the Line, Lincoln, The Social Network, and The King’s Speech were all interesting movies where I learned things while being entertained.

VICE had the potential of joining these movies as a quality biopic. It’s subject, Dick Cheney, is controversial, influential, and unknown. The movie could have described the complex nature by which Cheney became who he was and influenced America the way he did. Instead, it did everything in its power to demonize the former Vice President and to blame every current ill on him.

It was embarrassing. What many conservatives wrongly believe the media is doing (intentionally trying to hinder conservative thought) this film actually did. It was a hit piece that in many ways illustrates what’s wrong with modern America.

Rather than showing that issues are complex and reasonable people can come to different conclusions, the film demonized Cheney and denounced anyone who might agree with his conclusions. In doing so, the film accomplished a great feat–it made the viewer feel sorry for Cheney.

No one would claim Dick Cheney is a sympathetic character in American history. He’s reserved, private, and unapologetic for nearly every decision he’s ever made. Yet VICE is so slanted it causes the viewer to feel compassion for him. No one can be as selfish, prideful, and deceitful as the movie makes him to be.

The Failures of VICE

It’s fair to disagree with others; it’s rarely fair (or right) to demonize them. This is what Adam McKay does to Cheney.

This happens in several ways in the movie:

1. McKay makes George W. Bush look clueless and not responsible for his choices. The movie makes Bush look like an idiot. He’s not. He’s thoughtful, intelligent, well-read, and engaged. Bush also is fully responsible for his own choices during his tenure as President. Cheney likely had the most power of any VP in American history, but he was so because Bush allowed him to be. Cheney influenced Bush, but Bush made the decisions.

2. It portrays 9/11 as an opportunity instead of a world-altering event. September 11 changed everyone, yet McKay makes it look like Cheney was just waiting on an event like it to accomplish his secret plan of personal power. 9/11 shook everyone. As in any troubling time, there are a variety of ways to respond. The Bush Administration made choices. It’s fair to disagree with them, but it’s not fair to pretend they used the event simply for personal agendas.

3. McKay made it seem impossible to be loving while also allowing biology to define marriage. Americans disagree over the importance of defining marriage and how to do so. Some believe marriage is defined by biology–a man and a woman. Yet just because someone holds this view does not mean they are unloving or cruel to those with same-sex attraction. McKay exploits the relationship between Cheney’s daughters to make it appear that it’s illogical and evil to believe that marriage was intended to be between one man and one woman.

4. VICE makes Cheney seem heartless. Playing off his heart problems, the film simplifies Cheney into a cold, unloving, unkind robot. It never shows internal debate, doubt, or much heartfelt emotion. This is where the film failed the most. In one scene, a young Cheney asks Donald Rumsfeld, “What do we believe?” Rumsfeld dies laughing and walks away as though belief doesn’t exist. Why can’t Cheney’s actions come from a specific viewpoint and actual conclusion of how best to approach life rather than just assuming Cheney must be evil?

The Failure of Us

The producers believe Cheney is evil and tried to portray him as such. Why?

This is our problem in modern America. Rather than trying to understand our political opponents, we demonize them. Instead of understanding the complexity of issues and knowing that good people can come to different conclusions, we assume everyone who disagrees with us does not love America as we do. We downplay our role in negative outcomes and overplay the role of our political opponents. A simple test–when we can’t understand how someone can draw the conclusions our political opponents hold, we likely have not fully understood their thought. Our negative feelings toward them don’t reveal their evil hearts, it reveals our ignorant ones.

This doesn’t mean there aren’t evil people involved in politics or some who might feign service in order to accomplish a hidden agenda. However, most of “them” (whoever your “them” may be) are not evil. People see the same data and draw different conclusions. Rather than dehumanizing others, we should listen and attempt to understand them.

One Reason to See VICE

While I don’t think you should waste your money or time on VICE, there is one reason to watch. Christian Bale’s portrayal of Cheney was amazing. Had I not known it was Bale, I could have never guessed he was the actor. Knowing made the film fascinating.

Yet even his work isn’t enough to recommend the movie. It will simply verify whatever thoughts you had going into the movie. If you are a conservative, it will be another example of liberal bias. If you are a liberal, it will give you a villain for everything wrong in today’s world. A good movie would have had a different outcome. As a conservative, it would have made me troubled regarding some of Cheney’s choices. A good movie would have caused some of my left-leaning friends to walk way feeling compassion toward the former Vice President.

Here’s a simple test for a good biopic:

If I walk into the movie liking your main character, I should leave questioning him or her. The film should show aspects of their story I didn’t understand or should reveal how I may have idolized the person in an unfair way. I don’t have to leave the movie disliking the person, but if I enter with a favorable opinion, I should leave having learned some things I didn’t like.

If I walk into the movie disliking your main character, I should leave questioning myself. The film should show aspects of their story I didn’t know or understand. It should show how I have unfairly criticized the person or downplayed their opinions. By revealing their humanity, it should create empathy and compassion. I don’t have to leave the film liking the person, but I should appreciate them more than I did before.

When this doesn’t happen, you have likely failed to tell their full story. VICE completely failed.

6 Responses to Now I Feel Sorry for Dick Cheney

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