So uh . who you gonna vote for this fall?
Now, don’t be shy. It’s OK to admit you’re supporting someone (as long as it’s not Huckabee). In ’60, everyone wanted to vote Kennedy. In ’84, you were either voting Reagan or just not admitting that you were. Jeez, if this were 1957, you’d be loudly marking ballots for Lonesome Rhodes.
Wait a minute. You’ve never heard of Lonesome Rhodes?
Maybe it’s because he’s only a fictitious character, but he’s been likened to both George W. and Bill Clinton. Budd Schulberg and Elia Kazan’s “A Face in the Crowd” is arguably the most unappreciated political satire ever put on film. A parable on the dangerously enticing power of media and its ability to make anyone a target, “Face” is still relevant – perhaps even more so than it once was – in today’s political climate.
Meet Lonesome Rhodes (Andy Griffith of, yes, “The Andy Griffith Show”). He’s crafty — a classically crooked and heartless public figure willing to sell his image and do whatever it takes to keep a high approval rating. Rhodes just wants your support. How? By watching his show and donating generously, of course.
This is the story that politicians only wish they could brag about. Rhodes is initially discovered in a prison. Mean as hell and suspiciously happy on cue, it’s his guitar playing and “simple rural” ways that make him a hit. By chance he gets his own radio show. Rhodes is quick to see the power of being on the air. Free food comes first. Then he gets to spite his former jailer. Notoriety comes next.
It’s our heavily-covered and quickly-forgotten news world that enables people like Rhodes to run for office. Just watch ol’ Lonesome hawk placebos one minute, only to have a hugely successful NBC program the next. It’s instantaneous, outrageous and completely believable.
From there, Rhodes is an overnight sensation. After conquering television, it’s only natural that he plans to enter the political arena.
Contextually, this film hasn’t aged a day. “Face” holds up incredibly well because it all seems too possible. With the screen writers on strike, news coverage becoming more and more softball and more stars willing to share their celebrity with leading nominees, it’s a popularity contest. Rhodes is abusive, short-tempered, manipulative and just downright awful. But to the loving audiences that follow his every breath, he’s just another good ol’ boy speaking to the people.
“Face” has been called a poor man’s “Citizen Kane,” but since its release, it has become uber-relevant thanks to its themes of the ever-changing face of news and media coverage. This film probably makes John Kerry weep. We tend to trust the people we see on TV, often leaning slightly towards the better-looking and better-sold candidates.
“Face” is a perfect addition to our political climate. Besides, where else can you get entertainment with such relevant information?