Filmmaker Jen Senko’s documentary The Brainwashing of My Dad shows the transformation of her father’s political views from a Kennedy-loving Democrat to a crazed, right-wing extremist. Although the film only points out the problems – and suggests little solutions – Senko succeeds in highlighting one of America’s ever-growing problems: “the media.” (BKP: 3/5)
Review by Associate Editor Brigid K. Presecky
Everywhere you look, someone has a political opinion. They tweet, they share viral videos, they berate one another on Facebook, Instagram, SnapChat or (insert next best social media outlet here). Jen Senko blames this “media” for people’s extremist opinions, as do many, and rightfully so. She has experienced, first hand, what happens when people believe – wholeheartedly – they are hearing the truth from a single source.
If a person only watches Fox News or only watches MSNBC, are they getting the whole truth and nothing but the truth? I don’t have an answer, but left-leaning documentarian Senko does: No, you are not getting the truth. Republicans are brainwashing you. By this point, any Republican readers (or slightly Republican or Independent voters) might be turned off … but that is exactly what is wrong with Senko’s documentary and “the media” in general. Everyone has to be 100% one way or the other, stretching themselves to the very end of each political spectrum. Everyone has to pick one team, one television “ship,” one favorite color, one favorite movie, etc.
Senko picks politics as her topic of choice and blames the media for her father’s transition from “a nonpolitical Kennedy democrat” to a Rush Limbaugh-loving, Fox News-watching, lover of the fabricated phenomenons. And she has a great point: people are gullible, impressionable, ignorant and, most of the time, wrong.
But what actually constitutes ‘wrong’? Isn’t the greatest part of the United States of America the fact that people can have different opinions? There is a reason Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Team of Rivals is a best seller. It focuses on Abraham Lincoln’s cabinet from 1861 to 1865 when he worked with opponents who ran against him in the 1860 election: Attorney General Edward Bates, Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase and Secretary of State William H. Seward.
Yes, the idea of politicians arguing across the aisle and making progress at the end of the day are long gone. Yes, maybe I have watched one too many episodes of Aaron Sorkin’s The West Wing, but Fox News, MSNBC and documentaries like The Brainwashing of My Dad are the epitome of everything that is wrong with today’s political climate. Even a broken clock works twice a day.
Senko’s documentary uses endless amounts of clips, stock footage and b-roll of the last decade to justify her argument. Something needs to change and it begins with America’s warped, one-sided media that thrives on clicks, viral video views and almighty trending topics.
Senko’s father is clearly not the only one that has been “brainwashed.”
© Brigid K. Presecky FF2 Media (3/22/16)
Middle Photo: Bartlet for America napkin courtesy of “The West Wing”
Bottom Photo: Illustrations used to demonstrate Senko’s father’s brainwashing
Photo Credits: Cinco Dedos Peliculas & Warner Bros.
Q: Does The Brainwashing of My Dad pass the Bechdel-Wallace Test?