The ending credits of the recent Will Ferrell movie The Other Guys was a wonderful combo of how popular entertainment can help advance and promote the real facts and challenges for working people.
For everytime a speech or PowerPoint presentation from a labor or progressive leader about the ratio of CEO salaries to average worker is made, somehow it resonates quite differently when shown animated on a gigantic screen in a suburban multiplex theater.
This bit of wink-wink to working folks should be a challenge to anyone in the arts and entertainment fields to think about how to do the same. In that regard, I -- along with the thoughts of a distinguished loose-knit jury -- begin a series of entries over the next few weeks leading to Labor Day. They will be about contributions in arts and entertainment that have amplified worker voices and values in the last year and worthy of your consumption.
Lets begin with TV. The most interesting category of TV for amplifying worker voices is actually Reality TV where there is a hefty list of worker-worthy shows. For all of the elitist crap about Reality TV, hundreds of hours of original dramas and comedies can't box with this genre when it comes to workers. There's Ice Road Truckers, Dirty Jobs, Undercover Boss, America's Toughest Jobs, and 30 Days, all of which give us some inside look about workers' work, workers' lives, workers' frustrations, workers' families, workers' everything.
Of all of these, I personally find Ice Road Truckers the most interesting because I just dig the drama between the folks involved and its season-long storyline as opposed to all of the others that are "one episode journeys". What can I say, I like an arc. That being said, the loose-knit jury of folks I engaged thought CBS's Undercover Boss was the best depiction of workers and working family values.
And its easy to why. Every week, a CEO of a company goes "undercover" and becomes part of the rank-and-file working on the front line - sometimes driving a truck (as Waste Management CEO did) or flipping burgers (White Castle CEO). Naturally, there are lessons learned about how hard the work is or how the corporate offices "don't get it." But by the same token, there are interesting, sometimes ghastly reveals to the CEO about customer interaction or a worker not exactly being on the J-O-B.
And that's the thing. You can be capitalist or socialist and yet get something out of it, something that makes your head nod in confirmation of suspicions. As Time Magazine's James Poniewozik wrote "(Did we) see an entertaining emotional work that celebrated American workers? Or a manipulative, cheesy piece of big-network p.r. for executives looking to burnish their image while they keep squeezing every dime out of their workforce? Yes! And Yes!"
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