Documentaries Turned On and Off

I happened upon a Sundance Channel documentary called The Drug Years the other night. They got onto rave culture, and were trying to describe what mattered about this particular scene, and I felt myself answering the question. Then, out of nowhere, it was my own voice saying precisely the thing I was thinking. That’s a weird feeling.

Anyway, what I’ve seen of this four-part series is pretty good. It goes on a bit long through the cocaine and crack era, but most of the coverage of America’s multifaceted relationship with drugs – and liberty itself – is pretty balanced. And I don’t look as bad as I usually do on TV.

Meanwhile, my own first documentary, a media literacy exposé about corporate-manufactured teen pop culture called The Merchants of Cool, is still getting the teachers who show it in trouble. Most recently, a parent’s complaint at one high school Dallas has generated considerable ire and media attention to the documentary’s supposed nudity. Apparently, these parents think that deconstructing the exploitation of teen sexuality on MTV is as bad, or worse, than than letting them watch Spring Break specials, themselves. According to one, putting the images in the classroom “condones” them.

So much for guarding kids from all this manipulation. Let’s just keep them in the dark. Or let them learn about what all this means from their peers. As one girl at the high school put it to a reporter, “I don’t think that it’s appropriate to see at school at alll. It’s kind of awkward. It’s something that kids watch on their own. It’s not something that you talk about with your teachers.”

Which, of course, is precisely the point of the documentary.

Score another one for the corporations, whose efforts to alienate teachers and parents from kids continues, unabated.