email Ken at kstein2@nycboe.net
Film Viewing: Roger & Me
Introduction
 

Imagine that you have just fired 30,000 workers in one of your company's oldest factory towns - more will be fired later. The unions are in an uproar, the town fathers are panicked, the media are barraging you with criticism and a powerful stockholder is questioning your every move. As if all this weren't enough, you have to deal with a pesky, muckraking filmmaker - a journalist without a business card who stalks you for an interview that is likely to make things even worse. Your situation is that faced in the late 1980s by Roger B. Smith, embattled CEO of one of America's bedrock manufacturers, General Motors.

Although you may have never heard of the Film Roger & Me it's quite well known. It was Michael Moore's first film. He went on to have two television shows TV Nation and the Awful Truth (which is still on) and two best selling books, Downsize This and the wildly popular Stupid White Men. But Moore is best known for Roger & Me which might be a good thing - did you see his film Canadian Bacon?

While most economics textbooks will focus on changes in technology or consumer demand as causes of unemployment and lead readers to believe that people merely get laid-off and return to work, the truth is the global economy has changed over the last 10 or more years and the updating of economics textbooks is not a priority in our schools. Technology and consumer demand still do play a part in the employment rate, but what about the people who have to settle for poor paying jobs they don't want? The term underemployment has been used increasingly in the last 20 years. What about the people who lose their jobs simply because the companies they work for can increase profits by firing workers in the United States and replace them with low-wage labor elsewhere? (Moore later wrote the book Downsize This and made the film The Big One about these "downsizing" companies.)

Before watching Roger & Me it is good to know that not everyone agrees with Moore's opinions or appreciates his sense of humor. Even your teacher has taken flack for showing this film. Some people say a film like American Dream that depicts a similar scenario is better for classroom use.

Watch the Roger & Me and prepare yourself to make comments about the value of the film. Is it informative or entertaining? Can we learn anything from it or should it be thrown into the $1.99 bin at Blockbuster?

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Process

In particular, you are looking at this film for information:

  • What are the causes of unemployment?
  • How does unemployment effect people?
  • What do companies and governments try to do about unemployment?
  • How does unemployment effect the overall economy?

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Task

Please answer the following questions as completely as you can after watching the film Roger & Me;

  1. What was the significance of Flint, Michigan to General Motors?
  2. What do you think Michael Moore's opinion of General Motors is?
  3. What were General Motor's objectives? Why did it do what it did?
  4. What do you think are the long-term socioeconomic (the way economics effects people's behavior in society) costs to Flint and its citizens? Why might they feel differently about those institutions that they used to trust?
  5. What do you think about Michael Moore? Is he exploiting the people of Flint at their worst hour? Citing events you saw in the film, explain your answer.
  6. The events depicted in Roger & Me happened when you were very young. Compare your life and the economic conditions of New York City today to what happened in Flint in the late 1980s' and early 1990s'.
  7. If you were a GM stockholder what would you think of what the company was doing in Flint?
  8. What is your overall opinion of the film? Explain why you did or did not like it. What do you think of Michael Moore's style and approach to filming?

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Resources

The Roger & Me home page.

Commentary about the film from Management Goes To The Movies

From the Internet Movie Data Base

Comments from people who bought the film from Amazon.com

The history of General Motors

Michael Moore's home page


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Evaluation

 

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Conclusion
 

Is such unemployment necessary to promote corporate growth?

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Standards

 

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