Saturday, October 21, 2006

The isolated and the news

Very much enjoyed Shut Up & Sing, the new Barbara Kopple documentary on the Dixie Chicks. It's an intimate look at these three musicians-moms-friends, caught in a topical maelstrom. It's up close and personal. You see them in the recording studio, backstage at concerts, with their kids, and in their kitchens. You see them often sitting with laptops on and open.

In fact, in one of the first scenes, you see them laughing and responding as someone reads out loud, the biting criticism from an online blog. How different is this phenonema in our lives? Sure, fans could always write fan mail and irate letters to the editor. But one never pictured the recipient actually reading the fan mail. Call in radio has the D.J. as buffer. Now we're talking about the Dixie Chicks personally reading what Joe Blow blogger has to say from behind his computer screen. Not new, I know. But amazing nonetheless.

I was struck similarly watching the superb The Queen a few weeks back at the New York Film Festival. In a brilliant performance by Hellen Mirren, we watch the isolated Queen, rattling around her large country house and castle, surrounded by a very few - her mother, her son, her husband, an assistant and perhaps a butler. Everything else she gets from the television or papers. Alone, in her bedroom, she watches the TV. The news is about her, and what she should or shouldn't be doing. It's about her daughter in law, her son, her grandchildren. It's media, but for her it's very, very personal.

I know I'm not saying anything new here. I just find it surprising to learn again and again, that our newsmakers learn the news the same way we all do. I find the images haunting.

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