Film: Roger And Me

Roger and Me is a 1989 documentary, as well as Michael Moore's first film. Michael Moore explores the deterioration of his hometown of Flint, Michigan following the shutdown of the General Motors factories, and his own attempts to track down Roger Bonham Smith, General Motors CEO, and get him to come to Flint. Though its accuracy is dubious (and let's leave it at that), the film became legend for its acerbic, poetic attacks on downsizing.

The film became the most successful non-concert documentary of all time when it was released (Moore's later documentaries Bowling for Columbine and Fahrenheit 9/11, among others, have since out-grossed it), has earned the coveted 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and won an Emmy.

This film contains the following tropes:

  • Biopic: The first ten minutes of the documentary is about Moore's own life, from his childhood in greater Flint, to his work as a journalist at home and later in San Francisco, and his firing from Mother Jones magazine. The purpose of this is to show the role GM played in the wealth of Flint, and underscore how much was lost with the layoffs.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Roger Smith, who caused the decline of Flint with his downsizing. Beyond Flint, his policies led to GM's continued decline in market share (as well as quality of the cars), and he was named history's fifth worst auto chief by Fortune in 2013. He even threatened to pull advertising funds from any TV station that offered interviews to Michael Moore.
    Moore: (narrating) [Roger Smith] appeared to have a brilliant plan: First, close eleven factories in the U.S., then open eleven in Mexico where you pay the workers 70 cents an hour. Then, use the money you've saved by building cars in Mexico to take over other companies, preferably high-tech firms and weapons manufacturers. Next, tell the union you're broke and they happily agree to give back a couple billion dollars in wage cuts. You then take that money from the workers, and eliminate their jobs by building more foreign factories. Roger Smith was a true genius.
  • Description Cut: A pretty depressing one. Roger Smith gives a speech on Christmas Eve on how the holiday brings out the generosity and warmth in everyone. Then we cut to families being evicted from their homes by Deputy Sheriff Fred Ross.
  • Documentary Of Lies: The main source of the film's criticisms. But as Roger Ebert pointed out, it's not so much about facts as about making a statement decrying corporate greed, which Ebert argues is what made the movie good. So, as usual, sensationalism trumps fact.
  • Downer Ending: Moore fails to bring Smith to Flint, which is entrenched in decline. Retroactively it is also this, with Flint's continued decline and further layoffs into the 21st century, to which Moore's later documentaries returned, culminating in General Motors' bankruptcy in 2009, which is mentioned in Capitalism: A Love Story.
  • End of an Era: The film highlights the end of the age of company towns and the businesses that were ingrained in them, in favor of the greed-driven, globalized world.
    Moore: As we neared the end of the twentieth century, the rich were richer, the poor, poorer. And people everywhere now had a lot less lint, thanks to the lint rollers made in my hometown. It was truly the dawn of a new era.
  • Family-Unfriendly Violence: The infamous "Pets or Meat" scene, in which an unemployed woman slaughters a rabbit and skins it for meat. Moore himself attributes the R rating the movie received to this scene.
  • Irony: Depending on whom you ask, Tom Kay, the General Motors spokesman whom Moore interviews, says job security cannot be achieved in a free enterprise system. Then, once the movie starts to end properly, we see an interesting subtitle after he reasserts his defense of GM's actions:
    Tom Kay laid off, office closed.
  • Punch Clock Villain: Deputy Sheriff Fred Ross, who has the unenviable job of evicting people who can't pay rent from their homes. His job is to enforce the law, no matter how distasteful it is.
  • Repurposed Pop Song: The Beach Boys' "Wouldn't it Be Nice," used in bitter irony to show how Flint, Michigan is suffering.
  • Ronald Reagan: Ronald Reagan is presented as inviting some unemployed autoworkers to a pizzeria. He suggests they move south if they want jobs. Later that day, the pizzeria's cash register turned up missing.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: In-universe, an autoworker and later journalist named Ben Hamper (a personal friend of Moore's) remarked that he had been listening to "Wouldn't It Be Nice" by the Beach Boys during a nervous breakdown. Afterward, the song is later played over footage of Flint's continued decline, as well as a news report about the rat population of Flint exceeding the human population with all the abandoned buildings, and later, the end credits.
  • Upper-Class Twit: The wealthy of Flint are portrayed as out of touch with the suffering, but they 'help' some unemployed autoworkers, by giving them jobs as human statues for their parties. This was a bone of contention for Peter Rainer of the Los Angeles Times.
  • Wretched Hive: Smith's actions turn Flint into one — although the residents retain enough pride that when Money magazine declares them the worst town in America, they burn copies of the magazine in public.
  • Zany Scheme: In the wake of the city's ailing economy, the Flint Convention and Visitor's Bureau decide the best course of action is to turn it into a tourist trap. Among their ridiculous ventures is a $100 million indoor car-themed amusement park called AutoWorld. It works about as well as you'd expect ("like going to New Jersey to visit Chemical World, or Valdez, Alaska, to visit Exxon World"), and closes six months after opening.