TO THE FOURTH POWER (2013) – This film was one of the sleeper hits of last year. You’d think it would be impossible to do something creative with the mock documentary format at this point but To The Fourth Power proves to be a thought-provoking and inventive piece set “just a few years from now”.
The movie depicts a near future in which the American people have taken back the 4th of July and have transformed it into more than just a celebration of the nation’s birth: into an expression of the rapidly rising public resentment at the way elected officials represent the wishes of their political party and not the wishes of the people who elect them.
Director Eddie Wozniak’s mockumentary’s timeline shows that this transformation began with enterprising fireworks salesmen making a fortune off fireworks shaped like the Democratic Party jackass and the Republican Party elephant. The chance to watch those two symbols of the increasingly hated parties burning up and/or being exploded to bits was too good for consumers to resist and made the salesmen a quick fortune.
Over the next few July 4th’s (the movie intentionally stays vague about how many) this meme went viral, and the anniversary of America’s rebellion against Great Britain also became a rowdy and raucous rebellion of sorts against the two political parties who had hijacked the nation’s political system, freezing out any real chance of third parties threatening their shared monopoly.
Things like Obamacare, the Iraq War, drone killings, technical surveillance and other unpopular policies pursued by presidents from both parties showed that Democrats and Republicans felt well-insulated from the opinions of the people they governed. Barack Obama’s ill-concealed hatred for the citizenry was another factor feeding the flames of general hostility toward an uncaring and unresponsive federal government.
Eventually vicarious enactments of hostility to the political classes took even sharper form, with pictures of elected officials from both parties being set fire to in bonfires or used as target practice in gun and rifle competitions across the country every Independence Day.
Scenes of jubilant partiers cheering as pictures and statues of the likes of George W Bush, Barack Obama, Sarah Palin and Hillary Clinton are shot, burned or blown up are very powerful and pack a visceral punch. No doubt such disrepect toward King George III seemed as dangerous back in 1776.
News outlets that were basically just house organs of the Democrats and Republicans at first ignored or downplayed the increasingly edgy “Extreme July 4th” celebrations. As the intensity of the celebrations increased the Secret Service began moving in to pre-empt public celebrations that involved burning or shooting the images of incumbent presidents.
The government stepped up efforts to legislate what could and could not be done to celebrate Independence Day and the federal enforcement arms began making arrests each year when the holiday rolled around. Clashes between authorities and revelers became inevitable and To The Fourth Power takes the viewer down some very unexpected and sobering paths as it examines the consequences of those clashes.
“Death to the Democratic and Republican Parties” is a fairly simple-minded paraphrasing of the movie’s message employed by detractors. Reviewers who are still mired in the useless and outdated “liberal vs conservative” paradigm try to dismiss this film by painting it as a naive endorsement of third parties. Some even try to read more sinister motives into the movie, a testament to its powerful impact.
At its core, however, To The Fourth Power raises perfectly legitimate questions about the unconstitutional monopoly that the Democratic and Republican parties exercise over the American electoral system. The film’s depiction of the two parties as “rival gangs of white-collar criminals” may sound a bit strong until the actual – often criminal – conduct of Democratic and Republican office-holders is considered.
The two-party stranglehold on the electoral system also negates the built-in checks and balances provided for in the Constitution. Instead of having three co-equal branches of government concerned with keeping a wary eye on each other we have the ugly situation in which any sitting president has huge numbers of his party’s lackies in the House and Senate as well as some sitting on the Supreme Court. The two political parties have their tentacles in all three branches of government. This ugly situation means that NO U.S. president will likely ever be both impeached AND convicted, given how votes for conviction or acquittal would likely go along party lines.
You have to admire the clever way in which To The Fourth Power avoids any mention of outrightly rebelling against the actual federal government, but instead depicts the increasingly unresponsive Democratic and Republican parties as a “ball and chain” limiting the freedom of all Americans. All the rebellious activity presented in the movie is targeted at those two parties (“the Royal Houses” as the film sarcastically calls them) and their repulsive elected figures.
This is not a real film, of course. But you have to wonder why it’s not.
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