Sunday, November 6, 2016

Super Delegates Bonus: Anthony Weiner in "Weiner" (2016)

Anthony Weiner
Welcome to Super Delegates Bonus. As a subsidiary of Super Delegates, the sporadic additional column is meant to explore depictions of politicians on film outside of the conventional methods of the column. This ranges from everything such as political candidates in TV movies and miniseries to real life candidates providing feedback on their pop culture representation. While not as frequent or conventional, the goal is to help provide a vaster look at politics on film as it relates to the modern election year. Join in and have some fun. One can only imagine what will be covered here.

Release Date: May 26, 2016
Directed By: Josh Kriegman, Elyse Steinberg
Written By: Josh Kriegman, Elyse Steinberg, Eli B. Despres
Starring: Huma Abedin, Amit Bagga, Adam S. Barta
Awards: N/A
Delegates in Question:
-Congressman Anthony Weiner

When it comes to Super Delegates picks, most of the narrative has been in place for quite some time. Everybody knows how the Richard M. Nixon or Abraham Lincoln stories go. Even more recent films like The Ides of March have some established sustenance for the modern election. Then there's Weiner; a 2016 documentary that felt crucial to include in a column dedicated to exploring politics on film. It seemed easy, especially with Congressman Anthony Weiner's story being well in the past. There couldn't be that many developments about the man himself to make a six month old documentary already out of date. That is what one would logically consider, especially since it's bound to receive some Oscar attention in the upcoming months. In fairness, that is the rationale that should've been applied when Weiner was released as a cautionary tale of how to run a political campaign. Instead, it was only an early chapter.

Weiner focuses on the political campaign in which Weiner tried to run for mayor. Speaking as his wife Huma Abedin is personally involved in the Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton's campaign, it felt timely to see the journey of a fallen politician. It starts off with the familiar story. Weiner is a Democrat who isn't afraid to lobby against the Republicans. He isn't afraid of confrontation. This is what makes him viral and even appealing to various demographics that should've made him a sure bet for a legitimate candidate. He had the personality of an eccentric hero who wasn't afraid to be candid. He would run around gay pride parades waving rainbow banners. On the surface, he looks heroic and what a modern politician should be.

At least, that's how it starts. With the advent of technology, Weiner is very involved with social media in ways both good and bad. The bad started its way with a photo of him in his underwear with that manly crease. What should've been a quiet affair was sent to his Twitter followers and soon lead to his downward spiral. His alter ego "Carlos Danger" soon became a joke for late night media circuits. The affair only continued to get worse as his mistress sought to earn fame, even attempting to run into the mayoral candidate at public speeches. Weiner tried running from his mistakes, but nobody wanted him to forget. Even then, initial forgiveness would lead to irony when a second incident came up, making his relationship to Abedin especially awkward.

The camera crew behind Weiner were given full permission to film him as he went about his campaign. It's a point made comical at the end when Weiner, now stripped of any political chances, questions why he even allowed the crew to film him. The evidence is pretty damning. His problems with Abedin are given behind the scenes access, and the whole thing plays like a crisis of character. Here was the man who could change politics, and now he was nothing but a joke made more obnoxious in that his name was similar to phallic slang. The documentary is appallingly comical in that it reflects how social media can ruin someone's career, both from outsider and insider use. Weiner stopped being seen as a hero and went viral for his increasingly desperate attempts for attention. He even would watch himself on news programs simply to gain joy from seeing him beat someone at the own political game.

Weiner's story should've been up to date by its May 2016 release. There shouldn't have been new cases that would make Weiner already a dated relic. To say the least, the story of how Weiner tries to atone for his actions becomes a piece of irony by that summer. It wasn't just the announcement of another affair. He was taking photos with his son in his bed. He was accused of flirting with an underage girl. His scandal even broke into the 2016 presidential election. While Abedin has been consistently helping Clinton, the investigation of Weiner's private files lead to a briefly troubling revelation involving Clinton. While it has since been proven to be inessential to Clinton's own personal lawsuit, it did bring Weiner back into focus for the third time in a year... and none of which was directly tied to the documentary.

It makes sense why Weiner would've wanted to film his campaign. It would very well for Bill Clinton with The War Room. Even Cory Booker had a very effective one in Street Fight. These documentaries could elevate the average politician to a thing of respect and timelessness. Weiner does feel crucial and timeless, though not for the heroic reasons that anyone starts their story for. If nothing else, Weiner will go down as one of the best documentaries of 2016. It has a 96% on critics aggregate website Rotten Tomatoes. The reviews are phenomenal and it's one of the most discussed in the field. If nothing else, it will be a story of how NOT to run a campaign.

Beyond the scandals, Weiner comes out the other end of Weiner a defeated man; turned into a clown. Nobody will debate him because they want to ask why a promiscuous man should be mayor of New York. Weiner wants to discuss issues, but that never happens. In a sense, it's a reflection of how faults overpower any talk of the issues. Even then, Weiner picks fights at delis and stumbles over his own feet repeatedly. He becomes sympathetic at points, though never becomes an outright hero. He has fallen, and the year 2016 has only made any chance for a sequel comeback all the more unlikely. Considering that Weiner may be his lasting impact on the culture at large, there's almost no chance that he will be more than a cautionary tale with a funny surname.

With the 2016 presidential election only a day away, it feels timely to look at this documentary and ponder how all of the candidates have represented themselves. There is value in being upfront and honest. There is value in trying to be morally sound. However, those who aren't are more likely to get scrutinized and may never get a chance to discuss their plan to make America, or in this case New York, into a place of thriving opportunity. No politician is perfect. Even those with an exceptional achievement ratio has some fault. Weiner just happened to depict one of the unluckiest and silliest campaigns in recent years. He'll never win because he never stood a chance. He defines train wrecks, and that makes his story all the more fascinating to dissect.

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