Where to Invade Next? (2016)

casey I think we can agree that Michael Moore has managed to invade the most crucial place of all…our hearts.

brooke Right? How does he know just what’s going to get me right in the socialist corner of my ticker?

casey Truth is, this one is no classic, but it’s not bad. The conceit of Where to Invade Next is that Moore has been commissioned by the US government to “invade” other countries and claim their best parts for ourselves. This leads to a series of vignettes that amount to “Hey, check out what this country does! Wouldn’t it be cool if America did that?” We get a glimpse of Italy’s relaxed labor laws, Finland’s public education system, Iceland’s more rigorous bank regulations, and so on.

brooke I’m not sure which invasion made me more jealous, but given my current full-time teaching gig, I’m inclined to say I desperately need the Finnish teachers’ pay scale.

casey All this is shown in a typically Michael Moore style, with jaunty voiceover, humor, and moments of somber reflection, although there’s less of the anger that fueled some of his earlier movies. Some segments drag on far too long after Moore has made his point– I’m looking at you, Norwegian Prisons–and, as with any documentary, you always have to ask what’s not being shown. How did the things Moore highlights come into being? What was sacrificed to get them? How are they being contested today? In the end, Moore is not doing investigative journalism or comparative political science, and I happen to agree with the ideas he highlights. I just can’t shake the suspicion that his rosy “We could do it if we came together and tried!” message obscures the actual political struggle necessary to get there.

brooke He did show some of the protests, like the famous Women’s Day Off strike that took place in Iceland in 1975, but didn’t talk at all about the frustrations that led the women to organize so well and in such force–90% of the women in the country didn’t work, cook, clean, or do much of anything else except get outside and protest–or about how they got from the strike to the laws in force today that make Iceland a world leader in gender equality.
The movie definitely glosses over any potential call to action in favor of a “we could do this right now” attitude. Many of the ideas Moore “claims” for America to use are simple changes, but what does that matter if the changes aren’t forced by some cultural catalyst?

casey I guess the takeaway is that as an aspirational statement, Where to Invade Next is cheerful and agreeable, even if it glosses over a whole lot. Would it win over anyone not already on Moore’s side? I’d like to hope so, but who can say? For what it is, it’s okay.

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