"I take orders from the Octoboss."

The Yes Men

This is not my favorite type of documentary, but it is an acceptable type. This is the type where the filmatism is not impressive at all, but it gets by completely on the fact that the subject itself is interesting. This is a movie about two sarcastic imposters who infiltrate the corporate world in order to make a point. They are activists, but not the frustrating kind who just make signs with awkward signs and chant “this is what democracy looks like” even if they’re being beaten by police for their political views (which I thought was NOT what democracy looks like, but I didn’t have a good way to chant that). These are the kind who are much more clever and ballsy.

You might’ve heard of some of the things these guys did. Like the time they bought talking GI Joe and Barbie dolls, switched their voice boxes, then snuck them back into the toy stores. So kids were buying Barbie dolls talking about recon missions and GI Joes talking about shopping and math is hard.

The Yes MenThey were also the guys who did the fake George W. Bush campaign web sight that caused him to say, “there oughta be limits to freedom,” and then the sarcastic gatt.org web sight that was a big deal during my city’s famous WTO protests.

Well that sight was obviously a satire of corporations and their lack of ethics, but the design was very realistic. So what started happening was business people would be looking for contact information for the WTO, they would find this web sight and without reading any of the text, it would look legit and they’d skip straight to the contacts. Next thing you know these two guys (under various fake names and disguises) are being brought in as guest speakers at seminars and conventions and crap.

So they got Chris Smith (director of AMERICAN MOVIE) and a couple other people to follow them on some of these trips. Basically what you got is interviews where they talk about their past and then some sort of limited footage of what happens when they go do these talks. They expect to be called out as imposters or even arrested, but it doesn’t happen. So they start trying to push the envelope, making their talks as outrageous as possible. People believe they’re actual WTO representatives, and they’re going up there talking about why slavery is not cost effective (it doesn’t seem to occur to them that anyone would also have a moral problem with it), how to sell “recycled” hamburgers (made out of shit) to the Third World, etc. And the idea of the movie is that it’s horrifying to see how much they can say without getting a reaction. Like these busines people aren’t even surprised.

To be fair though, you don’t really know. The camera crew is small (so as not to give away that this is a documentary) and you really don’t get that many reaction shots. When one of the guys suddenly tears off his suit and tie to reveal a gold lame suit with a giant inflatable TV screen/penis for spying on third world workers, there is laughter and a little applause (like he just did a magic trick or something), and after that they just sit there like this is not unusual.

But I don’t know, I’m not convinced that proves anything. There’s a good chance they’re thinking “What the fuck is up with THIS guy?” but just being polite about it. I don’t know.

Still, I think these guys are fucking great. I really like their approach. Instead of saying, “The WTO does this and this and it’s bad” they pretend to be the WTO and say “we do this and this, and we’re proud of it.” Some people will ask what good this does other than entertaining people who already agree with them. Well, let me tell you what good it does.

Imagine if these guys started a movement. Imagine if alot of people started doing this. I don’t know how many people have the balls to do what they do, but there must be more of them out there. Picture this. At a convention, business leaders hear some insane proposal for putting implants in their workers’ heads or whatever. And they find out it wasn’t real, it was some joker from the Yes Men tricking them.

So after that, every time these guys hear some maniac’s amoral business ideas, they have to wonder “Have I seen this guy before? Is he for real? Or is this one of them Yes Man jokes?” They have to question everything they hear. “Is that a good idea? Or is that sarcasm?” Imagine it becomes common. These guys don’t want to be played for suckers. Eventually they’ll start turning down actual proposals, thinking they are practical jokes.

I mean this would be very hard to pull off but I think it is viable. But even if you disagree, this movie will give you a couple good laughs. I mean, they got power point presentations and everything. Wait til you see the computer animation of how the giant inflatable gold penis works. These guys are pretty good.

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This entry was posted on Thursday, December 16th, 2004 at 4:31 pm and is filed under Documentary, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

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