There is an epiphanic moment in Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues when the news icon Ron Burgundy (Will Ferrell) comes up with the winning idea which will allow the graveyard shift to which he has been exiled to triumph over his rival’s primetime ratings. “Why do we have to tell them what they need to hear?” he asks. “Why can’t we tell them what they want to hear.” And what they want are stories which involve animals, car chases and strip clubs (the “fifty greatest vaginas” is one of the hot pieces of journalism on the show). Thus a story about the car chase that ensues when the wife of a celebrity cuts off his penis creates a frenzy in the newsroom. And it’s a car chase that ends up upstaging Ron’s estranged wife, Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate), an anchor at the rival WBC, as she interviews Yasir Arafat. Ron has a penchant for burgundy leisure suits by the way. Ha, ha. Outrage about the mediocrity or idiocy of the movie which includes lines like “Who in the hell is Julius Caesar, I don’t follow the NBA,” (a line that’s so silly it’s actually funny) only conscripts such conscientious objectors into the movie’s wake of comic destruction. Anchorman 2 is thus criticism proof. Either lay down arms and laugh like an asshole or become an asshole for daring to make judgment calls about the films idiotic conceits. But what is truly unsettling about Anchorman 2 is that its absurdist news philosophy (which has a distinct America First slant) together with Ron’s cry for “more graphics,” makes it a blueprint not for CNN, the all news network it purportedly parodies (the company is called GNN, Global News Network), but Fox News. The scene at the end of the movie where Ron gets up and walks off camera is no Network, but there are echoes of Peter Finch’s famous speech. The founder of the all news network is an Australian air line mogul who talks about synergy when killing a story that’s critical of his company and he also bears resemblances to both Ted Turner and Richard Branson and take your pick of the network executives who are the prototype for the TV executive played by Harrison Ford. But at the end of the day watching Anchorman 2 is just like watching Fox News. In fact, Fox News has on occasion outdone Anchorman 2 in both its reporting style and choice of stories. At one point Ron asks his wife about their six year old son, “are you sure he’s not a midget with a learning disorder?” And what you begin to realize is that Ron’s outlandish locutions create a new epistemology of news gathering. Given the right audience, you can say literally anything about reality and call it news. Anchorman 2 does for TV journalism what Animal House did for higher education.
The Ensign of Collage
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