The movie entitled Wag the Dog was directed by Barry Levinson in 1997 which was about the way in which media can divert the publics attention on the presidents sex scandal with a firefly girl. The characters of the movie do this by creating a fake war with the country Albania which was suggested by Conrad Brean (played by Robert De Niro) who was one of the main characters in the movie. They are able to divert the whole sex scandal situation through the expertise of a film producer named Stanley Motts (played by Dustin Hoffman). The media uses images, symbols and signs in order to catch the public’s attention on issues that may not be important to them but what they may need to ‘complete’ their lives. This is derived from the concept of the postmodern era where our brains are being saturated in such images, signs and symbols. The public will think that it is reality yet it is the media’s version of ‘reality’. This is the style in which Motts uses to derive the public away from the president’s sex scandal.
At the beginning scene of the movie, the setting was dark and mysterious as Conrad and the president’s advisors were talking about the issue of the sex scandal and finding out ways of diverting the public from that issue. Through this, we can see that this particular setting is used to imply the secretiveness of a dark setting as most disclosed plans are made underground or under a tunnel away from the public. This is represented the same way as in society in the present day where most gang members do the same. We can already see Conrad’s character as being demanding, cynical and intelligent as he is the one who has the idea of the fake war with Albania. He is the leader of the whole operation and has to make sure that all goes well according to plan. Stanley Motts is seen as a typical Hollywood producer that Conrad visits to insist him on producing his fake war. Stanley Motts acts similar to any other film producer in the present day as all they ever think about is credit towards a particular project and to become famous by achieving something great.
The idea of Conrad suggesting Albania is to show that the country is small and he knew that Albania as a whole have not done anything deceitful to America. As stated in the movie, Anne Heche who is Conrad assistant says that she knows “nothing” and in response Conrad says, “They seem shifty, standoffish”. This is similar to the present day where the bullies in school ‘pick on’ the weaker children identical to America ‘picking on’ Albania to bully them.
We can see that Conrad and Motts had the same ideology of creating a war to divert the controversy away from the public. As the saying states, “Great minds think alike”. As any other politician, Conrad knows how to play the game as he offers Motts a position of being an ambassador, however Motts wants to do it for the fun it. This shows how manipulative a politician can be to get his/her way by mentioning ways of giving them a reward which in this case was the position of an ambassador. However, whatever politician say may not always be true even through their line of expertise as they try to ‘spin’ the information on someone, in this case Conrad does this on Motts to motivate and inspire him to produce his fake war. From this, we can say that Conrad is referred to as the president’s spin doctor because he relies on Conrad to make the situation change away from the public connoting the close relationship presented by the president and Conrad.
During the scene of building the war, Motts uses a simple teenage girl to play the role of an Albanian girl to re-enact her in a war zone, however, the girl was holding a bag of chips instead of a white kitten as Motts could not find the kitten he wanted. As shown in the movie, the white kitten was edited later instead of the bag of chips to imply how media can easily play around with images using modern technology which the public will not know about and will think that it is real. The white kitten that was edited in the scene is to signify innocence, peace and purity onto the public and make them more interested in the lost girl at war and not the president’s sex scandal. We can already see how the media quickly changes people’s minds into another dramatic concern at hand which is similar in our contemporary culture where we get saturated into certain advertisements, such as an advert for Disneyland where we live in a hyperreal world and both realities of media and the real world are blurred in as one.
Another sign of politics is shown within the movie where Conrad and Anne are having a conversation with a CIA agent claiming that the Albanian war is all a hoax. We can see how Conrad ‘spins’ and twists the information on the CIA agent to change the whole statement convincing him that the war is ‘real’. At the same time, we see another side of Anne as she does not seem to be involved with the operation which shows her cowardly side of her character due to the penalties that she may face. Another sign of innocence, peace and purity was shown during the producing of the war where a young ‘Albanian’ girl offers the president an offering of helping her and her mother. At the same time, the president offers his coat to the young girl’s mother to indicate that he is giving her shelter and pity towards her emotions due her suffering in the war.
Motts severally states within the movie that, “This is nothing” connoting that as a film producer, one is to be prepared for mishaps that may occur in the line of producing and find ways to develop the original idea to convince the public that the ‘war’ is still alive. The way in which he says, “This is nothing”, he was very calm about it as he knew what he was doing being a Hollywood film producer, similar to what Hollywood producers would act in the present day. He named it as Act Two where we witness the development of the ‘war hero’ Schumann. The music used in the movie has both a military tune and a national tune. By a military tune, it is that it has a 2 by 4 rhythm signifying that the military are marching onto war or during war as shown at the beginning of the movie and during Schumann’s funeral. This gives the impression of hard-looking and fierce men with their chest out and shoulders upright and also being tidy. At the same time, there is a national tune that is sung by a choir similar to the style to the song of the late Michael Jackson with various artists known as ‘We are the world’. This connotes the patriotism that is revealed through the songs. This is done to make the public ‘fall in love’ with the song, affect their emotions and feel proud to be an American as well as to make them forget about the sex scandal controversy.
At Schumann’s funeral, a dog is shown next to the casket as it is being carried off my other soldiers to show the loyalty and faithfulness that the dog has towards Schumann even though it is not real. With this taking place, Motts does not feel comfortable as he has to the truth hence the phrase, ‘Letting the cat out of the box’ as he wanted to expose all that had happened because it all looked real and honest towards the public. However, again we see how the game of politics is played as Conrad sends for his men to kill Motts as he was going to tell the truth. We can see that Conrad only used Motts for producing his war and there was no use for Motts anymore showing how manipulative Conrad was when he was convincing Motts to agree with the production. It is better to keep a secret than to let it out because one cannot trust anyone but especially in this case, politicians, as they can be deceiving.