it’s worth watching in spite of its many flaws. the production values are sometimes fairly amateurish, but this is forgivable because it adds to the grassroots feel of the documentary. what isn’t forgivable, though, is the manipulation of facts and emotions that greenwald employs. the facts are generally solid, but, like most people, he will mold the facts to buttress his claims. this is expected, but i tend to hold leftist causes to a higher standard of intellectual honesty than the likes of fox news, rush limbaugh, etc. that said, the biggest disappointment of the documentary is the way it employs anti-chinese sentiments, religion and fear to make its case. each of these three has a sizable segment of the documentary which capitalizes on the viewers’ potential fears/morals in these categories. none of these segments is fully without merit, but each segment made me cringe a bit at some point.
the segment on china was good because it addressed the real problem of chinese workers being mistreated because of the demand wal-mart places on chinese suppliers. however, it also stunk a bit of anti-chinese rhetoric. one might point out that this was predominately espoused by everyday americans in interview footage, but greenwald, through editing, is the one responsible for bringing the ideas to the film. that is, this is not simply a fly-on-the-wall documentary – it’s a filmed essay much in the way michael moore made his last two films.
to me, the religion segment, though well-intentioned, smacked of contrivance. it just seemed like greenwald was trying so hard throughout the film to appeal to a new audience. early in the film when greenwald establishes his thesis, he uses interviews with small town folk who are affected by the arrival of wal-mart. during these sequences greenwald makes it a point to highlight the bush 2004 stickers on the wall and the american flag flying in front of the store and the picture of ronald reagan in the office…with the religious segment of the film, greenwald’s pandering to a new audience reaches the absurd. people in inglewood talk about fighting wal-mart because it’s the christian thing to do and greenwald intercuts footage of a priest talking about the lust for money being the root of all evil, etc.
another segment of the film focused on the many crimes that have taken place in wal-mart parking lots. greenwald asserts that wal-mart hasn’t done enough to protect their customers once they leave the store, in spite of over-whelming evidence that a single security guard in a golf cart can reduce crime to near zero.
with all of the the above segments i felt that greenwald was stretching, either to appeal to a new audience or to appeal to a more base side of humanity. while this may be effective, i think the method (means) is more important than the outcome (ends). i also felt that some of these arguments are tantamount to telling teenagers to stay away from drugs so that they don’t support al-qaeda. while it may hold some truth, and it may get the job done (keep them off drugs) it’s sorta dishonest in some cases, and distracts from the real issues in others. that said, there is a good amount of time spent on the real issues: worker’s rights, gender/racial equality, disposition of small businesses, government subsidies, etc. wal-mart is fucking evil and this documentary is inclusive and deep enough to expose this well-known fact. i certainly had a couple problems with the picture, but overall it’s pretty good and definitely worth checking out because it’s educational.