BOB ROBERTS

The presidential election is coming! It’s the time when we are forced to choose the candidate that…you know, is the least evil. Unfortunately, in this election we have many scary would-be candidates from both parties. In fact, if I was a US citizen I’d vote for a third party for sure. Nonetheless, there’s one candidate that everyone is talking about. He’s really outrageous and pisses everybody off. To me, he reminds me of another forgotten candidate. His name is Bob Roberts.

Bob Roberts is a 1992 mockumentary film directed by and starring Tim Robbins that shows us the worst case scenario for a presidential election. In this film, we have, you guessed it, Bob Roberts (Robbins). He’s a country singer who becomes a popular conservative candidate for the Pennsylvania senate. When he was kid, he had lots of problems with his teachers and friends in school. It was so bad that he ran away from home. He later claimed that “I know what’s it like to be homeless” which is bullcrap considering that he became homeless not because of poverty, but because of his behavior. Next, he becomes a successful investor on Wall Street and releases Country albums that have lyrics about Conservative values. Let’s take a look at one of his songs, shall we?

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“Some people must have/Some people have not/But they’ll complain and complain and complain and complain and complain/Some people will work/Some simply will not/But they’ll complain and complain and complain and complain and complain/Like this: It’s society’s fault I don’t have a job/It’s society’s fault I am a slob/I have potential no one can see/Give me welfare. Let me be me!/Hey, Bud, you’re livin’ in the Land of the Free/No one’s gonna hand you opportunity!”

Or this song: “I’m a bleeding heart/Let’s give money away/To lazy people in the slums/I’m a bleeding heart/Let’s eliminate our nuclear bombs/Arabs can be…Our friends/Right/Don’t vote if you believe in that/We’ll be fine without you/It’s plain to see what you believe/Will lead to anarchy”

He gains popularity then he starts getting into the political circles by founding “Broken Dove”, an organization that leads a war on drugs…and by that I mean he goes to kindergarten classes and takes publicity photos of him singing with kids.

Meanwhile, Bugs Raplin (Giancarlo Esposito), a leftist journalist tries to expose Bob while his competitor, Brickley Paiste (Gore Vidal) is caught in a sexual scandal (Gee, I wonder who created the scandal?). As the film goes on, it shows him sitting in a tour bus that has a gigantic room for brokers, he chooses the right posters and commercials for his campaign. We learn of his obsession with sword-fighting (he has to fight every morning no matter how late it is) and his Broken Dove organization is later exposed as a front to send transport planes to carry weapons and drugs for the Iran-Contra scandal.

Bob loves public appearances. He appears on a local TV show “Good Morning Philadelphia” and has a fight with the interviewer by accusing the host of being a communist since she disagrees with his uber-morality and anti-60’s revolutionary views. This is what she says after the show: “You want Americans to cast their votes based on hatred and ignorance.”

There’s also a debate scene between the two candidates. While Brickley spends most of his time explaining his policies, Bob mostly blames Brickley for anything while pushing his vague policies. Later on he appears on a popular variety show which makes some of the performers leave in protest, so he uses this opportunity to promote his campaign instead of singing his usual songs.

Another thing that this film shows is hypocrisy. There’s a scene in which Bob claims that he was homeless, but then he quickly earns money and becomes successful. Immediately after that, his mom denies this claim by saying that he enrolled in military college by forging her signature on a check!

Nothing tops the fact that Bob fakes his own assassination to blame Bugs. The film doesn’t clearly show that it’s fake, but there are few elements that give a hint to us. Like when one of Bob’s campaigners lies that 7 or 8 Arabs are behind it or when we CLEARLY see a security guard push one of Bob’s fans away so nobody stands near him except Bugs. It also implies corruption between Bob, the police and the media.

Meanwhile, the film portrays Liberals in both a good and bad way. Here’s a good quote from Brickley: “I am totally opposed to it. It’s the enemy of the month club again. Saddam Hussein, I believe, is the most evil man – what did the President say? – since Adolf Hitler. Before that, it was Noriega. He was the most evil man since Fu Manchu. And there was Gaddafi and there was Castro. And these figures are thrown out to the media and made into great monsters. Why? Because we must justify the military budget. In order to do that, you must have enemies. So we blow up these local thugs into these huge, Hitler-like figures and pretend it’s World War II all over again.”

I know that we have to fight bad guys, but sometimes I don’t think it’s our duty to be the world’s police. It shows that there were wars in the past that happened only because of corruption, not real danger. Here’s another quote from Brickley that needs no explanation.

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“I get vibrations from Mr. Bob Roberts of a very disturbing sort. I haven’t any idea who he is. I haven’t any idea what he’s like. I don’t think I’m supposed to have any idea. I know that he proved to be a master of pushing racist buttons and sexist buttons, this and that. The politics of emotion. He’s very good at that.”

Anyway, let’s take a look at Bugs. He represents the bad side of Liberals. Sure, he exposes lots of information about Bob and although some of his conspiracy theories are dubious, he also fights Bob in a stupid way. He always tries to confront Bob and ask him how many bad things he did. I mean, what is Bob supposed to say? “Yes. I’m a corrupt guy who traded drugs in Iran-Contra”? No! He’s not gonna say that! yet Bugs keep doing it over and over again. He’s kind of annoying and I’m not surprised by what happens to him in the end.

The film also lampoons sensationalism in the media. There’s a scene in which newscasters laugh at the poverty rate and how Brickley’s gonna deal with it, then they quickly cut to another news segment about some pageant and Brickley’s scandal…why? That’s not about ratings at all, right?

I know this film is mostly on the Liberal side. I know this is getting old, but the more I watch the film the more it reflects THAT particular candidate. It’s beyond scary since this film more or less predicted what’s happening 24 years ago! And if you think I’m a commie socialist, read the very first paragraphs or the whole review again!

Nuttawut Permphithak

Nuttawut is a Thai student who's spending his final year in university studying marketing. In his free time he watches exploitation films... or any films from the past, writing articles, taking photos, and reviewing films for the GCDB. These activities sometimes make him "mad as hell", but he really likes that feeling!

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