Reality TV, Italian-style, in Videocracy


A stale vibe is only one of the problems pervading Erik Gandini’s documentary about the pathological symbiosis between unregulated media control and celebrity mania in Italy. Gandini brings the news that lots of (mostly working-class) Italians believe that five minutes of semi-nude self-display on television will bring them fame, and that fame will bring pots of money, media attention, and marriage to a famous football player or 40 virgins. Those who actually achieve fame and fortune—a super-agent, a paparazzo and extortion-racketeer to the stars who’s all too willing to preen for Gandini’s camera, and President Silvio Berlusconi himself, armed with a perpetual plastic smirk—turn out to be narcissistic sleazebags with nothing but contempt for those they prey on.

That Berlusconi owns great chunks of Italian media makes a pressing, if hardly startling, case for separation of powers in a putative advanced democracy (Berlusconi invited one sexy female hopeful to be his Minister for Gender Equality). But Videocracy is hopelessly infected with the very prurience it means to expose—again and again, Gandini returns to images of pretty women grinding away for the camera in hopes of scoring their 15 minutes. The most likable, if also pathetic, character in this whole nasty reality show is a young lathe operator who still lives with his mother—and has put the rest of his life on hold to muscle up and pursue the dream he thinks he wants more than anything in the world.

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