Agitprop with a mawkish “personal” twist, The Brainwashing of My Dad censures the rise — and tactics — of right-wing media through the prism of director Jen Senko’s elderly father, a former liberal whose mounting Rush Limbaugh and Fox News fandom turned him into an angry, bitter monster.
That story is merely the superficial pretext for a formulaic lament-cum- condemnation of the way in which conservatives — through canny political moves, corporate consolidation, and Roger Ailes–pioneered strategies — have seized so much of modern media. Via the usual grab bag of statistics and talking-head interviews (as well as animated sequences from Bill Plympton), what emerges is an ironic be-very-afraid message about the right’s radio and TV fearmongering.
By the time quotes from Joseph Goebbels are used to explain Fox’s methods, The Brainwashing of My Dad has resorted to the tactics of its targets, muddying its more cogent points through extreme, generalized denunciations of all right-leaning outlets as poisonous agents intent on mutating susceptible innocents into intolerant hatemongers.
With both Matthew Modine and Senko serving as choir-preaching narrators, the film so diligently eschews any tempered analysis that it eventually comes across as akin to the very thing it’s decrying, complete with a baldly propagandistic finale in which Senko’s father’s is transformed — no, saved — by his decision to turn off Rush and start reading Truthout and Alternet.
The Brainwashing of My Dad
Directed by Jen Senko
Opens March 18, Cinema Village