Wag the Dog

Wag the Dog [Motion picture on DVD]. (1997). United States: New Line      Cinema.

Staring: Dustin Hoffman, Robert De Nero, Anne Hech, Willie Nelson, Kirsten Dunst, Woody Harrelson, and many more.


A movie that grabs you due to color on the cover, famous actors, or just an interesting subject will be a prosperous movie seller. I chose Wag the Dog due to its surprising title. I had heard about the novel that the film was based on, American Hero by Larry Beinhart. I knew it wasn’t a about a dog, so why call the film Wag the Dog? The usual phrase is for the dog to wag its tail. I sat down with a bowl of cheese puffs and watched my curiosity. In the first 30 seconds the question of the title was quoted to intrigue a story,

“Why does a dog wag its tail?

Because a dog is smarter than its tail.

If the tail were smarter,

then tail would wag the dog” (time Wag the Dog).

This introduction gave the viewers a preview on the perception of how someone or a group who is usually behind the scenes of the action is the real brainpower in the influence of the advertising world.

Starting at the White House, we quickly learn the main characters are the secretaries and executives that are commercializing the president. There were many issues that progressed to creating a fake war after the president lost the people’s trust of the people by having a sexual assault with a Firefly girl. There are two main ethical boundaries events that occurred during the film that representing the most loss of credibility toward the presidential campaign.

First is the made up Albanian girl running through the fires to escape the war at her home. This would be categorized in the code of ethics of television and journalism. The video designed to look like a journalist videographer took it. Obviously, the fact it was all green screened, the woman isn’t Albanian, and the cat she is carrying is a bag of chips is breaking the journalist ethical law of, “Seek truth and report it. Journalists should be honest, fair, and courageous in gathering, reporting, and interpreting information.” (Media Law pg. 48). Television a false story goes against code of ethics in advertising as well, “ False or misleading statements or exaggerations, visual, or verbal” (pg 52). Falsely telling the public that there are people in Albania that are running for their live to this “war” is ethically wrong causing the presidency to lose credibility.

Second scene that goes against our advertising and societal ethics is the creation of a fake American hero. The characters take it even further by advertising of a fake American hero funeral on television. At this point in the movie, viewers are either extremely angry at the ethical unreasoning of the situation or impressed on how much effort it takes to create an imaginary war. This “pageant” was in such great detail, the crew even made sure there was a dog following the coffin to give the people a sense of connection of love. Expressing a bit of hope the people is not a bad thing, but creating hope after making the people sad and overwhelmed is socially unaccepted.


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