In this 2009 documentary style film by Michael Moore, capitalism or the so-called free market economy is portrayed as endemically evil and corrupt, manipulated by the big corporations, and causing poverty to worsen while the wealthy just get richer every day. The film also focuses on America’s middle class and their constant struggle to manage their finances in the difficult economic climate resulting from the actions of those corporations, under an economic system that the film maintains simply is not working.
In terms of rhetoric appeal, the film uses logos, pathos and ethos as appropriate to connect effectively with the audience. For example, Moore used logos when he showed the “Dead Peasant” policies – the insurance policies that corporations secretly hold on the lives of “ordinary” employees, then benefit from them when the employee dies. There were several instances of pathos, including people seen losing their jobs or being evicted. Ethos surfaced in scenes such as religious individuals denouncing the evils of capitalism.
The way the film is narrated provides a most effective rhetorical strategy, with Moore changing the tone of his voice to suit the context. Examples are adopting an inquisitive tone when he is guiding the audience to consider the answer to a question, or adopting a much more sombre tone when covering an unpleasant or distasteful issue. A particularly notable and obvious example was when Moore repeated slowly the statement that “capitalism is evil.” Perhaps a weakness of the film was that it did not fairly present both sides of the arguments, nor solid supporting evidence for Moore’s perspective on the issues covered. Although Moore’s arguments and statements were well presented, providing a fairly persuasive documentary that may well have stimulated further debate, it was a rather one-sided view of many of the issues included, hence raising as many questions as it provided answers.
Moore, Michael, Moore, Anne, Birleson, Rod, Hardesty, John and Gibbs, Jeff. Capitalism: A Love Story. Montreal: Alliance Vivafilm, 2010.