Mr Smith wasn’t Born Yesterday

TV programming sometimes brings us serendipitous discoveries. TCM’s Good Friday offering was Mr Smith Goes to Washington. This morning we watched Born Yesterday.

I never noticed how many similarities there are between the two films.

An innocent recently come to Washington DC, witnesses corruption in a person that they trusted, then (learning how their country works from a new friend), they take a stand against that corruption, and eventually find romance.

That describes both films.

Maybe I’m extra sensitive to the parallels given the news on TV, Derek Chauvin and the attack in DC that left a police officer dead. The darkness matches the Lenten season. Perhaps it’s the time of year that has me seeing these films in a different light? In both there’s a genuine reverence but not for religion, so much as a faith in the American experiment. There’s a sense that the buildings of the Capitol and the Lincoln Memorial are holy ground, that documents such as the Gettysburg Address or the declaration of independence are as sacred as Biblical scrolls. I find it magical, especially when seen through innocent eyes.

And in both films the press plays a key role. For Mr Smith there are different versions being published in print media, of the struggle that he’s facing. One comes from the huge invincible political machine he seeks to oppose/ The other is put out by the naive amateurs in boys’ clubs that he associates with. The scariest part of this film comes when we see the brutality with which that opposition (especially the children) is silenced.

In Born Yesterday Paul Verrall (William Holden) is a writer, hired to teach Billie Dawn (Judy Holiday). “Ver” is truth, so surely she can trust someone named “Verrall”.

Both stories remind us of the role of a free press. Both stories take us to (spoiler alert) happy endings that seem fragile, vulnerable in a world full of liars & con artists.

In the USA Fox News has changed the landscape, altering the conversation so extremely that one might well ask whether there is a conversation at all. Left & right are estranged. Conspiracy theories receive more support from people than ever before, after a presidency that cast huge doubts upon the press, popularizing the concept of “fake news” and “alternative facts”. Many believe the election was stolen. This belief was behind the January 6th rally in DC, including the assault on the Capitol.

The world is changing of course…

Speaking of “making America great again”, sometimes I wish it were possible to stop the onrush of change. I like The Simpsons, but sometimes their stories & images freak me out. The images in this episode first shown in 1999 eerily anticipate some of what we saw January 6th.

For Holy Week, on Good Friday, sometimes I can imagine that time really is standing still at least for the celebrations. But lately I’m not so sure. This was the first time I had seen either film since the January insurrection. They are if anything even more poignant than ever. I wonder if any of the insurgents has seen either film before, films that would suggest that one must treat the Capitol as holy ground, and not a place to be vandalized.

Although I’m grateful that I don’t live in the USA, I worry that our Conservative Party in Canada (who may be about to take power) plan to privatize the CBC, as you can see in this piece from a conservative source. Here’s a tweet from Erin O’Toole. He made the tweet in February 2020, becoming leader in the summer of 2020.

The party are soft-pedaling it now given that they hope to win the next election.

Where would we be in this country if we were similarly at the mercy of for-profit organizations such as Fox? I shudder to think….

I support Friends of Canadian Broadcasting. Who are they & what do they stand for? Their website says this as their purpose:

Canada enjoys a distinct cultural and democratic identity that brings us together and sets us apart. Generation after generation, vigilant citizens have fought against powerful interests to carve out space for Canada in the broadcasting system, to protect our culture and identity.

FRIENDS works to advance Canada’s rich culture and the healthy democracy it sustains. A strong CBC, fearless journalism, and our shared story make us who we are. We conduct leading-edge policy and opinion research on issues affecting Canadian media and related issues. This research demonstrates that millions of citizens care deeply about the future of Canadian media, journalism, and programming. This is why we work tirelessly on behalf of all Canadians to make sure that public policy reflects the will of citizens.

There’s lots more to the conversation. You can contact Friends of Canadian Broadcasting here or by email to

The world is changing.

This entry was posted in Cinema, video & DVDs, Personal ruminations & essays, Politics, Popular music & culture, Spirituality & Religion and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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