Why is Watergate still relevant in Hollywood movies?
There are some themes that you can count on to see in Hollywood movies quite regularly. Inspirational tales about underdogs, war movies, royal scandals and politics. Every aspects of politics. Film stories about the people in it, their affairs, their career suicides, political fuck ups and obviously high ranking scandals that ultimately contributed to their fall.
And one particular subject of that is the Watergate scandal. Admittedly the major political scandal is over 4 decades old, but is still prevalent in modern Hollywood cinema. Why? Why is Watergate still fascinating theme to explore? Well let’s try and comprehend from an outsider’s point of view.
For the record. I’m not an American. I’ve never set foot in USA, and yet as every living breathing creature that had a reasonable education and even better sense of learning and investigating, I’m fairly familiar with the Watergate scandal.
Even further more. I’m not a political journalist. I’m not politically affiliated person and my understanding of world politics it that of a European/Millennial 30 something basic bitch. But as a journalist who has been writing about films for almost 9 years now, I’ve noticed something… Among the themes I’ve mentioned… once in a while… Watergate will pop up.
Cynics might say that this is due to lack of fresh and original ideas in Hollywood, and it’s partially true. Furthermore the majority of the movies are concentrated on the leak, discovery and subsequent investigation, whether it’s from Bob Woodward/Carl Bernstein’s perspective of from Mark Felt’s perspective. Very few are depicted from Richard Nixon’s POV to be honest. Again… Why is that?
Well, my theory is that in the long lasting tradition of Hollywood tales, we (the film audience) have become accustomed to see how the good prevails over evil. Again I’m not being biased or political… just making a generalized assumption that what President Nixon did was wrong (hence he’s the evil villain in this particular story) and what Mark Felt, Bob Woodward, Carl Bernstein did was wright (hence they’re heroes of the story). And who doesn’t love a good hero story? Hollywood certainly loves them, and because of that, next month we’ll be able to see Liam Neeson in one such role.
That of Mark Felt, the famous whistle blower formerly known as Deep Throat. He was a Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) special agent who served as the Bureau’s Associate Director, the FBI’s second-highest-ranking post, from May 1972 until his retirement from the FBI in June 1973. During his time as Associate Director, Felt served as an anonymous informant, nicknamed “Deep Throat”, to reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein of The Washington Post, providing them critical information about the Watergate scandal, a scandal which ultimately led to the resignation of President Richard M. Nixon in 1974. Felt died in 2008 at the age of 95, but 3 years prior he revealed his true identity to the general public.
Sure, there are some connections with the current political climate and the many attempts of impeachment for the current president of USA, Donald Trump (for several reasons). But I think it’s more due to nostalgia. To the state of the journalism that once was. You see in the era of social media, digital media outlets and fast reporting, the work of Bob Woodward/Carl Bernstein now is almost fiction. The Watergate movies are drenched with nostalgia of a time when journalist were heroes. When their words can expose and bring down a god damn president. When journalism (and especially investigative journalism) meant something more than it does today. First of all how many investigative journalists are out there now, and how many of them are able to do what the reporters of Washington Post did back in 1972?
And lastly Hollywood (being the liberal Mecca of the free world) loves whistle blowers. They are the unsung masked super heroes. The caped crusaders that fight injustice, crime and corruption. We’ve had several of them since Mark Felt actually. Daniel Ellsberg, Jeffrey Wigand, Frank Serpico, Chelsea Manning, Edward Snowden just to name a few. They are the most recent and prolific ones, and all of them either have been portrayed in Hollywood movies, or there are movies about them in development … yet to be released.
The same can be said about Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down the White House. A Peter Landesman written/directed movie that comes out next month. Liam Neeson is playing Mark Felt, and I can’t wait for this one. And it’s not about nostalgia to be honest. I wasn’t in my parents’ 10 year plan when the Watergate events occurred. I’m a 90’s child raised by Hollywood movies I’m a afraid. So naturally I want to see god prevail over evil once more. Even if it’s for an event that happened 45 years ago. Who knows, maybe it will inspire some other journalist to pull a Woodward/Bernstein move? You know… Bring the White House down AGAIN?