Current Events · Review

Why “The Post” is the Most Important Movie You Need to Watch

Normally, I’m all about letting people live their own lives by not telling them what to do, but I’m breaking my rule just this once to tell the world: go see “The Post” directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks as well as a remarkably talented supporting cast.

Warning: Spoilers Ahead

The film is about the first female publisher of a major American newspaper, Katharine Graham (Streep), and her editor Ben Bradlee (Hanks) as they try to raise the profile of the Washington Post, which Graham owns, by beating the New York Times to one of the biggest scoops of the 1970s: The Pentagon Papers. For those of you who are not nerdy history buffs or weren’t alive in the 1970s, the Pentagon Papers were leaked, top-secret documents of a Department of Defense-sanctioned academic study that essentially proved that American presidents had been calling for military and covert interventions in South Vietnam over the span of four (counting Nixon, five) different presidencies (Eisenhower, Truman, Kennedy, and Johnson), even though there was evidence that proved we could never win a conflict with Vietnam. Essentially, this means that every American sent to Vietnam to fight in the Vietnam War was sent in order for the United States to maintain its position as a military powerhouse and avoid the humiliation of admitting defeat.

Quick aside: Prager U, which is an institution that prides itself on the spreading of “Americanism” and the values that made America great, which according to their website are “Judeo-Christian at their core and include the concepts of freedom of speech, a free press, free markets and a strong military to protect and project those values.” So, in case you were wondering, they’re a conservatively run, non-accredited, self-described non-profit “university.” Their take on the Vietnam War? That the military won, but the politicians lost. This view, in essence, makes the war a draw in the eyes of this institution, which isn’t really a thing in war.

Sorry for the digression.

The truth is, we lost the Vietnam War. We pulled our troops out after failing to achieve our goals in the region. The Communists we were fighting eventually took over the country anyway, thus allowing South Vietnam to fall and Communism to spread. So, yeah…it was a big ‘L’.

When the Pentagon Papers were leaked, The New York Times published a series of articles about the papers that made the already unpopular war become even more unpopular. Protests erupted across the nation, and the Nixon administration was not having any of it. The Nixon administration filed an injunction against the Times, essentially stopping the publication of these documents. The film describes how The Washington Post picked up the baton and eventually teamed up with the rival paper in order to gain the right to publish. I won’t spoil the ending for you, though it is historically accurate.

Whether you’re into Oscar-bait historical dramas or not, this film is an incredibly germane statement about power — who has it and who deserves it. Streep’s character plays a traditional woman in a man’s world trope throughout the film. She is interrupted, condescended to, and physically pushed down every time she’s invited to the table. As the film progresses, we see the strength in her develop and grow into empowerment that is inspiring to many by the end of the film. As a woman, I felt her struggles as I watched because as much as we like to say we’ve progressed to equality, we haven’t; there is still a sliver of glass ceiling that exists in the real world. Don’t get me wrong, women in power in the 50s and 60s had it much worse than I do, but I, a woman in the 21st century, have also been interrupted, condescended to, and physically pushed down in the workplace just like Mrs. Graham was in the film. We’ve come so far, but we still have so far to go. This is an issue that is important to witness, discuss, and change, and this film will inspire you to do at least one of the three.

Women’s rights were not the only important issue discussed in the film. The more obvious issue is the importance of a free press in a time when that right is being called into question. One of the biggest points throughout the film is the idea of transparency within the government and the fact that the “press is there to serve the governed, not the governors,” which is an ideal that Justice Black articulates in his concurrence of the Supreme Court ruling of The New York Times v. United States in 1971.

If you don’t think this is a poignant statement today, then you clearly have not been paying attention to the rhetoric of “fake news” that has been spewed at us via 140 characters every day since the 2016 election cycle began. And, likewise, you clearly haven’t been paying attention to the advertiser-run cable news stations that essentially give way for state-sponsored propaganda to take over our airwaves. The idea of a press that is truly “free” in its enterprise has been ground down into a bastardized version of “good reporting” that can fit on a 6″ screen. When we allow our government, and those who make it up, to run rampant without any sort of check to their behavior, beliefs, or agendas, the whole country loses. When we allow ourselves to become ignorant and apathetic to the spoon-fed facts that are rammed down our throats, the whole country loses.

This film reminds us of a time when the whole country, on the verge of losing, stood behind the free press as they fought for their right, given to them by the U.S. Constitution, to publish information that was relevant to the whole country. It’s an important reminder that the press is not there to take sides for or against any administration. And, while these days it seems that even the press has forgotten that fact, it’s important for we the people to always remember that WE have the power. It may not seem like it right now because things seem bleak and we seem powerless, but only the voiceless, and I can’t think of anyone who is ever truly voiceless unless they choose to be, are truly powerless. We have voices. We have power. Let us use it.

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