American Factory – Breaking the American Donkey.
When I first heard of this film and the fact that it was produced by Barack Obama, I was fairly certain that Barack, being the neo-liberal that he is, would use this documentary in a sense to highlight a real-life version of the Michael Keaton film ‘Gung-Ho’, where a dying small town America would be invested in by an Asian megacorp and it would a story of the rowdy americans and the exacting Asians overcoming cultural barriers to eventually find middle ground and work harmoniously in good humor and humanity.
Instead, much like Barack Obama’s Presidency, what we got was an extraordinarily depressing look into people in abject misery and economic deprivation’s lives go from one form of capitalist exploitation to another, worse and more efficient form of exploitation. Same thing only worse.
‘American Factory’ is the story of a town in Dayton Ohio who’s local General Motors Car manufacturing plant was shut down despite Barack Obama handing them hundreds of billions of dollars in bailout taxpayer money. Leaving the local town is in the process of dying and people living in outright misery for years until a Chinese car-glass manufacturing company by the name of Fuyan decides to invest in the Plant and re-open it, leading the townspeople hoping that now things can get better for the people in Dayton.
Fuyan is lead by it’s CEO, who in the film is referred to as ‘the Chairman’ but I will refer to as Pig Face
Video of him:-
If you were an animation art director, and asked a character designer to design the most repugnant looking, un-charismatic Chinese Small business Tyrant, The Chinese CEO featured in this film would look exactly like that. I completely forgot his name and I don’t care enough to look it up, so we’ll name him Pig-Face. This guy has all the hallmarks of a lovely little tyrant, he has Mao-style paintings of himself, he has Bronze Plaques of himself, he is a micromanaging little turd. He wants fire alarms placed arbitrarily, he suggests changes on the spot, etc. that sort of guy.
The Chinese managers hold their American workers in contempt as well, usually muttering about how American workers are lazy, they value participation, they only take one 8-hour shift, etc. Usually the tone and conversations happening between Chinese managers and their workers is also very different than the tone between the American workers and the managers. In a scene with other Chinese, the managers were telling their workers to “treat the americans like donkeys, brush their hair in the direction it naturally goes or they will kick you”.
The American upper managers are also dogshits, their overriding concerns and worries are fighting unionization and making sure no worker revolt happens, one of these toadies by the name of ‘dave’ got so visibly upset at Sherrod Brown that he muttered “Fuckhead” on camera when Sherrod encouraged the local Union at a live speech at the opening of the Plant.
The middle managers are just your average middle managers. They hold frank conversations about the conditions and stuff but they keep to themselves, they also are way too easily impressed but sometimes shocked at what they see when they visit Chinese factories and both what the Chinese workers put up with but also at the speed and efficiency of the work.
The workers of this movie go between different stories of people in extremely harsh deprivation, their lives utterly in ruins, and many of them are so beaten down they are simply thankful to have some sort of job an income, we witness them going through really depressing episodes in their lives, how finally one of them can move into a 400 dollar a month apartment, a couple try to make good friendships with some Chinese workers, etc.
Chinese Capitalism, same as america, but worse.
Let me just say, one of the big highlights of the film is how Chinese companies are better at capitalisms excesses than Americans, American Capitalism is a rapist who will extort you and beat the poo poo out of you and gaslight you openly, while Chinese capitalism want to be your neighborhood, your family, your father, your country, etc. as well as being your rapist and extorter.
The Chinese Capitalists have taken all the surface level horse-poo poo of capitalist sloganeering “Innovation! Harmony! Etc” and mixed it into nationalist sentiments. This of course makes sense when you realize that the Chinese Communist Party bosses are integrally joined with the companies to the point where the local party boss (and union leader) is Pig-Face’s Brother in law.
The true horrifying extent of Chinese capitalism is that not only has it successfully atomized their workers, deprived them of the basic building blocks of a functioning society by forcing them to work away from their homes and families, they get 12 hour shifts and they only get to go back and see them once or twice a year, you know, as a treat, they have to live in little lofts with several people, etc. You know what conditions are like in Chinese factories.
But the thing that is truly horrific and sickening is two-fold, the first of which is how the workers don’t actually seem to mind those conditions very much (well at least that can be drawn up to them being forced into it because of what would happen to them if they admitted otherwise), but that a lot of times their degradation is self-justified in terms of nationalistic jibberish (Us chinese are stronger work ethic than americns and have to be better) and how the Chinese communist party-sponsored unions act as enablers through horseshit slogans like ( business and labor have to have a harmonious relationship).
But also, how the Chinese turn their capitalism into some strange mixture of nationalism and supplants the roles typically done by peoples social relations outside the workforce. The Company has a loving national anthem that the Chinese workers sing, the company holds social events, festivities, workers outings, essentially because the average Chinese worker has been successfully cut out of his familial and social events, the company fills in the gap, and because the Chinese Communist Party and the Companies work hand in hand, Chinese workers are made to accept their lovely conditions for vague notions of national development pride.
THE UNION BOOGEYMAN
But the one overriding threat permeating the film the one thing that keep eating at Pig-Face and both the Chinese and American upper managers and actively frightens them is the United Auto Workers Union and their efforts to unionize the workers.
They feel it is such a threat to the point that Pig-face says if he sees any union activity he’d shut down the factory. They hire consultants who literally have the title ‘Union Avoidance Advisers’ to give regular talks to the employees with powerpoint presentations about how unions are ‘bad’ for them.
However, conditions in the factory worsens, more and severe injuries are taking place due to poor workplace safety and workers aren’t being compensated fairly, on top of that they are making their workers lives worse by removing creature comforts like the lunch room and shortening breaks (shout out to that one dude who snapped and said ‘why didn’t you fix the loving microwaves and for fucks sakes stop blasting propaganda videos in the lunch room 24/7’) so the Union makes a serious attempt. The scene of the union rep with a room of enthused workers from the factory was really inspiring, the union made clear that the reason why their parents had good lives and how they would benefit and how they can have a fair pay and good working conditions, you know the common sense solutions to these people’s real problems.
Pig-Face and the rest of the management needed not worry, the union motion was thwarted by it’s age-old nemesis common idiocy of the American worker. Pig-Face’s profits are safe and sound. So the motion was defeated.
The truly depressing thing is how the workers have become so beat down, so defeated, so propagandized they start repeating the same lies told to them over and over “Unionization means the bad workers stay” “What will unions do for me? Nothing” everything that previous generations died for and the only reason why previous generations had any sort of standard of living is shunned by the simpleton idiot mind of the midwestern American idiot.
The final few scenes of the film attempts to humanize pig-face one more time, we see him make some fake gestures and bows to buddha, and for a short few fleeting seconds we see him talking about how he came up poor, and sometimes he misses the quiet of the village and wonders if he’s helped destroy that quiet nature through the factories he’s built (as he stares at a bronze plaque of himself), but he only thinks of these thoughts when he’s sad and in the end he hopes he can help bring together americans and Chinese and help the people in Ohio the way he helped people in Fujian Province.
And fittingly, the very next scene, as a reward for their employees rejecting unionization, the very next shot of the CEO Pig-face is him discussing plans to automate his company and fire scores of his workers.
So good job you idiots. Gooood job.
The film closes with how Fuyan is now turning a profit for the first time in 2018, and that automation is going to replace thousands of jobs.
And that the starting salary for these workers in $14 an hour.
So film leaves us with a shrug of “Guess Automation is coming to screw over workers you guys, what is to be done?” which is the type of non-committal answer you’d expect out of a cowardly film-maker who has no real beliefs, but the real horror of this film is when you realize the person responsible for it’s production was none-other than Barack Hussein Obama, the 44th president of the united states.
Here was a man who for two years had it within his means to fundamentally change American society to alleviate the suffering of those mid-western rust belt people, here was a man who was IN OFFICE when GM closed their plant in Dayton Ohio leaving the entire society there to be cast into the winds of deprivation (and right into Trumps Arms), here was a man who could’ve had it so none of these workers needed to worry about their health insurance, didn’t need to worry about workplace safety, representation in the unions, etc. Here was a man who handed over TRILLIONS of dollars to the very same Car Manufacturers and Companies who DESTROYED the lives of those people and didn’t force them to switch to anything resembling a change into green energy industries and opened the door for even more exploitative and repressive companies to come in, who, in turn, would alienate American workers through their harsh policies to go right into the arms of someone like trump who would promise them American jobs by American companies (like the imagined food old days).
The level of Cynicism, of contempt, of just sheer personal detachment and soullessness to produce a film that passively highlights conditions YOU DID NOTHING TO FIX AND HAD THE POWER TO DO SO, is breathtaking. Barack Obama is loving evil, a loving evil husk who now wants to pretend like he ever gave a poo poo about anyone by making documentaries about people’s misery he did nothing to help and was actively worsening for his corporate backers.
Who in their right minds could argue why the rust belt idiots went for trump after this? Why they would screech against TPP after this? Who would clamor for a fake sense of a return of the good old days after what Obama did to them?!
So yeah, Thanks Obama, thanks for handing Trump his first and very likely his second term in office. Thanks.
So in the end, much like his presidency, Obama’s newfound film production career has a rather simple message:- An empty smile, a shrug of this shoulders and the phrase “Guess your life sucks, huh?"
gently caress You, Obama. Fuuuck you, You evil, empty husk of a nothing lich king.
5/10 didnt deserve an academy award.
|# ? Mar 29, 2020 17:44|
|# ? Apr 10, 2021 14:59|