WAG THE DOG
was released by Newline Cinema in 1998 and is a black comedy film starring Dustin Hoffman and Robert De Niro about a Washington spin doctor (De Niro) who, merely days before a presidential electorate, distracts the electorate from a sex scandal by hiring a Hollywood film producer (Hoffman) to construct a fake war with Albania. The title of the film comes from an idiomatic English-language expression ?the tail wagging the dog
?, which is commented at the beginning of the film by a caption that reads: ?Why does the dog
wag its tail? Because the dog
is smarter than the tail. If the tail were smarter, it would wag the dog
To 'wag the dog
' in the business world means to purposely divert attention from what would otherwise be of greater importance, to something else of lesser significance. By doing so, the lesser-significant event is catapulted into the limelight, drowning proper attention to what was originally the more important issue.
?Wag the Dog
? is based on the novel ?American Hero? by Larry Beinhart, however, the film differs greatly from the book. In the book, the president is specifically George H.W. Bush, while in the movie the president is unnamed; the fake war is explicitly Desert Storm; however that war did occur. While motion pictures are meant to entertain, this movie not only entertains us, but also discusses public relations practices and ethics. It also deals with propaganda devices and other tactics to persuade and manipulate public opinion. This movie addresses media literacy to the fullest.
Your paper is to be 5 - 7 pages, typed, a 12 point font used and double spaced. Incorporate the question into your answer and attach your paper below. You will be graded based on the content of your answers; basic mechanical skills as well as examples from the movie and from your lectures to support your answers (5 points). Please proofread your work. After you have watched the movie, answer the following questions:
1. According to the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA - www.prsa.org) Public Relations professionals should: Protect and advance the free flow of accurate and truthful information; Foster informed decision making through open communication; Protect confidential and private information; Promote healthy and fair competition among professionals; Avoid conflicts of interest; and Work to strengthen the public?s trust in the profession. In "Wag the Dog
" how is the Public Relations practitioner (Robert De Niro) unethical? Using the information above, cite at least five examples from the movie in your answer. Do not list five examples and move on to the next question (10 points)
2. I've given you the logic behind the phrase "Wag the Dog
", but how is that logic relevant to the situation presented in the movie (5 points)?
3. This intelligent Cover-Up movie is madcap, but not quite. There is a serious idea at work here and it underscores the film ? it is a question that gnaws on us as the movie plausibly brings the implausible to life on TV: How real is it? How much are we really the dupes of complex media assaults and public relations campaigns as portrayed to exaggeration in ?Wag The Dog
?? How much do we really care? It is those thoughts that lend heavy Cover Ups weight to this otherwise satirical and entertaining film. How real do you believe it is? And do you think we are the dupes of complex media assaults and public relations campaigns? Explain your answer (15 points).
4. Name and describe 5 propaganda devices used in the movie (10 points)?
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Baum, Matthew. Soft News Goes to War.
Baum, Matthew A. "Sex, Lies, and War: How Soft News Brings Foreign Policy to the Inattentive Public." American Political Science Review 1, 2002, pp 91-109.
Coppens, Philip. "Wag the Dog." Retrieved online: http://www.philipcoppens.com/wagthedog.html
Levinson, B. "Wag the Dog." In HSC Advanced English.
Levinson, B. Wag the Dog. [Feature Film].
Maslin, Janet. "Wag the Dog (1997)." [Film Review.] The New York Times. 26 Dec 1997. Retrieved online: http://www.nytimes.com/movie/review?res=980CE3D7113EF935A15751C1A961958260
Public Relations Society of America. "Ethics." 2014. Retrieved online: http://www.prsa.org/AboutPRSA/Ethics/#.VHvgaWQ4-mE