Good Night, and Good Luck (2005) is an Oscar-nominated film about Edward R. Murrow, one of the most famous and influential broadcast journalists of all time. The movie chronicles his experience as a journalist during the McCarty era. During this time, Americans were overly suspicious of anything related to communism. Senator Joseph McCarthy alleged that a myriad of innocent Americans were secret spies for the Soviet Union. His methods gave rise to the term “McCarthyism,” which refers to making demagogic, outlandish accusations with little to no proof.
One of the most famous lines in the movie is when Murrow quotes Shakespeare saying, “The fault dear Brutus, is not in the stars but in ourselves.” I wholeheartedly agree with this comment. Humans are not doomed, but rather free executors of their fate. However, while everyone has free-will, not everyone is wholly informed. The news media has an onus to inform the public, but they also have an obligation to their advertisers and benefactors. Since Americans expect the news for free, the media must figure out a way to profit from content. This creates a culture of valuing money over the truth. Sensationalistic news gains more attention than a fact-laden story that doesn’t follow an exciting narrative. McCarthy’s witch hunts made for entertaining news, so the media let him persist. Murrow had the courage to resist and question McCarthy’s actions.
The movie is shot in black and white and the pace is slow. If one was watching the film without the knowledge of the historical background of the events, it may be hard to follow. This may be because our society is used to hyper-stimulation so much that we need more “action.” I did like, however, being able to have a visual representation of the events. There is something to be said about the emotional appeal of the use of film to portray historical figures. Before viewing the film, I read Michael Dillon’s article Ethics in Black and White. It provided a comprehensive context to help understand the film better.
In the article, Dillon explains how Murrow was the father of broadcast journalism, not only because of his success in the media but also for what he chose to do with his prestige. He was outspoken about his beliefs because he wanted the best for society. Due to his growing popularity, the government and company heads were becoming nervous that they were losing control of their audience. Dillon explains how the corporate executives tried to reign him in for being too biased. The executives wanted Murrow to remain neutral on McCarthy’s witch hunts.
When comparing Dillon’s article to the film, the article offers a more complex and in-depth analysis; whereas the film’s picture tells a simpler story. Dillon wrote a very developed article about Murrow and McCarthy as well as the journalistic history leading up to these moments. The film on the other hand unsurprisingly focused more on the showdown between Murrow and McCarthy than the historical context of how the media created an environment in which sensationalist stories would flourish like wildfire.