Yes, I will admit it; I am a big fan of Ron Burgundy and Anchorman’s politically incorrect humor. That led me to watch the latest installment, Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues, on its opening night in December.
Although not as slick as the first, it has as many laughs, and I’m glad they made the sequel. The oddest and most unexpected element, though, was the injection of a meaningful theme: the role of the media in a new, consumer-driven, and more competitive era. While not dominant, this theme caught my eye, as someone who pays so much attention to the media.
Faced with the challenge of outgunning his rival in a new network, Burgundy poses the question, “I just don’t know why we have to tell the people what they need to hear. Why can’t we just tell them what they want to hear?”
What follows is a line of stories with, among other things, superficial jingoism, animal dramas, and meaningless car chases — but it works, and his ratings go through the roof. In doing so, Burgundy demonstrates the reality that one must serve the consumer to survive, even if that means swaying from conventional journalistic norms and expectations.
As the film progresses, though, Burgundy has somewhat of an enlightenment and becomes disillusioned with his work. He sees a lack of reporting on corruption, including from the network’s owner. “We make the news,” the owner says, to Burgundy’s displeasure.
Bucking the pressure from his boss and owner, he goes out on a limb and tells it like he sees it, in a more Glenn Greenwald-like fashion. While I don’t want to give the whole story away, there is a moment of significance there — even amid the comic silliness — when Burgundy sees that both being an independent voice and offering what people crave can go together.