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J. Edgar (Directed by Clint Eastwood, 2011)
Miraculous production that makes you fond of an influential manipulator of information

Masato Hase
Professor of School of Culture, Media and Society, Faculty of Letters, Arts and Sciences, Waseda University

Movies are not communication media tools for conveying the director's message or information on historical facts. This movie painfully teaches us that.

Of course this film, with the title J. Edgar, follows the footsteps of the historical figure J. Edgar Hoover, who worked as FBI chief from 1935 to 1972, and portrays the historical and critical facts. Therefore, I learnt a lot from this film. Hoover was the man who built up the catalogue system in the National Diet Library and pushed for scientific investigations such as the introduction of the logging of criminal's fingerprints by the police system. Hoover was involved in the 1932 kidnapping incident of national hero Charles Lindbergh's baby son. Hoover possessed a "top secret file" on the private lives of leading figures such as successive presidents, and was a man whom presidents feared. Hoover provided information to media outlets such as film, radio and comics to elevate the image of himself and the FBI.

Of course this film paints Hoover, a man who maintained his own power through manipulating information in such ways, in a critical sense. For example, scenes such as where Hoover decides that the father of the Civil Rights Movement, Martin Luther King, is an enemy of America and attempts to block his receiving of the Nobel Prize by way of derogatory blackmail letters, can be said to clearly critically portray his fanatical side. Also, by painstakingly portraying his not so well known private life such as having a complex about his short stature, a strong mother complex, a homosexual relationship with the assistant director and a fear of being allured by women, I think there is plenty of scandal to breakdown his image as a hero.

Nevertheless, after watching this movie, I didn't hold any critical feelings towards Hoover. While agreeing that he was definitely a fanatical nationalist with a unique disposition, the strange thing is, I felt affection towards him. Why? Because Eastwood, even with that kind of script in his hand, never intended to use the medium of film to produce Hoover as a bad guy to be dragged through the mud. Therefore, the strange feeling that recognizes as a fact that there are people like this in our world is created in the viewers.

It is that portrayal of Hoover by Eastwood that overturns from the roots the stance of Hoover using film and comics as information media to make himself a hero. People who detest their enemies become the same as their enemies. So, unlike Hoover, Eastwood doesn't use the film to communicate, he dares to have tender feelings toward Hoover and paint him in an affectionate light. Therefore, this film that is full of scandal appears as a wildly stylish and logical movie. That logic has even quietly shaken our way of life.

Masato Hase
Professor of School of Culture, Media and Society, Faculty of Letters, Arts and Sciences, Waseda University

Graduated from School of Letters, Arts and Sciences I, Waseda University, and dropped out of Osaka University Graduate School of Human Sciences. Entered current position after working as an assistant professor at Chiba University.
Majors in visual culture and communication.
Major publications include “Cinema and Technological Experience”(seikyuusya), “Secrets and Pleasure of the Screen”(ibunsha), “Sociological Communication”(co-authored, Yuhikaku), and “It's TV! Everyone Gather Around”(co-authored, Seikyusha).