Journalism vs sensationalism: The Front Runner explores how the media can make or break a politician

Published: September 5, 2018
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The movie follows the beginning of the media’s intense invasion and scrutiny into the private life of political candidates.

In the era we live in today, we have made peace with the fact that no matter where we are or what we do, we are surrounded by the media. Politicians in particular have a love-hate relationship with the media, a relationship that clearly leans more towards the ‘hate’ aspect. The media’s job is to keep a close eye – perhaps too close – on politicians, especially since they never match up to the public’s expectations, which in turn is why politicians hate the media. The media will call its constant hounding and meddling ‘journalism’, while the politicians call it ‘sensationalism’.

Why am I suddenly ranting about media and politics? Because that’s the subject of Hugh Jackman’s upcoming movie The Front Runner.

Jackman stars as Democratic Senator Gary Hart, who was the front runner for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1988. However, his campaign was derailed when he was caught in one of American history’s most scandalous love affairs (aside from perhaps the Monica Lewinsky incident). The trailer shows the rise and fall of Gary, and specifically the role the media played in each phase of his career.

Jackman steals the limelight, for he not only looks the part of an American politician, but is believable as a charming politician as well as a man at his wit’s end. The supporting cast is also quite spectacular, including Vera Farmiga (The Conjuring series), JK Simmons (Whiplash), Alfred Molina (Spider-Man 2) and Sara Paxton (The Last House on the Left).

The movie follows the beginning of the media’s intense invasion and scrutiny into the private life of political candidates, and how it affects people’s lives, personal and professional. The movie also highlights how the media can make or break a politician’s image and how quickly it can change perceptions as news begins to travel faster than it ever has before. In one specific scene, a journalist says to his editor,

“Just because some other paper used gossip as front page news, that doesn’t mean we have to.”

To which the editor, played by Molina, replies,

“It does. It does now.”

Very rarely do movies such as this, based on true events and real people from the past, manage to knock it out of the park, but The Front Runner seems to be executed with finesse and looks all set to be the anomaly in its genre. The movie is already generating early Oscar buzz for Jackman, and from what we have already seen of his performance, I think he should really start working on his acceptance speech (fingers crossed).

The Front Runner is an extremely relevant movie for today’s political stratosphere, where every single move in a politician’s personal life is documented for the entire world to see and judge. With the rise of social media, this phenomenon has only gotten worse. Pakistan’s prime minister has also found himself on the wrong side of the media several times, particularly in the past when it came to his relationship status or the end of his marriages. However, there is a fine line between personal and professional, between journalism and sensationalism, and given how the line blurs further every day, The Front Runner could not have come at a more appropriate political climate.

The Front Runner releases on November 7, 2018.

All photos: Screenshots 

Sahir Palijo

Sahir Palijo

The author is an under-grad pursuing a degree of Business Administration. He loves to write his thoughts and is a movie freak. He tweets at @The_Sahir (twitter.com/the_sahir)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.