Friday, November 15, 2019

Scandalous: The True Story of the National Enquirer

Scandalous: The True Story of the National Enquirer examines the creation of and the highs and lows of the National Enquirer over the years starting with the paper's purchase and relaunch under owner Generoso Pope Jr. in 1952. It's a fascinating look at the paper's turn from gore to celebrity-based stories to its more recent entry to politics and how it played a role in public perception of Arnold Schwarzenegger's run for Governor of California to Donald Trump's presidential bid in 2016 (the later being something many are still quite conflicted about).

The documentary contains interviews with several former editors and reporters for the paper who all seem to have a mix of pride and shame for their association with the magazine. Neither they nor the documentary shies away from the stories of the paper pushing limits of good taste and legality in exploring news stories. The film also includes anecdotes of the magazine extorting subjects of their exposées and making deals shelf stories for a profitable ongoing relationship (such as ignoring several reports of Bill Cosby and Bob Hope's behavior towards women in favor of puff pieces with the celebrities).

Mark Landsman's documentary covers the proudest moment of the paper when it raised its profile considerably during the O.J. Simpson murder trial and the fall from grace the magazine felt after the death of Princess Diana. The film also calls on more mainstream press, including Carl Bernstein, to offer their take on the Enquirer, its tactics, and its legacy. In-between, there are several different stories to be shared, but the one that seems to haunt the reporters the most is the magazine's complicity in creating a star out of Donald Trump which was then expanded on by the paper's later ownership which moved the Enquirer further and further away from tabloid stories towards more politically-driven attack ads helping to further boost Trump's stock to middle America. Some of it may make you squirm, and some of it may make you sick, but whether or not you've ever picked up a copy at the supermarket, there's plenty of dirt and fascinating stories about all the news that was fit to print.

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