The Campaign Of Miner Bo: Review

The Campaign Of Miner Bo

The Campaign of Miner Bo

Esme Betamax | @betamaxer

In May of 2016, Copley was invited to join a roundtable discussion with Hillary Clinton, who was campaigning in West Virginia before the state’s presidential primary. Copley, his voice breaking, showed Clinton a picture of his three children and challenged her assertion that she was a friend to coal miners. Copley’s raw emotion broke through the usual campaign chatter, and throughout the campaign, he was a regular on cable news.

Copley tried to take advantage of his surprise political celebrity by running for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate in 2018.  But without money, experience, or a traditional campaign infrastructure, he quickly discovered that being a politician is harder than it looks.

Between the breakneck pace of the news cycle and the magnitude of recent events, The Campaign of Miner Bo could easily be dismissed as old news. But in pursuing this story Director Todd Drezner has struck on something that illustrates what has happened in the US political system, somewhat demystifying it for non-US audiences.

And the system is baffling: Democracy distorted. A self-proclaimed David to the incumbent Goliath, his confidence takes a pummeling when he doesn’t make a dent. Perhaps the most galling thing for Bo is realising that he is less popular than Don Blankenship. A shifty character, responsible for the deaths of 29 coal miners, fresh out of prison. Bo has to consider, is fame more important than integrity? That’s a bitter pill to swallow.

Bo Copley has unwavering faith in historical figures—Jesus and the Founding Fathers . He talks about Jesus in that casual manner that suggests they just bumped into each other at the store. Though it will always give me pause when anyone claims “God told me to do it”, he’s no megalomaniac. (But is that just a question of money?) 

At first appalled at Clinton’s coal mining stance, he becomes receptive to her once he discovers the full story. He begins to understand the extent to which media framing creates a new narrative by removing context. Political division is apparent in every conversation he has. But he is uncomfortable responding to the vitriol people have when Hillary Clinton is mentioned: Nervously laughing along with their threats of violence, like the new boy at school.

Bo is conservative to the bone, so Clinton would never go so far as to convert him. But the Republican Party he belongs in is not Trump’s either. He’s likeable. An affectionate family man. A bad singer. He is reluctant to emulate career politicians—all that schmoozing and marketing. He wants to succeed as a person, not a brand. This documentary does not explain Trump’s success, but it goes some way to revealing the failures of the Democrats: Ordinary people, especially those in rural areas, feel abandoned.

West Virginia is one example of an all-or-nothing economy that exists in America. Coal production is everything there, but like Motor City Detroit before it, ordinary people suffer when businesses go bust. They are victims of capitalism, convinced that capitalism will save them.

The Campaign of Miner Bo is a critique of contemporary news media, which invents the news more often than reporting it. He mistakes a short burst of celebrity for something more, yet his passion makes him easy to root for. But ultimately he’s a poor man playing a rich man’s game.

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Esme Betamax is a writer and illustrator. Often found in the Cube Microplex. Favourites include: I ♡ Huckabees, Where the Buffalo Roam, Harold & Maude, Being John Malkovich and In the Shadow of the Moon.


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