The Temperature at which Partisanship Spreads: A Genre Analysis of American Partisan Political Documentaries

  • Thomas Dickson University of Winnipeg


This paper presents a genre analysis of a selection of American partisan political documentaries released between 2004 and 2012, including Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11 and Dinesh D’Souza’s 2016: Obama’s America. Since the release of Moore’s film, the genre has achieved commercial success despite a relative polarization between the critical responses towards liberal films and conservative ones. This essay determines that both liberal and conservative documentaries assign heroic and trustworthy roles to individual reporters and selections of interviewees, while leaders of the opposing party are villainized exclusively through selected archival video clips. However, while liberal documentaries are more prone to demonstrate a range of emotional appeals, conservative documentaries are more likely to rely on fear-mongering and angry aesthetics to persuade viewers.