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Roger Ailes would probably take The Loudest Voice as a compliment

  • The Showtime limited series starring Russell Crowe as the late Fox News founder makes it very clear that he was a sexual harasser and propagandist. But it's the kind of series that Fox News fans would watch nodding in vigorous agreement, says Willa Paskin. "The cumulative picture of Ailes is damning, but it is one of the horrific ironies of The Loudest Voice that someone propagandized by Ailes and his television network could conceivably watch large portions of The Loudest Voice and think that it was essentially complimentary, cataloging Ailes’ fundamentally righteous vision: because Obama did go to a madrassa and wasn’t born in the United States and is a Communist, because the mainstream media is unacceptably liberal and has it in for real Americans, because someone does need to protect those same real Americans from immigrants of who knows what race, and on and on and on. Like Chernobyl or When They See Us, The Loudest Voice is tackling a piece of poisonous history, the story of a man who took things that seemed to be rules—journalistic ethics, unbiased reporting, respect for the office of the president, a wish to keep the peace, not lying—and demonstrated that they were just norms to be flouted and flayed at will. But unlike those other series, it’s packaged as a biopic and not some larger condemnation of 'our times.' As I watched it, I kept wondering if something so relatively understated that aspires—unlike Ailes—to come across as relatively unbiased was too subtle for the world that Ailes created."


    • The Loudest Voice shows us what we already knew -- which is exactly what we need: "Does The Loudest Voice offer revelations about Fox News that we couldn’t have gleaned from (Gabriel) Sherman’s work or absorbed simply by living for decades in a world where Ailes both made news and shaped it? Not really," says Judy Berman. "And that lack of new information has some critics dismissing the miniseries as pointless...Yet this reaction ignores the unique power of visual storytelling. Knowing the facts isn’t the same as watching one man oscillate from political kingmaker to brutal boss to devoted husband to sexual predator; the latter forces you, with every frame, to consider how those Wikipedia headings add up to a life. The Loudest Voice is thorough in its efforts to make every facet of Ailes’ personality make sense in the context of his biography."
    • Roger Ailes hated the book The Loudest Voice is based on, but would've appreciated that the TV series lets Fox News off easy: "The Loudest Voice is a barely-coherent mess of half-explained events and decades-old mini-outrage news cycles," says Maxwell Tani. " And where the show really fails is in its inability to give any compelling insight into who Ailes was, what compelled his ruthless drive to alter (and at times corrupt) American media, and why his enablers let him get away with it. He adds that the show "doesn’t explicitly glorify Ailes...But the show spends far too much time obsessed with telling and retelling the viewer how Ailes acted as a dark genius puppeteer, rather than reckoning with the consequences of his actions."
    • If the idea is to glean lessons and drama from Ailes’ story, The Loudest Voice is a bust: "The problem is, aside from the pleasure of watching celebrities impersonate famous Fox personalities, there’s not a lot of takeaway past the car-wreck fascination of witnessing one horrible man ruin lives and livelihoods," says David Fears. "It’s a lot of sound and fury signifying one thing only, over and over again, all glazed with a tabloid patina of power, corruption and perversity. Better to view this as a star vehicle for Crowe, who digs into this grotesque role with gusto. No amount of fat-suit prosthetics can keep him from reaching phone-throwing levels of rage and channeling top-shelf rancor. If the idea is to glean lessons and drama from Ailes’ story, The Loudest Voice is a bust. If the idea is to eventually win Crowe an Emmy, however, consider this a fair and balanced success."
    • The Loudest Voice loses steam when it gets to the recent past: "Although early parts of Voice offer some insight, particularly to those who weren't focused on Fox News' debut in the 1990s, once the series gets into more recent territory it has much less to say," says Kelly Lawler. "The episodes play out scenarios that are so familiar they sometimes are dull, playing too plainly to Ailes' staunchest critics. The series also attempts to draw a direct line from Ailes to the election of President Donald Trump, including Ailes saying 'make America great again' in a 2008 speech, a sequence that proves far too heavy-handed."
    • The Loudest Voice only provides half of what makes Ailes interesting: "The old-school showmanship is there: This looks and feels like an old-school miniseries, with heft signaled through portentous pauses, starry supporting players, and an attention to detail that can be equated with a serious attempt to be definitive, to get this story right," says Daniel D'Addario. "But what’s lacking is what might make the series match its subject: The boundary-pushing verve and cruel wit that to this day makes Fox News so toxically watchable for so many, the poisonous insight that television news can be something more than edifying."
    • The Loudest Voice gives Russell Crowe his richest and most compelling role in years: "Save for a smattering of performances in films like The Nice Guys, Crowe hasn’t really found many roles worthy of his talents this decade," says Alex McLevy. "But in Ailes, he embodies a man who always acted the way Russell Crowe normally looks: like a larger-than-life character who expects the world to make way for his presence. His Ailes is fantastic, a reptilian schemer who seethes at the merest perceived slight, an overbearing egotist who nonetheless sold his Machiavellian vision through force of unexpected charisma and the assumption that rules should exist for others, not him."
    • The Loudest Voice is a case study in creating a simple monster: "In The Loudest Voice, Showtime has created a sacrificial scape-a**hole on whom we can lay the blame for the ugliest parts of America—our sexual assault, our rapes, our aggression, our racism, our President, says Lyz Lenz. "It would be nice if it was that easy... Yet, the reality of our wet, hot American mess is a lot more complex. After all, it wasn’t Fox alone that catalyzed these conspiracies about WMDs (hi, New York Times!). It wasn’t Fox alone that But-Her-Emailsed Hillary Clinton’s campaign. For a while, Jeffrey Lord was one of Trump’s favorite pundits, touting birtherism on CNN. Same with Lou Dobbs, who was constructing a right-wing line long before he scuttled over to Fox. Tucker Carlson himself came from CNN and MSNBC and PBS, lest we all forget. Gretchen Carlson too, praised Ailes as a genius in her 2015 book. Presumably while he was harassing her and others, presumably while they were all making money. And it’s easy to forget, because we want to forget."
    • If you've ever wanted to see Russell Crowe's latex-encased O-face, The Loudest Voice has you covered: "The Loudest Voice is half portrait of a brilliant man who translated shouting and manipulation into a media empire and a mainstream political movement, half origin story for a serial-harassing monster prone to racism, misogyny and sexual and psychological enslavement," says Daniel Fienberg. "Through it all, one thing remains consistent: Crowe is wearing a lot of latex and fighting against it admirably to give a very good performance that will doubtlessly in some circles be hailed as great, because it's being given by a great actor in Adrien Morot's great makeup."
    • The Loudest Voice is so focused on the who, what, when, and where of that story that it neglects to dig sufficiently into the why and how
    • The most fascinating part of The Loudest Voice isn't Ailes himself, it's the people around him who acquiesce to and enable his cruelty despite having concerns
    • Former Fox News staffer Laurie Luhn drops her $750 million lawsuit over The Loudest Voice ahead of the miniseries' premiere
    • Writer Alex Metcalf, a liberal, watched a lot of Fox News to prepare for The Loudest Voice
    • Russell Crowe on transforming into Roger Ailes: "I’ve had over time lots of experience in prosthetic — I mean, look at Cinderella Man: fake ears, fake nose, widow’s peak, all that — but I’ve never done this,” he says. “That was hard to stand on the brink of and look at and realize, this is going to be very difficult.” Crowe adds: “I can’t make the judgment call and play the character at the same time. I can have my own opinions, but I can’t portray Roger from an outside perspective. I have to play it from the internal perspective and how he views himself.”

    TOPICS: The Loudest Voice, Fox News Channel, Showtime, Alex Metcalf, Gabriel Sherman, Laurie Luhn, Roger Ailes, Russell Crowe, Cable News, Legal, Sexual Misconduct