Screenshot from the new comedy 'Irresistible"

Jon Stewart’s Comedy ‘Irresistible’ Looks at the Role of Money and Media in Politics

The comedian's newest project, featuring Steve Carrell, follows a high-stakes political campaign in a small Midwestern town — and it has a lot to say.
August 18, 2020
10 mins read

Jon Stewart is back and better than ever with his newest film: the political comedy “Irresistible.”

Like many movies, the film’s theatrical release was delayed due to COVID-19. Originally slated for May 2020, the movie was released in select theaters on June 26. The film is also available to rent for $19.99 on video on demand and various other platforms, including Amazon Prime.

Though a bit pricy ­–– think of it as supporting the film industry in a troubling time ––“Irresistible” is a must-see. Not only is it entertaining, but it also raises significant questions regarding political campaigns and the media.

Warning: The following entries do contain spoilers. Read at your own risk.

The Story

In the wake of Trump’s election, Democratic campaigner Gary Zimmer ­–– played by the beloved Steve Carrell –– is devastated at Hillary Clinton’s loss. But after watching a viral video of retired marine Colonel Jack Hastings advocating for undocumented immigrants in the conservative town of Deerlaken, Wisconsin, Zimmer is inspired. In an attempt to redeem himself and his party, and to show the country that rural Democrats do exist, Zimmer travels to Deerlaken to convince Hastings to run for the town’s mayor as a Democrat. Though reluctant at first, Hastings agrees on one condition: Zimmer will run the campaign himself. Zimmer, accustomed to the sophistication of Washington D.C., is hesitant to temporarily transplant himself to the rural community, but eventually gives in.

Hastings and Zimmer begin to recruit residents –– namely Hastings’ friends and neighbors­­ –– to help run the campaign. Soon the campaign grabs the attention of the media, as well as the Republican National Committee (RNC). The RNC starts interfering with the election as well, not only by funding the incumbent mayor but also sending Republican campaigner and Zimmer’s nemesis, Faith Brewster, to Deerlaken to run his campaign.

Zimmer and Brewster go head to head to ensure their candidate wins. Zimmer even takes Hastings to New York to try and recruit donors. They succeed, and are able to use the generous donations to expand their campaign.

Zimmer’s work seems to be paying off, as Hastings gains support in the town. However, on Election Day, Zimmer and Brewster discover the truth. The whole election had been a ploy to raise money for the town, which, following the closure of its military base, was facing financial difficulties. The viral video of Hastings had been staged by his daughter, Diana, in the hopes that it would draw attention and money to the struggling town. And it had done just that: Zimmer and Brewster had poured thousands of dollars into the election.

Political Campaigns

The film’s depiction of a small-town election is very relevant considering that this year is an election year. However, while “Irresistible” demonstrates everything that goes into elections –– campaigning, fundraising, Super PACs, etc. ­–– it also provides an interesting and pertinent commentary on the unsavory aspects of campaigning.

Perhaps the strongest example of this is when Zimmer brings Hastings to New York to recruit donors for his campaign. When asked to speak in front of the potential donors, Hastings surprises the crowd with his criticisms of the system and the absurdity of having to beg for money from Upper West Side urbanites to help his struggling town.

“Instead of being home working on some smart things to help my town, I have to fly here to your town and convince you that my town is worth saving,” Hastings says. “And that I’m worth it. And that saving it is worth it to you.”

But as Hastings later points out, the money that he receives does not go to his community directly. Instead, it goes to funding his campaign.

This isn’t only true of local campaigns. Every election cycle, there is a push for candidates — whether presidential, senatorial or gubernatorial­ –– to visit rural communities to secure their votes. Absurd amounts of money are spent on funding candidates’ campaigns, rather than funding the rural communities themselves.

This point is really driven home at the end of “Irresistible.” When Zimmer finds out what the town has done, he feels betrayed and used. But as Hastings’ daughter, Diana, points out, Deerlaken and rural communities in general are continuously used by D.C. politicians like Zimmer.

“You guys only show up here once every four years and only then because it’s a swing state,” Diana says. “And then when it’s over you’re gone, but we’re still here, with all the same problems we had before, waiting for you guys to come back and make the same empty promises as last time. We used the system. You make millions of dollars funneling tens of millions of dollars into this election economy. All we did is take a cut.”

The Media

The media plays a large role in society today. The news, radio and other forms of widespread communication keep us updated on what’s happening across the country and the world. But in “Irresistible,” Stewart highlights problems with the media.

It was the media that brought attention to the mayoral race in the first place, drawing in the RNC and other donors to support the campaign. And toward the end of the film, the media releases false information about the incumbent, fed to them by Zimmer in an attempt to sabotage his campaign. Stewart’s point is clear: The media loves to sensationalize information, often without checking all the facts and sides of the story.

This is especially emphasized in the mid-credits scene, where a newscaster addresses the Hastings campaign. The newscaster questions the irresponsibility of the media –– the headline below her even reads “Media Irresponsible?” –– in publicizing what turned out to be a fake campaign.

“Did the media fall into a false narrative just because it fit into our preconceived notion of the divide of this country between red and blue without checking the facts?” she says. “Were we irresponsible?”

She then turns to her fellow newscasters, who all provide arguments to her question along the lines of “Well we’re the news” or “Literally it’s our job to cover the news,” to which she counters:

“But isn’t there a way to report the news without so much speculation, without a false sense of urgency, that causes us to breathlessly report facts that maybe are not facts. Are we framing these stories on an artificial right/left axis because that’s how our pundit economy is set up?”

After a moment of awkward silence, she laughs and reveals she’s “just kidding,” and the headline even changes to read “no, we’re good.” But while she may be kidding, the moral is evident. There is something wrong with the way the media is reporting.

Although the reviews for “Irresistible” may beg to differ, I think the movie and its messages are irresistible­­ –– pun intended.

Hannah Docter-Loeb, Wesleyan University

Writer Profile

Hannah Docter-Loeb

Wesleyan University
Biology, Psychology, Education Studies Minor

Passionate about science, education, the environment, and journalism!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Don't Miss