Everything is so complicated. The systems of corruption and injustice that we little people spend so much time railing against these days are so huge and complex—Byzantine by deliberate design—that it’s no wonder we’re so hungry for explainers, for media that does the noble work of breaking it down into manageable parts, giving our outrage the righteous shape of clarity. The web site Vox sort of began on this premise. There are thousands of well-produced YouTube videos that do this. And there are movies, too.
The most successful recent film in this didactic form—essentially fictionalized Michael Moore movies—was probably Adam McKay’s The Big Short, about a particularly cynical exploitation of the late-aughts financial crisis. McKay used graphics and asides; he broke the fourth wall; he peppered in some wry celebrity cameos. It’s a jumble of a movie, but it makes a complex, urgent topic happily digestible. It works, despite its