Looking critically at Wag the Dog

1.During the title sequence Conrad Brean (played be Robert De Niro) is taken downstairs into darkened basement with spot-type lighting. This is a parody of old WWII movies in which secret conferences were often held in underground bunkers.
a. How does this allusion make us feel about the President and his staff?

b. How do the cutaways to grainy blue-tinged high angle shots add to the mood?

c. Two elements of this scene seem out of place here:
i. Brean does not look like the uniformed military men of WWII movies. Describe his appearance and indicate why it is surprising.

ii. Those old war movies favour ominous, eerie orchestral music. Describe the opening soundtrack of this film and the atmosphere it creates.
d. What expectations did you have about the subject of the film, after viewing the opening sequence?

2. Look closely at the political adds that the President’s advertising staff has devised. How is the conversation between the jockeys meant to influence people?

3. When they decide that the President should stay in China, how do they explain his change of plans? How do the media react? Are they accepting of the explanation or sceptical?

4. When the President apparently objects to the decision to stay in China, Brean says: “Tell him how sick he is.” In what other ways do the scriptwriters make the President look powerless?

5. Brean says: “We’re not going to have a war – we’re going to have the appearance of a war.” Why does he choose Albania? How does he set about creating this massive illusion?

Net neutrality


What effect has the internet had on traditional media outlets? Do you think the “commercialisation” of the internet could derail the “information revolution”? How has the internet changed the ways in which we communicate in the early 21st century?

Wag the Dog

Write a review of Wag the Dog? What did you think? Has it dated? Is it relevant today? What sort of issues immediately identify themselves in the film? What is the purpose of the film? What genre might it be categorised as? What similar texts have you experienced to this?


Why do you think our society values the study of literature?
What should we, as learners, have to do in order to be better at reading, writing, and communicating?
How did this text challenge or confirm your individual beliefs about how the world works?
Do you think critical readings help develop our own interpretation or “reading” of the text?
How does your context influence your interpretation of the text?
What effect did the text have on you? Did you hate it, love it or feel unmoved by it?
Decribe the aspects of this unit you enjoyed?
Was there a particular task that you enjoyed writing?
How has this unit improved your skills in English?

Popular cultural study questions

A. In great literature, no scene of violence exists for its own sake. Explain how the violence in The Outsider contributes to the meaning of the complete work. Avoid plot summary.

B. The conflict created when the will of an individual opposes the will of the majority is the recurring theme of many novels. Analyze the conflict of an individual who is in opposition to his society in The Outsider and discuss the moral and ethical implications for both the individual and the society. Do not summarize the plot or action.