There are a lot of weird things happening in Kingsman: The Golden Circle. There’s the usual Kingsman combination of British rectitude and ultraviolent splatters. There’s seemingly half the movie’s cast, including Julianne Moore and Jeff Bridges, only being seen on one set. And there’s Channing Tatum, the centerpiece of the film’s marketing campaign, appearing in roughly seven minutes of the movie.
But nothing about The Golden Circle is likely to cause as weird a sense of dislocation like its choice to use Fox News to deliver the usual action-movie exposition. (You know that exposition: It’s the kind where a news anchor will pop up and say something like “A Martian spaceship has landed in Times Square” before the movie cuts to Times Square, and yup, there’s the Martians.) Since these decisions are often a matter of network synergy above all else — Batman v Superman was absolutely full of TV personalities from Warner Bros.’ corporate siblings, leading to what I can only assume is their eternal embarrassment — it’s easy to get why this 20th Century Fox film chose Fox News for the job instead of the usual CNN or BBC. As Matthew Vaughn told USA Today, “It’s just easier … We save money, we don’t have to build the sets.”
But let me tell you, in 2017 it’s wild to see Fox News presented as an ideologically neutral source of information. Every time the movie cuts to anchors Shannon Bream and Bill Hemmer, it’s impossible not to have a little moment of pause, like, Okay, what’s the angle here? This is a movie about a drug dealer holding the world for ransom until the president ends the War on Drugs — surely you’d think Fox News would have some thoughts on the situation. Is the new wave of poisonous drugs a real problem, or are triggered libs just being hysterical? Can we blame the New Black Panthers? How is it connected to Hillary’s emails?
The weirdest moment comes at the end of the movie, when — spoiler alert — the president is arrested for treason after he imprisons thousands of nonviolent drug users without a trial, leading to countless deaths. The Fox News anchors report this news completely straight, which seems off. Why aren’t they jubilantly celebrating the downfall of this murderous tyrant (if the president’s a Democrat) or asking why no one’s talking about black-on-black crime (if he’s a Republican)?
Fox News might smart at jokes like that; the network has always maintained that there’s a difference between pundits like Sean Hannity, who are allowed to say whatever they like, and anchors like Bream and Hemmer, who are objective reporters. But this tends to be a distinction without much difference, as both sides have equally vital parts to play in the Fox News ecosystem: The pundits share their opinions, while the anchors merely ask questions that happen to cover the same exact ground. In his time as an unbiased reporter of the news, Hemmer has attempted to paint Democratic politicians as accessories to pedophilia, while Bream’s spirit of journalistic inquiry led to cover ask important topics like, if Barack Obama says he’s a Christian, why wasn’t he making a bigger deal about Easter?
So yeah, it’s kind of weird to see them alongside the Anderson Coopers and Pat Kiernans of the world of cinematic journalism. Not as weird as the robot dogs, maybe, or the extended Elton John cameo, but still — it’s off. Even weirder, this was a problem with a simple solution: Why not use a local Fox affiliate, like New York’s Fox 5 News? Everyone loves Ernie Anastos!