Patricia Marcoccia’s documentary The Rise of Jordan Peterson chronicles just *that*: the increased interest around the University of Toronto psychology professor, leading to his worldwide notoriety and success of his best-seller 12 Rules For Life. But while the movie does a good job bringing uninformed viewers up to speed on the popularity and controversy of Peterson, it doesn’t add much else to the conversation. The movie is just, kind of, “there”.
Going into the film, I knew of Peterson but didn’t know a whole lot about him. Admittedly, I wasn’t really interested in knowing more about Peterson before watching the movie. He’s a public speaker who seems pleased with his Devil’s Advocate routine. He’ll convince himself and others that he’s igniting a much-needed public discussion that a current PC-culture is too afraid to have but, like we’ve seen in current U.S politics, he’s a public figure who enables suspect behaviour. Jordan Peterson can be an impressively composed and articulate speaker, but he expresses inconsiderate behaviour. There seems to never be a two-way street with him. Then again, what I perceive as co-operation, Peterson would perceive as conformity. This debate launched his second career after his opinions against gender neutral pronouns surfaced through one of his most popular YouTube uploads.
I was hoping The Rise of Jordan Peterson would offer an alternative glimpse that would inform my perspective. But despite going in with an open mind, the film failed me.
Marcoccia’s documentary is unbiased to a fault – it rides the middle until the end credits. With a documentary, even if it’s encouraging the audience to make up their own opinions, the film has to eventually lean or hint at the filmmaker’s angle. I couldn’t tell you an inkling of Marcoccia’s opinion on Jordan Peterson. She doesn’t persuade us, provoke us, or makes us ponder. She educates us on a rudimentary level (much like a Wikipedia page would), and makes her interview subjects suggest at different options (aka. make them do the heavy lifting). There’s a good interview with Peterson’s friend and fellow colleague Wil Cunningham and a fascinatingly sound interview with non-binary/intersex activist Lane Patriquin, but they’re edited into the documentary without much context.
Jordan Peterson benefits from the film though – it’ll be an effective promotional tool for him. But did Patricia Marcoccia mean to make a puff piece? Whether she likes it or not, that’s the movie she’s made.
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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie