Review: The effects of talk radio and Fox News are studied in ‘The Brainwashing of My Dad’

In an image from the film, pollster Frank Luntz, left, shares the screen with Fox News’ Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly.
(JSenko Productions)

The title and those lively Bill Plympton animations may suggest otherwise, but “The Brainwashing of My Dad” has something more serious on its mind.

Witnessing her aging Caucasian father turn from Kennedy Democrat into an “enraged and unreachable” Fox News fanatic, documentary filmmaker Jen Senko launched a personal investigation that led her to a curious culprit — prolonged exposure to Rush Limbaugh-dominated talk radio.

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Building her case with helpful backup from the likes of respected academic Noam Chomsky, Senko constructs a detailed timeline — narrated by Matthew Modine — dating to Barry Goldwater’s loss to Lyndon Johnson in the 1964 presidential election. It continues through the Reagan administration, coinciding with the rise of the overwhelmingly conservative talk radio phenomenon and dovetailing into the current tenure of Fox News founding Chief Executive Roger Ailes.


Before her dad’s death earlier this year, Senko saw him return to a kinder, gentler semblance of his former fairer and more balanced self after her mom literally reprogrammed him — or, at least, the TV remote — while turning off the radio and swapping out his email newsletters for daily briefings from the progressive Truthout.

Although Senko ultimately overplays Hillary Clinton’s “vast right-wing conspiracy” card, her film, with its timely “Trumpian” reverberations, nevertheless serves up some compelling food for thought.


“The Brainwashing of My Dad.”


No rating.

Running time: 1 hour, 29 minutes.

Playing: Laemmle’s Music Hall, Beverly Hills. Also on VOD.

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