During Zelig's first wave of celebrity, medical experts -- including psychiatrist Dr. Eudora Nesbitt Fletcher -- unsuccessfully analyze him. Then, upon his return from Italy, Dr. Fletcher takes Zelig to the isolation of the countryside and so successfully "cures" his malady that Zelig attacks an expert because Zelig disagrees with the expert's correct statement that it's a nice day. A "cured" Zelig now travels the U.S. with renewed celebrity status, giving motivational speeches about "being yourself." In addition, Zelig and Dr. Fletcher -- who is also famous due to Zelig's cure -- announce their engagement, at which point multiple women come forward to claim that Zelig married them while he was in one of his chameleon forms. Now that Zelig is accused of bigamy and adultery, the easily manipulated public turns against him, pressuring him to return to his chameleon disease and disappear. Dr. Fletcher searches for Zelig and finds him in a newsreel of Hitler; consequently, she travels to German and sees that Zelig is in Hitler's inner circle. Seeing Fletcher, Zelig comes out of his chameleon existence once again and they both return to America. The gullible and manipulated public now celebrates Zelig with a ticker tape parade in New York City. Zelig and Fletcher then marry and fade into obscurity.
Ideally, the mockumentary has several powerful potentialities. Typically, it is a clever, provocative parody of the documentary genre (Grossman 271-2). Zelig, for example beautifully imitates the black-and-white documentaries of the 1970's which purported to give an accurate and complete history. Without the benefit of digital film or CGI, Allen inserts himself as Zelig in numerous historically important scenarios. Zelig's revisionist history, just this side of reality in that Zelig poses with real historical characters (Doherty 24), "incinerated" the naive reliance on archival film as an accurate conveyor of history. Furthermore, to buttress the supposed historical reliability of his mockumentary, Allen used a then-key innovation that has been used ad nauseum: real experts such as Susan Sontag and Saul Bellow, to lend superficial credence to the truthfulness of his mocking historical account (Doherty 23). By almost seamlessly inserting Zelig into archival footage, the film shows the fallibility of film as genuine history.
Zelig also succeeded in fulfilling another potentiality of the mockumentary: parodying the modern concept of celebrity and human nature, particularly modern man's wish to conform, assimilate and belong (Genter). Through the use of comedy and keen historical mockery, Zelig succeeds in cultural critique of those facets, prompting audiences to "self-conscious analysis" of our tendency toward those human weaknesses (Grossman 272). By raising Zelig to celebrity, then lowering him to despised status, then raising him to celebrity, then relegating him to obscurity, the film forces the audience to examine our gullibility, easy manipulation and persistent problem in distinguishing fact from fiction in our celebrity-obsessed, image-obsessed culture (Grossman 283). Consequently, even as the audience laughs at the