Anti-Climacus


"Thou shalt not extinguish thine anger, but shall master it, that thy conscience may not be blunted by adjustment to wrong causes."
-The Dutch Ten Commandments to Foil the Nazis

23.2.13

Adventures in Cultural Consumption, Don't Even Get Me Started Edition:

Broadcast News: Do people like this movie? I know people who like this movie. What on earth could be wrong with them?

Albert Brooks stars as a Nice Guy™. He is also a Serious Journalist. He identifies himself as a Nice Guy by, at turns, acting like he is much, much smarter than the woman he is in love with but will never make an active move to pursue, and through being her best friend, which apparently involves telling her she's a terrible person and emotionally manipulating her to undermine her decisions. You also know he's a Serious Journalist because he only does stories about war.

Now, it's possible that if you saw this movie when it came out, you may have some recollection of it being praised for being an incisive critique of the way TV journalism traded out substance for flash. That is, indeed, the point, and to make it clear, the William Hurt character (not a bright guy) gets the idea to do a story on a very frivolous and un-newsworthy topic: date rape. Yes, kids, that's right: war is news but letting people know about a widespread behavior they might not know existed is not, if it involves a woman crying, because it's just emotional manipulation and, as Brooks' character puts it, "complaining about nookie." Yeah, those women who were raped: what's wrong with them? This movie was made in 1987. The feminists were right, people.

The actual plot of the movie is supposed to turn on William Hurt's journalistic deception, about which I could not even bring myself to care. Was it personally unethical to cry when he didn't cry in actual response to hearing the story? Yes, if the goal of doing so was to boost his own career. Does it make anything else about the story invalid? Not if everyone accepts that he could have done a reverse-shot after the interview to give him something to cut to (which it appears everyone does, Holly Hunter included); at that point, you're already deceiving in some relevant sense, and Hurt's initial, perhaps-as-moving reaction (commented upon by the producer and the interviewee) was also lost. But, people, come on: if you're editing, you're already lying.

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