February 26, 2006

I Went Into Yet More Husband Debt Tonight

. . . to watch the DVD of Shattered Glass. I remember hearing the movie discussed in my publishing group when it first came out, though when the original scandal broke I was helping Attila the Hub with his indie comedy, and I only heard the story in snippets, without looking into it much.

Naturally, when Jayson Blair was exposed, it renewed interest in the Stephen Glass saga because of the overlap in the two situations.

Overall, it was very nicely done. Naturally, I was torn up to watch Michael Kelly portrayed on film; afterward, the husband and I started swapping quotes from our favorite Michael Kelly columns (his: the parody of Al Gore's childhood, spent splitting rails in the farm on the top floor of a five-star hotel in Washington, D.C.; mine: the piece about the chilling effect the Bush Administration was having on free speech, that ends up as a laundry list of political voices in this country—from mainstream papers through niche publications and on down to the blogs that were just becoming popular at that time).

This flick explains how Hayden Christensen ended up playing Darth Vader. Not very well, of course: it's like getting the guy who portrayed a terrific Judas taking on the part of Satan. Wrong freakin' fall from grace, guys. For the Star Wars prequels, more of an epic feel was needed. (Although with Lucas' dialogue, it might not have made much of a difference to get the right actor in that role: it was sort of Dick and Jane in the Eternal Struggle Between Good and Evil. Not that there's anything wrong with that.)

But, Shattered Glass. Depressing, of course, on a certain level. There are magazines I worked at where one might be able to get by with some fabrication (though perhaps not the level Glass managed), and magazines where one definitely couldn't. Hint: the process is more rigorous at publications that have research departments, versus those that simply direct the copy editors to work overtime, verifying the spellings of proper nouns and checking on people's titles.

I've worked at magazines wherein the only things that really got checked were the sidebars that had contact information for companies and organizations. After all, it's important that advertisers be able to sell things to the readers. Who do you think pays for all those glossy pictures? And that (usually crappy) coated stock they're printed on? Four-color photography doesn't grow on trees, you know. (At least, it didn't before the internet became ubiquitous.)

Can't we all just be honest, here? A lot of magazines are just picture books for older kids (kids in their 30s/40s/50s/60s, a lot of the time). The actual text doesn't get the attention it deserves because visually driven editors can't convince themselves—deep down—that anyone actually reads this stuff. They figure that at most it gets skimmed. What are a few typos and awkward phrases between friends?

But Shattered Glass isn't about journalistic ethics. Nor is it about partying at CPAC, though it was nice to see how creative that old libel was—and how stale the stereotypes were of young conservatives in "Spring Breakdown." (It turns out they're sexists! Imagine! I'm still looking for a version of that story online; if anyone is in journalism class and knows where to find it, let me know. The snippets I've seen quoted are hilarious.)

The whole tale is a tragedy, and Christensen shows us a con man who exploits his youthful looks as part of his act. But Peter Sarsgaard really steals the movie. He's something special, and I wish I were willing to see Jarhead in order to watch him develop as an actor. I'm not, of course.

The movie is about what happens in the human soul when it isolates itself. It's how a person might behave—did behave—when he becomes addicted to the adulation and approval of others. And we're all capable of this: placing the need for strokes above the need to make true connections.

Everyone has to come out of the cave sometime. Try it—and leave your ego inside, okay?

Posted by Attila Girl at February 26, 2006 11:46 PM | TrackBack

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