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Rantanplan
02-10-2013, 12:42 AM
I think that any writer who's been at this long enough will agree: the odds of making it are just as slim as the odds of an athlete making it to the NBA, NFL or other pro realm. Not just because of the skills required, but in large part because there's only so much room at the table.

But the difference is, and granted, I am NOT someone who watches pro sports: when it comes to scripts from actual movies playing in actual theaters, writers, pros, and the general public alike, often attend films and wonder: WTF???

Yes, I know the general wisdom is to say that the script was brilliant at the onset and that the clueless studio execs, who probably all have MBAs from Harvard, screwed it up.

But OK, here's an example: I recently watched some flick with Bruce Willis and Sigourney Weaver, and it was probably the lamest script I've seen in a long while. The dialogue was so bad it could have been written by a kid who didn't graduate high school. Basic notions of screenwriting, such as introducing something in the first act that will come to play in the third act: non existent (hint: if you talk about spearfishing at some point, then maybe have it play a role at some other point, especially since it would be a cool way for the bad guy to die. Other hint: why waste time with a character's failed business sob story if, once again, it has nothing to bear on the story?). Elements of suspense, totally lacking. Etc, etc.

Awful flick. And yet two major stars signed on. After presumably having read the script.

So what gives? These examples are a dime a dozen.

The Super Bowl is the most watched televised event in the history of American television. Yes many people tune in for the commercials and the entertainment, but would it be as popular as it is if the players did as bad a job as some of the scripts that grace our screens?

I think the film, music and publishing industries will always suffer from that X factor: nobody in the industry can actually explain why quality content doesn't make it while crap content does--except for purely commercial reasons, except that those are a long shot as well. I doubt the film I just mentioned will make much money.

So I don't know. Who is under the most pressure to deliver? You can call a player off the field, but is that the same as a writer being rewritten by five or six other writers? Does the NBA tolerate the same kind of *mediocre* standards as the film industry?

FoxHound
02-10-2013, 03:26 AM
Occasionally, really crappy players make it to the NBA. I remember when Rafael Araujo was drafted by then Raptors GM Bob Babcock -- to the utter disbelief of ESPN draft night commenatators.

He was awful! Barely managed 2 points a game. He was 300 pounds, yet was tossed around like a rag doll in the paint by players half his size. And what a terrible shooter. When he went up for layups, he'd hurl the ball forward, making it harmlessly bounce off the back board. Basic skills/physics eluded him, yet by some fluke he made it for 3 dismal seasons playin' hardly 12 minutes per game before he was booted by the Jazz.

The same happens in the screenwriting world. Occasionally, you get a real stinker.

Richmond Weems
02-10-2013, 07:50 AM
Does the NBA tolerate the same kind of *mediocre* standards as the film industry?

Yes, it does.

Any industry does, quite frankly, because there's always going to be one person calling the shots and saying, "Make it happen."

The reasons for it could be anywhere from having a "gut feeling" about a player that goes against the grain of what others are saying, to having a high-priced role player as leverage down the road for future trades...or the one calling the shots is an idiot, and will eventually be replaced by the owner who really had the "gut feeling".

But screenwriting isn't immune to this practice anymore than any other job in any other industry.

JeffLowell
02-10-2013, 07:56 AM
You're trying to take a team effort (making a movie) and blame it on a member of the team.

Here's the NBA analogy: despite being filled with talented athletes at the top of their game, do teams go out and have horrible evenings where they're blown out by thirty points? Do they go on double digit losing streaks?

Awful flick. And yet two major stars signed on. After presumably having read the script.

They read a script. You have no idea what they read versus what you saw.

And it's not just execs - it's directors who encourage actors to ad lib, or directors who are visual masters but don't really have a narrative sense; it's rewrites by the actors' friends or the actors themselves; it's multiple writers all addressing different notes until the thread is lost; yes, it can be execs asking for things that send the script south; it's casting actors who turn out to be wrong for the role; it's budgetary/location disasters so you're rewriting on the fly, trying to piece something together...

And yes, sometimes shitty scripts get made. Of course there's no objective truth about art, and his **** is her gold, but sometimes a star or director or studio head will respond to one element of a script and that's enough to get it made, even if the rest is horrible.

Reg Thorpe
02-10-2013, 08:56 AM
But the difference is, and granted, I am NOT someone who watches pro sports: when it comes to scripts from actual movies playing in actual theaters, writers, pros, and the general public alike, often attend films and wonder: WTF???



Amen.

Just saw Safehouse recently, and even though this will probably start an absolute ****-storm I couldn't help but think we've seen this before...

Good guy and bad guy has to work together to survive and in the mean-time become friends. WTF is right.

I'm sure someone will attack me for my simplistic analysis of this "great" film but seriously, we're writers. Change it the f*ck up. Try to surprise somebody.

Juno Styles
02-10-2013, 09:17 AM
And it's not just execs - it's directors who encourage actors to ad lib, or directors who are visual masters but don't really have a narrative sense; it's rewrites by the actors' friends or the actors themselves; it's multiple writers all addressing different notes until the thread is lost; yes, it can be execs asking for things that send the script south; it's casting actors who turn out to be wrong for the role; it's budgetary/location disasters so you're rewriting on the fly, trying to piece something together...

.....and this list goes on and on and on and on.......all of that can make a "decent" or "good" script turn out to be a $hitty movie by the time it actually comes out.

Chief
02-10-2013, 10:11 AM
Cold Light of Day.

A terrible, terrible movie.

bmcthomas
02-10-2013, 10:30 AM
Yes, shitty movies get made. So do shitty TV shows. And shitty books get published too. And...so what? I mean, what can you do about that? Nothing. All you can do is keep writing what you write.

glantern2814
02-10-2013, 10:55 AM
Sometimes, things just don't translate well. To keep the sports analogy up, look at Tim Tebow. Arguably one of the best college football players ever (and I'm a Georgia grad). Despite being a first-round pick, he's been a terrible pro. Why? Because his skillset doesn't translate well to the pro game after running essentially a high school offense at Florida. NFL coaches have tried to change his skills to work in a pro-style offense.

If the screenwriter were Tebow (maybe I should make the Tebow pose every time I finish a script), it's a bit of the same thing -- having the writer change his script to fit the demands of the studio, director and stars rather than keep in the elements of the script that made them want to sign on in the first place. It's easier to change the script rather than get a whole new cast and crew, just like it's easier to trade Tebow rather than the rest of the Jets coaches and players.

For every Tebow, there's an Andrew Luck or RGIII who can make that transition quickly from the college to the pro game, just like there are writers who can incorporate notes and create a version of the script that remains true to their original vision.

Just like pro sports, there's the occasional diamond in the ruff that gets overlooked as well as the player or writer that turns out to be overrated.

cshel
02-10-2013, 11:06 AM
I wish somebody would hurry up and rewrite that Laker show! :eek:

artisone
02-10-2013, 11:28 AM
Amen.

Just saw Safehouse recently, and even though this will probably start an absolute ****-storm I couldn't help but think we've seen this before...

Good guy and bad guy has to work together to survive and in the mean-time become friends. WTF is right.

I'm sure someone will attack me for my simplistic analysis of this "great" film but seriously, we're writers. Change it the f*ck up. Try to surprise somebody.

Most def not attacking you, but when you read Safe House, you see that it's a movie. You see the potential. You see the target audience and you see the world wide appeal. The story was not groundbreaking, but it was nice, tight and marketable. Look at how quickly it went from script to production.

michaelb
02-10-2013, 02:32 PM
You're trying to take a team effort (making a movie) and blame it on a member of the team.

Here's the NBA analogy: despite being filled with talented athletes at the top of their game, do teams go out and have horrible evenings where they're blown out by thirty points? Do they go on double digit losing streaks?



They read a script. You have no idea what they read versus what you saw.

And it's not just execs - it's directors who encourage actors to ad lib, or directors who are visual masters but don't really have a narrative sense; it's rewrites by the actors' friends or the actors themselves; it's multiple writers all addressing different notes until the thread is lost; yes, it can be execs asking for things that send the script south; it's casting actors who turn out to be wrong for the role; it's budgetary/location disasters so you're rewriting on the fly, trying to piece something together...

And yes, sometimes shitty scripts get made. Of course there's no objective truth about art, and his **** is her gold, but sometimes a star or director or studio head will respond to one element of a script and that's enough to get it made, even if the rest is horrible.

This.

Rant, you always keep blaming the script, but to me, it shows a total lack of understanding how films are made.

Best,

MB

ATB
02-10-2013, 02:44 PM
I'm sure someone will attack me for my simplistic analysis of this "great" film but seriously, we're writers. Change it the f*ck up. Try to surprise somebody.

Yeah! With zombies and superheroes! Together if at all possible!

Knaight
02-10-2013, 03:44 PM
To take the thread in a slightly different direction, I would argue that for those who have the ambition, it's easier to make it as a screenwriter than as a pro ball-player.

In sports, if you aren't amazing by your 20's, it's not happening. The body starts to wear down by the time you're 25.

With writing, you've got way more time. Granted, it can be harder to break in when you're middle-aged or older, due to both stigmas and the fact that many people in their late 40's and above have trouble writing something that can connect with the younger, movie-going generation. But still, you've got way more time on your hands to hone your craft and get better.

Rant about bad movies all you want. You should know by now that a movie's quality is rarely equal to the script's. Sure, sometimes a bad script sells for some random reasons, but those writers aren't the ones that have careers. As far as I'm concerned, "making it" means you get paid more than once. It means screenwriting becomes your job instead of your hobby.

MrZero
02-10-2013, 05:12 PM
Another problem that usually arises in these discussions is the failure to grasp that "quality" is necessarily a relative term. A script like Safe House might be garbage when compared with The Godfather, but it's still fifty times better than your typical amateur spec.

The sad truth is that the worst movie you saw last year, that pile of cinematic bilge that you've been urging your friends to avoid at all costs, was made by people with talents far above the median.

There was that story that made the news recently about a journeyman NBA player who, tired of hearing criticisms about his skills, challenged a bunch of fans to a series of one-on-one basketball games with him. He trounced every one of them.

CthulhuRises
02-10-2013, 06:47 PM
Another problem that usually arises in these discussions is the failure to grasp that "quality" is necessarily a relative term. A script like Safe House might be garbage when compared with The Godfather, but it's still fifty times better than your typical amateur spec.

The sad truth is that the worst movie you saw last year, that pile of cinematic bilge that you've been urging your friends to avoid at all costs, was made by people with talents far above the median.

There was that story that made the news recently about a journeyman NBA player who, tired of hearing criticisms about his skills, challenged a bunch of fans to a series of one-on-one basketball games with him. He trounced every one of them.

The White Mamba!

Schrodinger's Hat
02-10-2013, 06:59 PM
Speaking of Guggenheim, I'm not ashamed to admit that Re-entry is the NBA Playoffs to my fourth-grade-pickup-game.

Rantanplan
02-10-2013, 09:11 PM
This.

Rant, you always keep blaming the script, but to me, it shows a total lack of understanding how films are made.

Best,

MB

I'm a big defender of writers, I don't think I'm always blaming the script. At least I hope not. I'm always in favor of writers getting more recognition, standing up for themselves, being proactive and not doormats, etc. And I understand how many different people and voices have to come together for a movie to get made.

And of course, everything is subjective. But HW does have at its disposal an unbelievable pool of talent, from writers to execs to producers, directors, actors, and everything in between. They have the best of the best, the pro players, who worked so hard to get to that elite place. So yes, it is sometimes astounding to see what this incredibly talented pool of people produces...

And yes, I think there is probably once in a while a bad script that gets made. Just like bad novels are published. I don't exactly think that's an outrageous statement to make :)

And I certainly would expect more from the stars of, respectively, two of the most admired and beloved franchises in contemporary cinema!

Anyway, what's interesting, and I guess what makes my observation the farthest thing from interesting, is that a century ago, novelists were bitching about the same thing -- the state of the industry and the amount of commercial junk that was published.

And also, I don't know if it's just what I've chosen to watch lately, but is it my imagination or do indie flicks seem to be experiencing a revival? Maybe it's all cyclical, and about action generating reaction, and after a certain period of nothing but big fare, a need arises for change.

@ Jeff: OK, maybe the script Willis first read wasn't the one that was filmed. But he's freaking Bruce Willis. He's got pull. Don't you think if he thought a script was bad that he would do something about it? Maybe the egos of stars sometimes turn good scripts into bad films, but surely the opposite must happen also: an actor with decades of experience can recognize bad dialogue, horrible plotting, etc. I've met a lot of cultural attaches in my life --most of them do not exactly look like Bruce Willis (his "cover" in the film, as opposed to his true identity as a CIA spy) :)

Rantanplan
02-10-2013, 09:42 PM
There was that story that made the news recently about a journeyman NBA player who, tired of hearing criticisms about his skills, challenged a bunch of fans to a series of one-on-one basketball games with him. He trounced every one of them.

I find that to be a dangerous analogy. Most film critics have never written a script. Does that mean they can't express an informed opinion about the quality of a movie? The average moviegoer doesn't give a sh!t about how hard the cast and crew worked. All he wants is for the entertainment he selects to be worth his 10 bucks.

If people don't understand how difficult it is to make it in some industries, then they're idiots. But they still expect results. As they should.

FoxHound
02-10-2013, 10:12 PM
Let's face it, standards are changing. Great writing has taken a back seat to marketability, in all facets of literature. In the 1920's, unless you wrote like Leo Tolstoy, you'd never make it. But look at today. E.L. james is the biggest author out there. I mean, really? E.L. James? Her writing is so... E.L. James? REALLY???

It's the American dream. Write like a wannabe Stephanie Myers or a book club high-schooler about a hot topic, make millions, smack Tolstoy and his literary genius in the face. This is America afterall. ANYONE can be a literary giant if it sells.

Knaight
02-11-2013, 05:50 AM
Write like a wannabe Stephanie Myers or a book club high-schooler about a hot topic, make millions, smack Tolstoy and his literary genius in the face. This is America afterall. ANYONE can be a literary giant if it sells.

If it were that easy to write like Stephanie Myers and make millions, you'd think more people would be doing it. The number of people who are so principled that they'd give up millions to avoid contributing more fluff to the marketplace are... few.

Why One
02-11-2013, 11:47 AM
An article that illuminates the development process:

http://thebitterscriptreader.blogspot.co.uk/2012/12/eric-heisserer-lifts-curtain-on-studio.html

JeffLowell
02-11-2013, 12:01 PM
I find that to be a dangerous analogy.

I don't find it "dangerous" to think that people who do something for a living might be, on average, better at that job than people who don't work in that field.

YMMV.

MJ Scribe
02-11-2013, 12:25 PM
An article that illuminates the development process:

http://thebitterscriptreader.blogspot.co.uk/2012/12/eric-heisserer-lifts-curtain-on-studio.html

And, not to be forgotten one of the funniest explanations of the process I've ever read. From DD Pro's very own, WC Martell... Sex in a Submarine. If you haven't seen it you have to check it out.;)

http://sex-in-a-sub.blogspot.com/2006/04/do-i-even-have-time-to-blog.html

hope this is OK to post....

Mossbraker
02-11-2013, 12:30 PM
If it were that easy to write like Stephanie Myers and make millions, you'd think more people would be doing it. The number of people who are so principled that they'd give up millions to avoid contributing more fluff to the marketplace are... few.

Yes, it takes a special kind of writer to write romantic drivel for 13 year olds. Writing like her is easy, it's the making millions part. Why does one pile of crap succeed over countless other piles of crap? Who knows, but it would make a great documentary.

After seeing that and Hunger games, I think all you truly need is a teenage love triangle and everything else in the story is free to suck balls.

Mr. Earth
02-11-2013, 12:31 PM
The basketball guy's name is Brian Scalabrine. He was the human victory cigar...meaning when he came into the game, his team had already won. That's not entirely fair because he did play useful minutes here and there and he played for a bunch of (good) teams over about 10 years. He destroyed the amateurs and semi-pros haters that took him on in a radio challenge after he retired.

I'll take that further and say I've played pick up basketball against quite a few college players and near pros and I don't care how much they played, how big they were, or what their specialty was on their college team, every single one of them could drive through a pick up game's defense and get to the rim and score any time they needed to.

I think this comparison, particularly the NBA, to aspiring screenwriters is apt. Aside from the guys that come up with money and create some vanity project movie from something they wrote, if you've written something that's been produced by someone else, you are light years ahead of all us suckers without any credits to our name.

I guess another way to look at it is, no one has ever made the pros by pointing out how much somebody else sucks. You make it by proving that you're better at it than the other guy.

Mr. Earth
02-11-2013, 12:34 PM
I don't care how terrible a movie turns out to be, if you search for it, you can always figure out the reason for its existence and why people at some point in time got excited about throwing their money into it.

Why One
02-11-2013, 12:39 PM
Yes, it takes a special kind of writer to write romantic drivel for 13 year olds. Writing like her is easy, it's the making millions part. Why does one pile of crap succeed over countless other piles of crap? Who knows, but it would make a great documentary.

After seeing that and Hunger games, I think all you truly need is a teenage love triangle and everything else in the story is free to suck balls.

Sounds like a terrific career plan. Write sh!t and cross your fingers it makes you as successful or as rich as Stephanie Meyer.

Or I could just play the lottery and save myself months/years of bashing keys.

Think I have life figured out.

keithcalder
02-11-2013, 12:45 PM
Yes, it takes a special kind of writer to write romantic drivel for 13 year olds. Writing like her is easy, it's the making millions part. Why does one pile of crap succeed over countless other piles of crap? Who knows, but it would make a great documentary.

After seeing that and Hunger games, I think all you truly need is a teenage love triangle and everything else in the story is free to suck balls.

Alternate theory: you value different things than the huge portion of the global population that loves Twilight and Hunger Games. Because of this, you lack the critical ability to look at a large set of teenage love stories and identify which stories will have mass cultural appeal to that audience and which won't. As a writer, you don't like the feeling of not having any meaningful insight into an entire segment of pop culture, so you just label it all as crap that's easy to write if someone wanted to. Someone such as yourself, who is clearly more talented (by your own definition, naturally) than the hacks who are making millions.

Why One
02-11-2013, 12:49 PM
Yes, it takes a special kind of writer to write romantic drivel for 13 year olds. Writing like her is easy, it's the making millions part. Why does one pile of crap succeed over countless other piles of crap? Who knows, but it would make a great documentary.

Alternate theory:

Maybe, just maybe...

And stay with me on this, because it's a difficult concept to grasp...

Maybe...

...

Are you ready for this...?

Maybe...

....

She wrote something that millions of people would like.

Boom! Twist!

Gasp...

I know, crazy, right?!!!

Why One
02-11-2013, 01:40 PM
And, not to be forgotten one of the funniest explanations of the process I've ever read. From DD Pro's very own, WC Martell... Sex in a Submarine. If you haven't seen it you have to check it out.;)

http://sex-in-a-sub.blogspot.com/2006/04/do-i-even-have-time-to-blog.html

hope this is OK to post....

Thnx for the link! Always enjoy Martell's blog, even if it is white text over black. ;)

Mossbraker
02-11-2013, 01:40 PM
Alternate theory: you value different things than the huge portion of the global population that loves Twilight and Hunger Games. Because of this, you lack the critical ability to look at a large set of teenage love stories and identify which stories will have mass cultural appeal to that audience and which won't. As a writer, you don't like the feeling of not having any meaningful insight into an entire segment of pop culture, so you just label it all as crap that's easy to write if someone wanted to. Someone such as yourself, who is clearly more talented (by your own definition, naturally) than the hacks who are making millions.

As a writer with the perfect ability to understand my own feelings, and dare I say feel them myself as well, don't try to get personal by projecting what you think they might be. Apparently, you are upset about the use of the term crap? Crap is what is immediately thrown away after digestion. Crap IS pop culture. McDonald's makes the best selling hamburger, is it really the best hamburger out there? Is that the best a hamburger can do? You really want money to be your judge? Do you pick the next movie you see based simply on how much it made over the weekend? Or you just care about who it's be sold to? Since money is your game.

Franz Kafka died penniless and unknown, an amateur, he didn't make a dime off his writing. Who today hasn't heard of Kafka? Why does it persist? Tell me, who will remember Stephanie Meyer in five years? Ten? Twenty? Pop is what it is, it pops and then it's gone. Big deal.

Mossbraker
02-11-2013, 01:49 PM
But in any case, that and hunger games are children's books...they ain't supposed to last and they're movies that only got made because of an already established fanbase.

Back to the topic...

CJ Walley
02-11-2013, 01:51 PM
Alternate theory: you value different things than the huge portion of the global population that loves Twilight and Hunger Games. Because of this, you lack the critical ability to look at a large set of teenage love stories and identify which stories will have mass cultural appeal to that audience and which won't. As a writer, you don't like the feeling of not having any meaningful insight into an entire segment of pop culture, so you just label it all as crap that's easy to write if someone wanted to. Someone such as yourself, who is clearly more talented (by your own definition, naturally) than the hacks who are making millions.

Very well put.

Gets my goat when people take pops at writers like Stephenie Meyer, E.L James and Suzanne Collins.

They are writers like us, I'm pretty sure none of them felt entitled to huge success, they've shown humility in receiving it, the former two never even wrote with publishing in mind.

JeffLowell
02-11-2013, 01:55 PM
I'm with mossbraker. Writers who have wide popular appeal, but are mocked by critics in their time, tend to be forgotten. Charles Dickens springs to mind as an obvious example.

As a contemporary of Dickens, George Meredith, said:

Not much of Dickens will live, because it has so little correspondence to life. He was the incarnation of cockneydom, a caricaturist who aped the moralist; he should have kept to short stories. If his novels are read at all in the future, people will wonder what we saw in them.

Why One
02-11-2013, 01:59 PM
Franz Kafka died penniless and unknown, an amateur, he didn't make a dime off his writing.

You know why don't you? It's because he didn't have a memorable domain name. I also heard he missed his flights when meeting his NY publisher.

In this modern tech age where a cop hitting a girl will be seen by millions in a matter of hours, I believe it's very difficult to be a genius and not be spotted by someone who wants to exploit you.

The problem is, we're all raised to believe we're all geniuses and everyone/thing around us to be stupid, gutter level trash -- then cite Van Gogh's life as an example why our genius will remain undiscovered.

60WordsPerHour
02-11-2013, 02:11 PM
It's eminently easy to see how a movie can turn out bad - even with good material and intentions.

Now having seen one made up close, the only thing I can liken it to is what it must be like fighting a battle. You have a plan, you put it into action, then reality and chance of all different kinds fights you back. Little setbacks can have a snowball effect, relationships can sour, things that seemed feasible can prove to be the opposite and suddenly you're overrun by "the enemy". But it's pretty bloody hard to push the pause button - the juggernaut is in motion and can't be stopped easily.

I'm not saying I'll never criticise a movie again, but I will understand that bringing it all together is a tightrope walk. It's made me appreciate the brilliant ones even more.

ATB
02-11-2013, 02:17 PM
Thank you for proving my point, a55hole.

May I have another?

Let's be honest. You kinda asked for it...

Mossbraker
02-11-2013, 02:22 PM
You're seriously comparing Meyer to Dickens? Seriously? I mean...really?

Every writer is mocked at one point or another, nice cherry picking, but Dickens was pretty well received at the time. Paradoxically, The Tale of Two Cities was the one novel that was attacked by his readers and critics for its lack of humor and being too dark. It is now one of the best selling novels of all time.

I'm with mossbraker. Writers who have wide popular appeal, but are mocked by critics in their time, tend to be forgotten. Charles Dickens springs to mind as an obvious example.

As a contemporary of Dickens, George Meredith, said:

JeffLowell
02-11-2013, 02:31 PM
Dickens was largely viewed as populist twaddle, especially at the end of his career and after his death.

My point is that those critics were just as sure that he was pablum as you are that Meyer is. Who's wrong? Who's to say?

Yes, McDonalds makes the most popular burger of all time. And The Beatles are the most popular band of all time. Popularity is no infallible indicator of quality, or lack thereof.

AnyOtherName
02-11-2013, 03:43 PM
Dickens was largely viewed as populist twaddle, especially at the end of his career and after his death.

My point is that those critics were just as sure that he was pablum as you are that Meyer is. Who's wrong? Who's to say?

Yes, McDonalds makes the most popular burger of all time. And The Beatles are the most popular band of all time. Popularity is no infallible indicator of quality, or lack thereof.

This is off topic, but your post got me thinking:

It's my understanding that the critical reception of Dickens (in his time) was decidedly mixed, with some heaping near-hyperbolic praise and others being dismissive. From what I've read in CD biographies, the modern-day critical appraisal of J.K. Rowling would probably be a decent parallel to that of CD.*

I'm less sure about the comparison to Meyer, who is pretty roundly dismissed by critics.

There's this romantic idea that authors who are dismissed by contemporary critics may one day have their genius recognized, but I'm not sure if there are any true examples of that. There were certainly *controversial* authors whose admirers finally won out over their detractors, and there were critically-praised-but-unpopular authors who are now more widely read. There are also once-hugely-esteemed authors now largely forgotten (does anyone read Edna Furber anymore?).

But this populistic idea that the masses can be better judges of quality than the stuffy academics who would be villains in a Robin Williams movie-- I'm not sure if history truly supports that. (I'm being purposefully equivocal here, as I'm genuinely not fully certain-- but I suspect that work generally regarded as dreck in its time doesn't de-dreckify much with age.)


*At the end of Dickens' life, sure, he was dismissed by a younger generation who considered his work hoary and old-fashioned-- but I think that's in the same way that Einstein was dismissed at the end of his life by emerging quantum physicists; that is, every generation has to, in some ways, reject what came before, but with the (often unspoken) knowledge that the work they're rejecting is nevertheless fine in its way and will almost certainly last.

mgwriter
02-11-2013, 03:59 PM
A 7-footer trying to get in NBA is competing against other 7-footers who might play same position.--Not much competition therefore most 7-footers are almost guaranteed a shot even without being very skilled. Hell, in terms of basic b.ball skills (shooting,dribbling) most 7-footers suck worse than average high school baller. there are exceptions and those bigmen with skills usually become all time greats.

As height decreases the amount of competition increases and it requires more skill to make the team.

Height is a built in filter to reduce the amount of competition for getting into the NBA, making it easier for certain body types.

Screenwriting has no such filter to reduce amount of competition. all that is requied is basic reading/writing skills and a writing instrument. That means there are going to be way too many applying for very few jobs. Unfortunately there is no quick eye test like height or a painting to tell if someone has talent in screenwriting. the only way to find out is to crack open the pages (which takes way too long).

Imagine if NBA scouts had to give every 5'9" man or woman who wanted to play center a tryout. The numbers would be both astronomical and unmanageable, which is the current problem with screenwriting, way too many people trying out for positions they're not suited for. Some of those 5'9" people might have mad skills, even better than a 7-footer, but they're just not right for the position, which I think also happens in screenwriting. Some aspiring writers have talent but they are writing stuff that just won't sell/doesn't have mass appeal.

But most aspiring screenwriters need to go do something else, plain and simple. They need to look in the mirror and honestly judge what their "screenwriting height" is. Am I a 7-foot screenwriter or more of a 5'9" writer, which are a dime a dozen. 7-foot screenwriters are those with built-in connections, those who can succeed without all that much talent. 5'9" screenwriters are those with no built-in advantages and must outshine solely on their skills and talent. Look at how much better Iverson, Nate Robinson, or Spud Webb are than others of their same height. Is your screenwriting standing out on that level, or is it just another script in the sea of average height players displaying only a pretty good talent level?

JeffLowell
02-11-2013, 04:14 PM
There's this romantic idea that authors who are dismissed by contemporary critics may one day have their genius recognized, but I'm not sure if there are any true examples of that.

John Kennedy Toole? Couldn't even get his work published to get criticized. The aforementioned Kafka? Attracted very little attention for his writing during his life.

It happens in music all the time - Pinkerton, anyone?

It happens with movies as well. Duck Soup bombed so badly it got the Marx Brothers fired from their studio. Vertigo bombed and was tepidly received.

I think examples don't spring to mind because if a movie is remembered positively, people don't think "oh, but critics didn't like it in the day." That fact is usually lost to history, or at least it doesn't become part of the public consciousness...

But this populistic idea that the masses can be better judges of quality than the stuffy academics who would be villains in a Robin Williams movie-- I'm not sure if history truly supports that.

I'm just saying that popularity is no perfect indicator of quality. People love stuff that critics hate. People love stuff that critics love. You can't look at something popular and say "popular = pop = McDonalds = dreck." IMHO.

AnyOtherName
02-11-2013, 04:52 PM
John Kennedy Toole? Couldn't even get his work published to get criticized. The aforementioned Kafka? Attracted very little attention for his writing during his life.

It happens in music all the time - Pinkerton, anyone?

It happens with movies as well. Duck Soup bombed so badly it got the Marx Brothers fired from their studio. Vertigo bombed and was tepidly received.

I think examples don't spring to mind because if a movie is remembered positively, people don't think "oh, but critics didn't like it in the day." That fact is usually lost to history, or at least it doesn't become part of the public consciousness...



I'm just saying that popularity is no perfect indicator of quality. People love stuff that critics hate. People love stuff that critics love. You can't look at something popular and say "popular = pop = McDonalds = dreck." IMHO.


Oh, I didn't mean to suggest I was taking issue with the (obviously correct) point that popularity doesn't in-itself say much about a work's long-term prospects.

I think what I meant to say was that the unique combination of "public likes/critics hate" doesn't tend to evolve into "public likes/critics like" (or at least, no examples of that immediately spring to mind).

I don't know why the combination of "public hates/critics hate" seems to bode better for the long-term prospects of a work (relative to "public likes/critics hate"), but, as in the examples you cited, it does.

Two possible explanations: a) perhaps critics, for all their strong-mindedness, don't tend to enjoy being on the "wrong" side of overwhelming popular opinion and adjust their opinions accordingly; or b) perhaps there are simply multiple reasons for things to be popular, and the things that keep, say, "The Lord of the Rings" popular are simply better (from a critical perspective) and thus more lasting than the things that make, say, "Fifty Shades of Grey" popular.

My point was, people sometimes make the argument that critics are a bunch of fuddy-duddies whose views will have less predictive power about the longevity of a work than will its popular reception-- and I'm not sure that that argument is well-founded in history. When critics get it wrong (and they do), the public tends to be complicit, but when the public and critics are out-of-sync, I propose that historically, the critics tend to be proved "right."

(I know this is all academic and of little consequence; I'm just trying to test the theory, and I appreciate your playing along.)


EDIT 4:07 p.m.: I should note that there are, obviously, an overwhelming number of examples of "critics like/public hates" works sinking into obscurity. So when I wrote that public-critics dissonances tend to resolve in favor of critics, I was biting off more than I intended to chew-- it's only in instances of "critics hate/public likes" that I see the critical consensus as proving more predictive of a work's longevity. [I sense this argument becoming more and more a) depressing, and b) remote.]

Why One
02-11-2013, 05:14 PM
Hindsight is 20-20.

When something lasts the test of time, and you're looking at it from the future, then yeah it's becomes clear why they have became classics. And the people who were right -- their opinions become crystal.

I doubt the critics of the Dickens era predicted that his works would be read in schools and spawn movies that are shown in the holidays every. ****ing. year.

I don't know what the exact feelings are of around that time since I wasn't born then, but who's to say they weren't similar to the way people feel about TWILIGHT now.

Who knows, maybe readers in 2100 might say, "Oh yeah, TWILIGHT, the story that changed the vampire genre by romanticizing it for the mainstream. I can see why teenagers today still love it." And this very debate is repeated, with "TWILIGHT" being drawn comparatively and why the very popular "SUPER ROBOT LOVER MASOCHIST YEAH!" won't last.

LMPurves
02-11-2013, 05:47 PM
THIS is exactly my point!

I didn't start this crap(read the posts!) but if I retaliate then EVERYONE comes down on me.

Oust away, Purves!

THIS is exactly my point!

You retaliate by vomiting up insult after insult and it's really not cool.

You also said you wished ATB would die soon. Who says stuff like that when they are an adult?

It's sad, really, Reg.

You have enough of a background in the UK to maybe make a go of story-telling and maybe find some success. You could maybe have a chance. Learn to keep your fvcking mouth shut.

And yes, I say the "fvcking mouth shut" part from experience. You remind me a bit of me back when I was really immature -- although, I sincerely hope I wasn't as bad! -- and if I learned to hold my tongue, so can you.

sc111
02-11-2013, 06:38 PM
I'm with mossbraker. Writers who have wide popular appeal, but are mocked by critics in their time, tend to be forgotten. Charles Dickens springs to mind as an obvious example.

As a contemporary of Dickens, George Meredith, said:


Excellent point. (I hope people get your sarcasm, you've been using a very light touch of late.)

A number of the greats in literature were written off as talentless by their contemporaries.

-------------------------------------------

Moss -- what's wrong with Hunger Games, the book(s)? It's written for tweeners and up. I'm reading the first one with my 10 year old. It's hard to write for that age group and I think it's written well.

Bairn_Writer
02-11-2013, 07:11 PM
I've mentioned before in another thread, but instead of bashing these authors for the way they write, maybe think why they write the stories like they do and in that style - could it be a deliberately choice by them as it suits the story and/or is what their target reader wants?

Writing off these things as crap is like saying that Ted was dumb and not on the emotional level of Schindler's List. But Ted provided exactly what it's target audience wanted and it appears that Twilight does exactly that for it's target audience. And that takes skill, otherwise we could all pop out a multi-million selling story and use that power to make our passion project.

sc111
02-11-2013, 07:14 PM
I think that any writer who's been at this long enough will agree: the odds of making it are just as slim as the odds of an athlete making it to the NBA, NFL or other pro realm. Not just because of the skills required, but in large part because there's only so much room at the table.

But the difference is, and granted, I am NOT someone who watches pro sports: when it comes to scripts from actual movies playing in actual theaters, writers, pros, and the general public alike, often attend films and wonder: WTF???



Well, maybe I've been dumbed down by popular culture, or I'm too eclectic in my tastes for a wide range of genres, but I have to say I enjoy a lot of the movies made. I don't "often wonder WTF?" as you say above.

I occasionally wonder, WTF?

My big complaint is that some genres, and certain types of stories within other genres, have dropped off the production slate to make room for big tentpoles that do well internationally.

FoxHound
02-11-2013, 07:42 PM
Hindsight is 20-20.

Who knows, maybe readers in 2100 might say, "Oh yeah, TWILIGHT, the story that changed the vampire genre by romanticizing it for the mainstream. I can see why teenagers today still love it." And this very debate is repeated, with "TWILIGHT" being drawn comparatively and why the very popular "SUPER ROBOT LOVER MASOCHIST YEAH!" won't last.

And maybe in 2100, the future editors of Rolling Stone magazine will look back and say: "You know what, the naysayers were 100% wrong. Bieber WAS a musical genious. He deserves to be right up there next to The Beatles and Elvis in the hall of fame -- uhhh, no.

Look, I HATE classical music, but I can tell it's genious by its universal quality. By its strucutural/mathematical aspect. It's not just a monkey hammering away on a piano.

Similarly, I HATE Shakespeare, but I KNOW (from reading 10 of them in school) his stories are great. He takes very primative, visceral, universal human behavior/emotion -- love, hate, revenge, gencoide, hope, lust, patricide -- and wraps it up in an adult, grand, larger then life operatic story.

Twilight isn't doing this. It's feeding the desire of teen girls to be loved by a cute/hot bad boy. Its satisfying the narrow desire of a small aspect of humanity. Only to this narrow group is it "great."

But true greatness appeals to ALL of humanity. It transcends religion, culture, ethnicity, pop culture. I respect Myers as a writer in a specific genre, but her literature and legacy will never be on par with Dickens or Shakespere. Her work lacks tha universal appeal of a literary genius.

Knaight
02-11-2013, 07:53 PM
Yes, it takes a special kind of writer to write romantic drivel for 13 year olds. Writing like her is easy, it's the making millions part. Why does one pile of crap succeed over countless other piles of crap? Who knows, but it would make a great documentary.

After seeing that and Hunger games, I think all you truly need is a teenage love triangle and everything else in the story is free to suck balls.

Because you're being rather careless with your words and because I'm feeling rather antagonistic...

Every writer I've ever met who's carried this type of attitude has had nowhere near the ability of the writers they insult.

I just read some pages you posted and all I've got to say is... really?

Look, we all start at the bottom. I wrote some terrible **** when I first started, and then for several years after that. Someday, you may be great. But for now, who the **** are you to use words like "crap" and "drivel" to describe the work of writers who are loved by millions? Who the **** are you to use words like that to describe the work of anyone?

Except for an extreme minority of cases, every successful writer started their journey with a dream that is very similar to the one you have. Look, you want to say someone phoned in their latest book or screenplay, that's fine. You want to point out a specific reason about why something didn't work, go for it. You simply don't like it? Hell, you're just human. I'm certainly not a Stephanie Meyers fan. I do, however, respect her dream, her ambition, and her success. And I think your attitude is bullshit.

Also, Stephanie Meyers is better than you.

Knaight
02-11-2013, 07:58 PM
But true greatness appeals to ALL of humanity. It transcends religion, culture, ethnicity, pop culture. I respect Myers as a writer in a specific genre, but her literature and legacy will never be on par with Dickens or Shakespere. Her work lacks tha universal appeal of a literary genius.

Now it seems like you're just staying anything that comes to your head in order to defend your original argument.

Terrence Malick, Oliver Stone, David Lynch, Terry Gilliam, Stanley Kubrick, etc, etc, etc... not exactly dudes who appeal to everyone. Are you going to say they're not great?

You know what would be great? If people who want to feed themselves with their art would stop dogging on people who've managed to do that.

That would be great.

FoxHound
02-11-2013, 08:30 PM
Now it seems like you're just staying anything that comes to your head in order to defend your original argument.

Terrence Malick, Oliver Stone, David Lynch, Terry Gilliam, Stanley Kubrick, etc, etc, etc... not exactly dudes who appeal to everyone. Are you going to say they're not great?

You know what would be great? If people who want to feed themselves with their art would stop dogging on people who've managed to do that.

That would be great.

I'm specifically referring to authors and their stories. Those are directors. Besides, I doubt JFK or Time Bandits will go down in history as one of the all-time greats. Remember, this was a response to the notion that in 100 years, Myers could be regarded as the next Charles Dickens.

CColoredClown
02-11-2013, 08:32 PM
Damn that Luke Walton.

AnyOtherName
02-11-2013, 09:24 PM
Every writer I've ever met who's carried this type of attitude has had nowhere near the ability of the writers they insult.

I submit, with respect, Knaight, that you may not know a representative cross-section of writers. Many, many writers of great renown have absolutely no patience or "respect" for people who write low-quality, highly-remunerative commercial pap.

This attitude of "anything that made the writer a million dollars must be respected, 'cuz look at all those dollars!" seems, as near as I can tell, peculiar to Hollywood, and for (at least some) people who came to Hwood from other artistic disciplines, that attitude never stops seeming weird and more than a little creepy.

None of this, BTW, is meant to impugn Ms. Meyers, whose work I have not read, or the many talented screenwriters who've chosen to use their craft to commercial ends for reasons of either taste or practicality.

sc111
02-11-2013, 09:25 PM
Well, I have to honest -- as a mom I don't like Twilight but that has nothing to do with the writing skills of the author (I have not read the books). I just didn't like the message for tweeners (there are 10-year-olds who watch the films and read the books).

Vampires aside, a girl gives up her life and family for a guy then becomes a teen bride and gets knocked up immediately. (And how convenient that the conceived child matures so fast the new mom has to deal with about five minutes of diaper changing.)

But I will defend Hunger Games -- it's well written and I think the message is good for young girls.

Knaight
02-11-2013, 09:40 PM
I submit, with respect, Knaight, that you may not know a representative cross-section of writers. Many, many writers of great renown have absolutely no patience or "respect" for people who write low-quality, highly-remunerative commercial pap.

This attitude of "anything that made the writer a million dollars must be respected, 'cuz look at all those dollars!" seems, as near as I can tell, peculiar to Hollywood, and for (at least some) people who came to Hwood from other artistic disciplines, that attitude never stops seeming weird and more than a little creepy.


I get what you're saying. I think, possibly, we're looking at it from two different angles. There are plenty of talented and successful people out there who would have a myriad of negative things to say about TWILIGHT or other fluffy pieces. But that's not really what I'm talking about.

Is it aggravating to see writers call the work of other writers things like "crap" and "drivel"? Sure. And even moreso if they can't measure up to it themselves.

But what really gets me going are thoughtless, self-important, pretentious phrases like, "Writing like her is easy," or, "Why does one pile of crap succeed over countless other piles of crap?"

I think you would have a much harder time finding a successful, talented writer who would say something along those lines.

I don't love Stephanie Meyers' writing. Her stories don't speak to me. However, millions of people disagree. As many people as there are who think she's some sort of hack, she's got something they don't have. I truly believe that, as a whole, the people who complain about their lack of success in comparison to hers simply don't have the ability to discern what makes a good story or what qualifies as good writing.

LMPurves
02-11-2013, 11:42 PM
I have to own something --

I now realize that with my previous posts in this thread, I made myself a total hypocrite.

For whatever it's worth, I really do try to hold my tongue, and 99% of the time I manage it.

Then come the days when I just can't control the dragon. I'll chalk this up to one of those days.

So yeah, sorry Reg, Michael, whomever.

AnyOtherName
02-11-2013, 11:50 PM
I don't love Stephanie Meyers' writing. Her stories don't speak to me. However, millions of people disagree. As many people as there are who think she's some sort of hack, she's got something they don't have. I truly believe that, as a whole, the people who complain about their lack of success in comparison to hers simply don't have the ability to discern what makes a good story or what qualifies as good writing.

I don't think we disagree, at least not directly.

I suspect that envy (and its bff nastiness) is the most widespread sin among writers, from rank wannabes to Pulitzer winners.

And I agree it's pathetic for people who simply can't write (and came to Hollywood because ???) to tear down Stephanie Meyer because she isn't Simone de Beauvoir (or because she violated X number of items in the list of 3024 Totally Mechanical Rules That Determine For Sure If Your Writing is PRO-LEVEL).

That being said, I also think the following are problematic assumptions:

1) That the relative scarcity of wildly popular books means that writing one must be really, really hard. I'd say that writing a wildly popular book is really, really *unlikely.* But I suspect that there are many books published in any given year that are "good enough" to catch fire-- and the rest is up to a million variables, from marketing to current events to the things that come to the attention of tastemakers.

(This isn't peculiar to books; the popularity of, say, Converse shoes varies wildly from era to era, despite the design being essentially unchanged for 70 years. *Why* one shoe or book or fabric pattern becomes popular and another doesn't is the subject of whole branches of academic inquiry. But to suggest that Meyer's books became popular simply because they were "better" or "more entertaining" than the books that flopped-- that strikes me as naive at best and a bit simple-minded at worst.)

2) The second assumption that bothers me is the idea that everyone who isn't trying to write the next "Twilight" isn't trying to write the next "Twilight" because they *can't* write the next "Twilight."

Believe it or not, there are people out there whose dreams do not primarily involve making one zillion dollars (which is not to say they don't like money, only that they like other things more). They try to write well because they *value* writing well and are annoyed by people, however successful, who do not seem capable of or willing to write well, either from laziness or incompetence or (perhaps most commonly) mercenary sensibilities.

Their argument usually goes like this: the public will adjust to the level of what you give them; if you keep giving them less- and less-challenging books/plays/movies/songs, their senses will atrophy to the point that they can only digest extremely undemanding fare. Creators who provide the simplest entertainments will thus enrich themselves (since the public always seeks out the junkiest junk food available), but they'll do so at the expense of the medium. That's why it's called "selling out," and why perceived junk-peddlers aren't looked upon fondly by people who love the arts.

ATB
02-11-2013, 11:57 PM
I have to own something --

I now realize that with my previous posts in this thread, I made myself a total hypocrite.

For whatever it's worth, I really do try to hold my tongue, and 99% of the time I manage it.

Then come the days when I just can't control the dragon. I'll chalk this up to one of those days.

So yeah, sorry Reg, Michael, whomever.

Don't apologize for something that needed to be said.

60WordsPerHour
02-12-2013, 12:10 AM
John Kennedy Toole? Couldn't even get his work published to get criticized. The aforementioned Kafka? Attracted very little attention for his writing during his life.

One of my favourite books (and films) is The Leopard by Guiseppe di Lampedusa. He spent decades pondering his one and only book, wrote it over a couple of years - submitted it to a couple of publishers who told him it wasn't any good and died with it unpublished. Another publisher took it on after his death and it was almost instantly judged a classic of Italian and world literature. The Visconti film went on to win the Palme D'Or a few years later.

Poor guy never knew - and reportedly had considered himself a dilettante his entire life.

DavidK
02-12-2013, 01:26 AM
Alternate theory: you value different things than the huge portion of the global population that loves Twilight and Hunger Games. Because of this, you lack the critical ability to look at a large set of teenage love stories and identify which stories will have mass cultural appeal to that audience and which won't. As a writer, you don't like the feeling of not having any meaningful insight into an entire segment of pop culture, so you just label it all as crap that's easy to write if someone wanted to. Someone such as yourself, who is clearly more talented (by your own definition, naturally) than the hacks who are making millions.

:eek: - wow, someone who knows what they're talking about. You know, I think I could get you a job in this business.

DavidK
02-12-2013, 01:32 AM
My point is that those critics were just as sure that he was pablum as you are that Meyer is. Who's wrong? Who's to say?

Yes, McDonalds makes the most popular burger of all time. And The Beatles are the most popular band of all time. Popularity is no infallible indicator of quality, or lack thereof.

Exactly, and if the goal is to enjoy a period of professional accomplishment and success during one's lifetime, whether or not it endures, then being popular isn't such a bad thing.

DavidK
02-12-2013, 01:56 AM
I'm specifically referring to authors and their stories. Those are directors.

Just an observation - Stone, Lynch, Kubrick and especially Malick are/were also writers.

Why One
02-12-2013, 03:50 AM
Twilight isn't doing this. It's feeding the desire of teen girls to be loved by a cute/hot bad boy. Its satisfying the narrow desire of a small aspect of humanity. Only to this narrow group is it "great."

But true greatness appeals to ALL of humanity. It transcends religion, culture, ethnicity, pop culture. I respect Myers as a writer in a specific genre, but her literature and legacy will never be on par with Dickens or Shakespere. Her work lacks tha universal appeal of a literary genius.

She may not reach the level of Dickens, but who's to say her works would not still be admired by the same tween group a 100 years down the line. I'm not saying it will, I'm just saying you don't know. Her books might only appeal to a "narrow" subset, but they still exist in their millions -- and growing.

This is the problem I see with people today. They seem so sure of their own opinions that they believe they can speak for the tastes of the future billions. The critical thinkers of the Dickens era were "sure" about Dickens' legacy. And they were wrong. They just never lived to realize it. And to everyone born after them and exposed to his stories at school and through the magic of moving pictures, the timeless appeal of Dickens' works is so obvious. So obvious that it amazes us why the critics of the past couldn't see it.

And this is a mistake self-proclaimed "experts" of greatness will continue to repeat generation after generation.

If the critical thinkers of the Dickens era are still alive today (through the power of genetic engineering), they wouldn't be so quick to pass judgement on Meyer's work -- because they know from past experience that they simply do not know what the future holds. Nobody knows anything.

Knaight
02-12-2013, 04:19 AM
1) That the relative scarcity of wildly popular books means that writing one must be really, really hard. I'd say that writing a wildly popular book is really, really *unlikely.* But I suspect that there are many books published in any given year that are "good enough" to catch fire-- and the rest is up to a million variables, from marketing to current events to the things that come to the attention of tastemakers.

2) The second assumption that bothers me is the idea that everyone who isn't trying to write the next "Twilight" isn't trying to write the next "Twilight" because they *can't* write the next "Twilight."


I basically agree with these sentiments, but I'll add a couple things:

I can't imagine that Stephanie Meyer, Suzanne Collins, or even JK Rowling had any idea that their books would catch fire in the way they did. I'll argue that it would actually be hard for someone else, even a great literary writer, to write their books, simply because they are stories that came from those authors and we've all got our own perspective and voice.

And also, even if they aren't the best writers in the world, they are certainly better than the vast majority of those who insult them.

CJ Walley
02-12-2013, 04:36 AM
I basically agree with these sentiments, but I'll add a couple things:

I can't imagine that Stephanie Meyer, Suzanne Collins, or even JK Rowling had any idea that their books would catch fire in the way they did. I'll argue that it would actually be hard for someone else, even a great literary writer, to write their books, simply because they are stories that came from those authors and we've all got our own perspective and voice.

And also, even if they aren't the best writers in the world, they are certainly better than the vast majority of those who insult them.

The way I see it is - nothing quite screams you're a bad writer than calling other writers bad.

Regarding Stephenie Meyer, in her case she had a dream one night about falling in love with a beautiful vampire -- sat down -- opened Word and wrote like crazy -- the epilogue extending into chapter after chapter until she'd written 150K in three months. No chapter names, I think it even lacked main character names. It was her sister who pushed her to submit it to an agent who in turn failed to realise the word count was considered unmarketable. I think the book, 'Forks' it was called at the time, got passed by most publishers but a few loved it and the auction raised a $750K advance. The rest of course is history, maybe fleeting history, but personally I doubt it.

E L James wrote 50 Shades as Twilight Fan Fiction on a forum, writing a chapter a week and having her husband proof read it before she posted it. Her audience wanted a published book, she self published, then came print on demand and shortly later paper production plants are rehiring redundant staff and the sex industry is booming in a recession.

These were humble writers just like us, who never felt entitled but found a voice, connected with an audience and got a few lucky breaks. To call them hacks is to turn on our own kind out of little more than spite.

bmcthomas
02-12-2013, 06:21 AM
The way I see it is - nothing quite screams you're a bad writer than calling other writers bad.

E L James wrote 50 Shades as Twilight Fan Fiction on a forum, writing a chapter a week and having her husband proof read it before she posted it. Her audience wanted a published book, she self published, then came print on demand and shortly later paper production plants are rehiring redundant staff and the sex industry is booming in a recession.

These were humble writers just like us, who never felt entitled but found a voice, connected with an audience and got a few lucky breaks. To call them hacks is to turn on our own kind out of little more than spite.

I wrote a long post last night, then deleted it because I decided it wasn't worth the argument but I really want to respond to this.

My issue with EL James is that she took another writer's characters and made millions off of them. That audience that clamored for James to publish her fanfiction found her not because they were looking for erotic fiction, but because they were looking for stories about Edward and Bella - characters that James did not create.

Meyer didn't sue, so I suppose I don't need to be outraged on her behalf, but I think publishing fanfiction for profit crosses an ethical line.

As far as Twilight itself goes, I think Meyer created stories and characters that evoked an emotional response in her audience, which is what good writers do and why Meyer deserves her success. But on a very basic level (sentence construction, grammar, punctuation) the books are genuinely poorly written. Open one up and see for yourself. Misplaced modifiers, run-on sentences and incongruous word choices abound. Perhaps an argument can be made that sentence construction is irrelevant to readers or that a good editor would have spotted those problems and fixed them, but that doesn't mean those problems don't exist.

Stephen King made the same point in 2009. He praised Meyer for connecting with her audience but said she wasn't a very good writer. Perhaps he's just a spitfeful crap writer himself, jealous of her success.

CJ Walley
02-12-2013, 06:43 AM
I wrote a long post last night, then deleted it because I decided it wasn't worth the argument but I really want to respond to this.

My issue with EL James is that she took another writer's characters and made millions off of them. That audience that clamored for James to publish her fanfiction found her not because they were looking for erotic fiction, but because they were looking for stories about Edward and Bella - characters that James did not create.

Meyer didn't sue, so I suppose I don't need to be outraged on her behalf, but I think publishing fanfiction for profit crosses an ethical line.

As far as Twilight itself goes, I think Meyer created stories and characters that evoked an emotional response in her audience, which is what good writers do. But on a very basic level (sentence construction, grammar, punctuation) the books are genuinely poorly written. Open one up and see for yourself. Misplaced modifiers, run-on sentences and incongruous word choices abound. Perhaps an argument can be made that sentence construction is irrelevant to reader or that a good editor would have spotted those problems and fixed them, but that doesn't mean those problems don't exist.

Stephen King made the same point in 2009. He praised Meyer for connecting with her audience but said she wasn't a very good writer. Perhaps he's just a crap writer himself, jealous of her success.

I think your points are totally valid and well put.

The ethics of 50 Shades are ironically a little grey, it's been debated a lot, I think intent has a lot to play in my opinion. EL James was clearly a big fan, I don't think she had any profiteering in mind when she was writing her fan fiction. I respect your view on this though.

I've read a chapter of Twilight and I've spoken to fans about it. You are totally correct, Meyer taps into something beyond prose and narrative that women in particular connect with, fundamental inner worries about their future. She's humbly held her hands up over her failings and improved dramatically despite some quite fearsome hatred toward her work. But people still just love to point and laugh at her 'moats of dust'.

Stephen King always seems to chime in with critical analysis over technical ability, personally I think he comes across as a very bitter person when he does it. Plus he was full of excuses and conflicting statements when he was ripped appart over his directing efforts with Maximum Overdrive - which is incidentally one of my all time favourite films.

Maybe I'm wrong to say bad writers call other writers bad, I don't know, I just don't understand why the very people who can appreciate how tough and emotional writing is, how serendipitous success can be, how deep even the most light of criticism can cut, are so willing to twist the knife.

But to try and align with the thread topic I just don't believe any writer gets up in the morning and decides they are going to do a bad job.

Hamboogul
02-12-2013, 06:58 AM
The Twilight saga made my producers A LOT OF MONEY. And my producers also make Nicholas Sparks movies including one opening this weekend.

stainjm
02-12-2013, 07:03 AM
Some interesting statements above. Thing is, Stephen King is a wonderful story teller but a mediocre writer (as far as technical craft).

Why One
02-12-2013, 07:08 AM
I get what thestuart is pointing out.

I've been on this forum for over a decade and have seen people land reps and go on to becoming working professionals. IMO, there is a attitude difference between those writers that can elevate their writing to a level that generates industry fans from those that can't.

They're not defenders of crap; they're defenders of humbleness and humility.

bmcthomas
02-12-2013, 07:28 AM
Some interesting statements above. Thing is, Stephen King is a wonderful story teller but a mediocre writer (as far as technical craft).

I brought up Stephen King because a previous post said anyone who criticized Twilight probably doesn't understand what good writing is or what makes a good story.

I'm not quite sure what to make of your comment though. You're saying about King exactly what King said about Meyer.

Knaight
02-12-2013, 07:33 AM
I brought up Stephen King because a previous post said anyone who criticized Twilight probably doesn't understand what good writing is or what makes a good story.


I want to make it clear that I don't think it's wrong to criticize TWLIGHT or any other work of art. I think it's messed up to criticize a author/artist with harsh blanket statements when they're simply someone who shares similar dreams to you and has managed to become successful.

By the way, I don't disagree with the sentiments that Stephanie Meyer may not be the best technical writer. But really, how many people can craft a story that holds meaning to millions of people? Hint: It's a small number.

Mr. Earth
02-12-2013, 08:03 AM
These kinds of arguments pop up on DD all the time, but it always takes me back to my realization that even though the "business" is competitive, writing is not really competition against other people/writers. It's always a competition you battle within yourself.

Like I said in an earlier post, no one's ever made the pros in anything by pointing out how bad someone else is at what they're doing. If you want to make it, make yourself better.

You are your competition. Stop worrying about everybody else and the "breaks" that they get.

sc111
02-12-2013, 08:44 AM
But really, how many people can craft a story that holds meaning to millions of people? Hint: It's a small number.

This is a really good point that shouldn't be overlooked. On one hand it's important for a writer to have technical skills. To know the difference between motes of dust and moats of dust (I think the onus is on the publisher who should have picked up the latter in proofreading rather than use spellcheck and hope for the best. However, I do find the occasional typo in the NYTimes these days, too).

But what's far more important is that a writer has something to say that resonates to his/her audience. In this case a young audience. Mechanics can be learned, story -- a story that resonates with millions globally -- that's not something you can easily learn to do.

It's also interesting to me this discussion has been centered around three wildy successful women writers (Meyer, Collins, Rowlings) who write for a young audience.

Layered into all of these books are stories about navigating the territory to adulthood. All explore main characters who come from families fractured by either divorce or parents' death. (Although I'm not a fan of Bella's choices it doesn't escape me that the vampire family is a solid unit with strong, involved, father, mother figures, something Bella doesn't have in her life.)

So there's your magic story key -- dig deep, find something to say about the transition to adulthood, find a motif that resonates with the YA group, and write your heart out. If your command of grammar surpasses these other authors it should be a breeze, yes?

This discussion reminds me of a similar discussion in a college writing class. The prof was such an excellent writer she intimidated me. And in this class was a guy -- brilliant yet always the first to remind all how brilliant he was -- who often made the same anti-popular fiction arguments made here (he despised the success of Stephen King and the peasants who bought such books).

Yet, a funny thing happened when we would read our work aloud and discuss. His writing and command of grammar was technically flawless. His command of vocabulary required a dictionary. His multi-clause sentences, true marvels. But once your brain processed the brilliant delivery it was clear: he had nothing to say. Nothing other that the most worn-out truisms all dressed up in technical wonder.

Geoff Alexander
02-12-2013, 10:01 AM
I find this discussion to be really interesting. First, anyone can be a critic, because that only requires an opinion.

But, I think that what I find to be most important in this discussion is the fact that so many folks who are "critics" of the work of successful "popular" writers like Meyers and James seem to overlook something that they would really benefit from considering.

Are these writers great technical writers, that is, is their prose beautiful to read, is it compelling, lyrical, is there even a truly distinctive voice there? Maybe not. In fact, though I haven't read either of them, I'll guess that there isn't. I'll accept that they are workmanlike at best, barely competent ant worst.

But, what they do know how to do is tell a story. They are great storytellers and I can say this without having read them because of their popularity. Come on, during an age when you almost have to pay most teenagers to read a book, but with these books, you have to pay them to put it down.

What's the lesson here? Great storytelling is paramount, great words on the page just aren't as important. It's amazing to me how many aspiring screenwriters clearly don't grasp this simple concept, how many would spend a year writing something, obsessing over individual lines of description and dialog, and all this to dress up a story that no one will connect with. I can't tell you how many times I have passed and said that the writing on the page was good...but that's not what really matters.

Deion22
02-12-2013, 10:12 AM
I find this discussion to be really interesting. First, anyone can be a critic, because that only requires an opinion.

But, I think that what I find to be most important in this discussion is the fact that so many folks who are "critics" of the work of successful "popular" writers like Meyers and James seem to overlook something that they would really benefit from considering.

Are these writers great technical writers, that is, is their prose beautiful to read, is it compelling, lyrical, is there even a truly distinctive voice there? Maybe not. In fact, though I haven't read either of them, I'll guess that there isn't. I'll accept that they are workmanlike at best, barely competent ant worst.

But, what they do know how to do is tell a story. They are great storytellers and I can say this without having read them because of their popularity. Come on, during an age when you almost have to pay most teenagers to read a book, but with these books, you have to pay them to put it down.

What's the lesson here? Great storytelling is paramount, great words on the page just aren't as important. It's amazing to me how many aspiring screenwriters clearly don't grasp this simple concept, how many would spend a year writing something, obsessing over individual lines of description and dialog, and all this to dress up a story that no one will connect with. I can't tell you how many times I have passed and said that the writing on the page was good...but that's not what really matters.

This is something I believe unequivocally. There are many great writers and few great storytellers. I'm no wordsmith and my grammar could use a lot of work. But, I understand storytelling. How to tap into things that can move people, and resonate with people after they've read your script. It all comes down to characters and storytelling.

F*ck all that other noise people screaming. Can you write a compelling story? That's what separates the amateurs from the pros. All that technical **** is noise. We in the storytelling biz! Never forget that.

I don't care if it's a 150 million dollar tentpole or a million dollar indie, you still need a compelling story.

To add on, I loathe Twilight. But can't ignore the genius it is. A human girl caught in a love triangle between a Vampire and a Werewolf. Why be human if you can't be with the person you love forever. There are strong themes present in her story. She wrote a compelling story about young love, between two people from two different worlds literally. And then wrapped it around being a teenager, the hardest years our lives. Genius. I gotta give her that. Though, I still loathe Twilight :)

emily blake
02-12-2013, 10:13 AM
In grad school, I almost flunked my comps. Comps for an MA in English involves reading a series of books and writing a long paper exploring the common threads between them.

One of the books I read was Whistle, by James Jones, who also wrote The Thin Red Line. I HATED it, and I said so in my comps paper. I don't remember exactly what I wrote, but I basically bashed the guy for being a terrible writer.

It so offended one of my thesis committee members that he wanted to fail me because who am I to criticize a published author? Fortunately my director talked him out of it and I got my MA.

At the time, my opinion was like "Look, I may not be a published writer, but terrible writing is terrible writing, and I'm gonna call it out."

So young and dumb.

I still don't care for the book, but I recognize now that the guy is talented, and that there were still things I could have learned from that novel if I hadn't been so hell-bent on letting everyone know how much I hated it. The point of my comps was to learn from the material, not to review it. And there is so much to learn from a successful story that you hate. I failed to learn that lesson because I was too busy sticking my head up my butthole.

Don't be a dummy.

stainjm
02-12-2013, 11:34 AM
I brought up Stephen King because a previous post said anyone who criticized Twilight probably doesn't understand what good writing is or what makes a good story.

I'm not quite sure what to make of your comment though. You're saying about King exactly what King said about Meyer.

Exactly what some of the others have said here - he is a master story teller, and I love reading his stoires. But if you ever study writing in an MFA/MA program (or BA?), you will see that his technique is not the best (jumps POV, etc.). But he doesn't care because he is Stephen F***ing King and he can sure tell a story!

-- When I read his work, I have to absorb his stories and try to ignore how he puts them together (The Shining is a great example). Like in screenwriting, he can break the rules and it works for him. Some beginner may try the same thing and get told by everyone he/she sucks.

On a side note (always side notes on these...) Stephen King tried to write under a pen name to see if he just made it through luck, but they found out it was him... So we'll never know.

AnyOtherName
02-12-2013, 11:35 AM
In grad school, I almost flunked my comps. Comps for an MA in English involves reading a series of books and writing a long paper exploring the common threads between them.

One of the books I read was Whistle, by James Jones, who also wrote The Thin Red Line. I HATED it, and I said so in my comps paper. I don't remember exactly what I wrote, but I basically bashed the guy for being a terrible writer.

It so offended one of my thesis committee members that he wanted to fail me because who am I to criticize a published author? Fortunately my director talked him out of it and I got my MA.

At the time, my opinion was like "Look, I may not be a published writer, but terrible writing is terrible writing, and I'm gonna call it out."

So young and dumb.

I still don't care for the book, but I recognize now that the guy is talented, and that there were still things I could have learned from that novel if I hadn't been so hell-bent on letting everyone know how much I hated it. The point of my comps was to learn from the material, not to review it. And there is so much to learn from a successful story that you hate. I failed to learn that lesson because I was too busy sticking my head up my butthole.

Don't be a dummy.


But don't you think rejection is important for many young artists, as a way to help define their independence?

I mean, as a matter of history, I'm sure some artistic movements begin with groups of artists who really respect their forebears and try to learn as much as possible from them; but at least as frequently, movements begin with young writers/painters/composers/etc., who view the current mainstream as cheesy or hackneyed or shallow or absurd, and who make it their mission to upturn the "establishment."

In a way, it's nice that everyone here is so polite and feels that writers shouldn't insult other writers, but it also seems to suggest a rather tame and passionless relationship to writing. Artists who actually give a sh*t about the media in which they work (or aspire to work) tend to be, if anything, extreme in their denunciations (as well as their praise) because, to them, aesthetic issues become almost like moral issues. (Think about Schoenberg and Stravinsky, whose differing views of music made them not only lifelong rivals but personal enemies, for better or for worse.)

If one doesn't like Stephanie Meyer (which is, admittedly, distinct from being jealous of her), I think they should say so-- in the strongest possible terms, if that's how they feel. To suggest that her detractors should shut up and learn from her 'cuz her books made so many dollars-- I guess that makes sense if their commitment is to money, but it makes no sense if their interest is in the art form.

cshel
02-12-2013, 11:52 AM
@AnyOtherName - thank you for your intelligent, thoughtful posts. :)

This thread turned into something that can be likened to a few adults having a serious discussion, while at the same time, some teenagers in the same room were fighting in the background. :p

CColoredClown
02-12-2013, 12:20 PM
I basically agree with these sentiments, but I'll add a couple things:

I can't imagine that Stephanie Meyer, Suzanne Collins, or even JK Rowling had any idea that their books would catch fire in the way they did. I'll argue that it would actually be hard for someone else, even a great literary writer, to write their books, simply because they are stories that came from those authors and we've all got our own perspective and voice.

And also, even if they aren't the best writers in the world, they are certainly better than the vast majority of those who insult them.

This is probably the closest statement to my opinion on this thread.

Let's take it back to the NBA; people are saying that the NBA does not have mediocre players when it most likely does. But that's mediocre in comparison to the great players. There's only one Kobe, one LeBron, one Durant, but there's a lot of average to above average players that are not superstars. Hell, there's even arguments to contract the NBA, so that we have only super teams.

We might think that the guy on the bench isn't that great a player in comparison to these superstars, but if you were to play against them, the odds of you even scoring a point on them is probably close to zero. You stick a Stephanie Meyers or an E.L. James piece among amateurs and there's a good chance that their work will be better than those of their peer critics.

stainjm
02-12-2013, 01:16 PM
This is probably the closest statement to my opinion on this thread.

Let's take it back to the NBA; people are saying that the NBA does not have mediocre players when it most likely does. But that's mediocre in comparison to the great players. There's only one Kobe, one LeBron, one Durant, but there's a lot of average to above average players that are not superstars. Hell, there's even arguments to contract the NBA, so that we have only super teams.

We might think that the guy on the bench isn't that great a player in comparison to these superstars, but if you were to play against them, the odds of you even scoring a point on them is probably close to zero. You stick a Stephanie Meyers or an E.L. James piece among amateurs and there's a good chance that their work will be better than those of their peer critics.

There's a chance, but not necessarilly. Writing is nothing like pro sports - because there are so many different ways of looking at writing.

kintnerboy
02-12-2013, 01:36 PM
In a way, it's nice that everyone here is so polite and feels that writers shouldn't insult other writers, but it also seems to suggest a rather tame and passionless relationship to writing.

The problem is, you almost never hear professional writers criticizing each other. And it's not because they're being polite or lack passion, and it's not because of politics. I think there's a level of respect among working professionals about just how hard it is to complete any type of project and break through to an audience on any level.

David Foster Wallace loved reading Stephen King, and was not embarrassed to tell people. Most people who have a problem with King are self-appointed Guardians Of The Canon like Harold Bloom, and 40 year-old failed MFA's. Which is why it usually comes off as bitter and jealous.

Otherwise, there's room at the table for everyone. And thank god people like Stephanie Myers are keeping the publishers in business.

AnyOtherName
02-12-2013, 02:28 PM
The problem is, you almost never hear professional writers criticizing each other.


Again, this is just totally and patently untrue. Professional writers (and painters and composers and graphic designers) are just as critical as anyone else, oftentimes more so. Part of it may be out of bitchiness (which knows no class), but part of it (one hopes) is out of respect for their metier.

See: Mary McCarthy on Lillian Hellman, Schoenberg on Stravinsky, Aristophanes on Euripides, etc.

Wasn't the thing that kicked this whole thing off a quote from George Meredith tearing apart Charles Dickens?

bmcthomas
02-12-2013, 02:42 PM
Again, this is just totally and patently untrue. Professional writers (and painters and composers and graphic designers) are just as critical as anyone else, oftentimes more so. Part of it may be out of bitchiness (which knows no class), but part of it (one hopes) is out of respect for their metier.

See: Mary McCarthy on Lillian Hellman, Schoenberg on Stravinsky, Aristophanes on Euripides, etc.

Wasn't the thing that kicked this whole thing off a quote from George Meredith tearing apart Charles Dickens?

Oh there are plenty of modern examples. Just go on Twitter.

Mr. Earth
02-12-2013, 02:43 PM
The other thing that's missing here is what the Meyers, Kings, Dickens, whoever, really, truly, madly think of their own work. Of course some writers are going to be egotistical world beaters and think they are next to God, but none of us will ever know what all these people truly think about their own work and what insecurities they have when they sit down to write or when they read it back to themselves.

At any rate, it's kind of silly to blame the authors for the production values of the movies based off their books. Twilight could have just as easily been an Afterschool Special (if there still was such a thing). It's not Stephanie Meyers' fault that someone took the chance of making it into a big franchise. Just as it's (usually) not Stephen King's fault that his books don't translate all that well to the screen.

We're writers, damnit. Blame the actors, producers, and directors like we're supposed to do.

kintnerboy
02-12-2013, 02:54 PM
See: Mary McCarthy on Lillian Hellman, Schoenberg on Stravinsky, Aristophanes on Euripides, etc.

See also Capote vs. Keroac, as long as we're talking about famous literary cat-fights as opposed to actual criticism.

Any recent examples of actual working writers who took down someone else's work with more than a drunken twitter-session?

Why One
02-12-2013, 03:06 PM
Picking apart an "establishment" leaves very little room for introspection.

IMO, they are rather mutually exclusive mindsets.

It's why renowned critics are never celebrated practitioners. You'd think they would go hand-in-hand because of the common skill-set of being to analyze and identify what is good, what is bad, what is art, what is pap -- and then articulate it all in a given medium.

My opinion:

Critics deal with absolutes. They have a rigid viewpoint of what the art form is and where other artists' work belong in that framework. It's a rigid framework because they have to be congruent and consistent when they articulate their criticisms. It leaves very little room for other people's opinions other than their own. They have to be able to stand by what they have said -- protect their world view of the art-form -- strongly uphold a belief-system.

But it leads to cognitive dissonance. "Meyer's work is trash." "How do you explain it's popularity?" "The audience is dumbing down." Belief system upheld, framework still strong.

Introspection is filled with self-doubt. IMO, creativity comes from exploration. It's a constant battle of one own's thoughts, a constant change of opinions -- always looking to the outside world -- what's out there -- what other people's opinions are -- giving weight to them. They are constantly constructing and deconstructing during the exploration process. They don't hold a rigid framework of the art form -- they just know what their opinion is and how subjective it is -- which is open to change -- for further introspection -- further exploration.

Hence, IMO, why most of the great "artists" are rather self-derogatory and carry that disposition of self-doubt.

kintnerboy
02-12-2013, 03:38 PM
I don't know...... I get less cringed-out by a writer who unabashedly writes populist tripe for money than someone who thinks they are going to shake things up by writing something that 'matters', without realizing how precious and narcissistic and cliche that all is.

Even Jonathan Franzen, in his famous (and great) essay 'Why Bother?' about the death of the novel (and by extension, Serious Art) didn't bad-mouth a single writer, realizing the pointlessness of it all.

To the OP's point: The NBA and Hollywood are not analogous because there is a very limited time-frame to make it in sports, whereas you can keep trying to break into writing if you want forever. At the very least you'll be a better person for it.

sc111
02-12-2013, 06:32 PM
I found a link with 30 famous author on author insults. Here are a few:

Gustave Flaubert on George Sand: “A great cow full of ink.”

Gore Vidal on Truman Capote: “He’s a full-fledged housewife from Kansas with all the prejudices.”

Truman Capote on Jack Kerouac: “That’s not writing, that’s typing.”

Henry James on Edgar Allan Poe: “An enthusiasm for Poe is the mark of a decidedly primitive stage of reflection.”

William Faulkner on Mark Twain: “A hack writer who would not have been considered fourth rate in Europe, who tricked out a few of the old proven sure fire literary skeletons with sufficient local color to intrigue the superficial and the lazy.”

Mark Twain on Jane Austen: “I haven’t any right to criticize books, and I don’t do it except when I hate them. I often want to criticize Jane Austen, but her books madden me so that I can’t conceal my frenzy from the reader; and therefore I have to stop every time I begin. Every time I read ‘Pride and Prejudice,’ I want to dig her up and hit her over the skull with her own shin-bone.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson on Jane Austen: “Miss Austen’s novels . . . seem to me vulgar in tone, sterile in artistic invention, imprisoned in the wretched conventions of English society, without genius, wit, or knowledge of the world. Never was life so pinched and narrow. The one problem in the mind of the writer . . . is marriageableness.”

http://flavorwire.com/188138/the-30-harshest-author-on-author-insults-in-history (mhtml:{F32A3F9B-7F07-40D9-8DAE-373FF6AD1458}mid://00000119/!x-usc:http://flavorwire.com/188138/the-30-harshest-author-on-author-insults-in-history)

CColoredClown
02-12-2013, 06:44 PM
^ Imagine if they had Twitter?

kintnerboy
02-13-2013, 08:32 AM
I found a link with 30 famous author on author insults. Here are a few:

Gustave Flaubert on George Sand: “A great cow full of ink.”

Gore Vidal on Truman Capote: “He’s a full-fledged housewife from Kansas with all the prejudices.”

Truman Capote on Jack Kerouac: “That’s not writing, that’s typing.”

Henry James on Edgar Allan Poe: “An enthusiasm for Poe is the mark of a decidedly primitive stage of reflection.”

William Faulkner on Mark Twain: “A hack writer who would not have been considered fourth rate in Europe, who tricked out a few of the old proven sure fire literary skeletons with sufficient local color to intrigue the superficial and the lazy.”

Mark Twain on Jane Austen: “I haven’t any right to criticize books, and I don’t do it except when I hate them. I often want to criticize Jane Austen, but her books madden me so that I can’t conceal my frenzy from the reader; and therefore I have to stop every time I begin. Every time I read ‘Pride and Prejudice,’ I want to dig her up and hit her over the skull with her own shin-bone.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson on Jane Austen: “Miss Austen’s novels . . . seem to me vulgar in tone, sterile in artistic invention, imprisoned in the wretched conventions of English society, without genius, wit, or knowledge of the world. Never was life so pinched and narrow. The one problem in the mind of the writer . . . is marriageableness.”

http://flavorwire.com/188138/the-30-harshest-author-on-author-insults-in-history (mhtml:{F32A3F9B-7F07-40D9-8DAE-373FF6AD1458}mid://00000119/!x-usc:http://flavorwire.com/188138/the-30-harshest-author-on-author-insults-in-history)



This list pretty much confirms my opinion.

Lots of catty quips and personal attacks. No real literary criticism.

And almost nothing from the last 50 years. Although it was nice to see that old curmudgeon Harold Bloom show up to attack JK Rowling.

The enemy of art is apathy, not Harry Potter.

AnyOtherName
02-13-2013, 10:51 AM
This list pretty much confirms my opinion.

Lots of catty quips and personal attacks. No real literary criticism.

And almost nothing from the last 50 years. Although it was nice to see that old curmudgeon Harold Bloom show up to attack JK Rowling.

The enemy of art is apathy, not Harry Potter.

I'm honestly not sure what more you want, kinterboy. John Irving says Tom Wolfe can't write. Salman Rushdie hates the later work of John Updike. I assume you know about Bret Easton Ellis and David Foster Wallace.

Writers hating the work of other writers (and saying so) is a ubiquitous, ancient, and, I assure you, thriving practice.

kintnerboy
02-13-2013, 11:39 AM
I'm honestly not sure what more you want, kinterboy. John Irving says Tom Wolfe can't write. Salman Rushdie hates the later work of John Updike. I assume you know about Bret Easton Ellis and David Foster Wallace.

Writers hating the work of other writers (and saying so) is a ubiquitous, ancient, and, I assure you, thriving practice.


Well, sources for the above would have been nice. For example, when you say Salman Rushdie "hates" Updike, that's your word, not Salman's. Would be nice to hear what he really said, without your coloring it.

But don't waste your effort. I have access to Google.

And your use of the word ubiquitous is hyperbole. But then, you do have an argument to win, so, I'll let you have this one.

Richmond Weems
02-13-2013, 07:50 PM
Well, sources for the above would have been nice. For example, when you say Salman Rushdie "hates" Updike, that's your word, not Salman's. Would be nice to hear what he really said, without your coloring it.

But don't waste your effort. I have access to Google.

And your use of the word ubiquitous is hyperbole. But then, you do have an argument to win, so, I'll let you have this one.

No, I think AnyOtherName won it with a KO within ten seconds of the opening round. Kinda late to throw in the towel when you're already on the mat waiting to get counted out.

MrZero
02-13-2013, 09:52 PM
This list pretty much confirms my opinion.

Lots of catty quips and personal attacks. No real literary criticism.

And almost nothing from the last 50 years. Although it was nice to see that old curmudgeon Harold Bloom show up to attack JK Rowling.

The enemy of art is apathy, not Harry Potter.

I guess it's time to deploy the nuclear option. Introducing one of the most hostile book reviews ever:

http://www.powells.com/review/2002_07_04.html

Rantanplan
02-14-2013, 01:09 AM
I don't find it "dangerous" to think that people who do something for a living might be, on average, better at that job than people who don't work in that field.

YMMV.

How about we the people? Do I have to be involved in government to have an opinion? If so, why bother have a vote?

The reason I'm against that analogy is because it's not the point. Just because you're the consumer of a product and not the maker of a product doesn't mean you can't tell what's good or bad.

Doesn't HW actually value the opinion of "average people" in test screenings AFTER they've already spent 50 M on a flick?

Rantanplan
02-14-2013, 01:47 AM
After this whole entire thread about the subjective nature of "art" or "entertainment,", I've yet to hear one convincing argument as to how two major stars like Willis and Weaver could possibly get involved in such a mediocre film.

So here's a question for the industry insiders: how often, in your opinion, does major talent just "call it in" for a nice chunk of cash?

DavidK
02-14-2013, 02:30 AM
So here's a question for the industry insiders: how often, in your opinion, does major talent just "call it in" for a nice chunk of cash?

Most times it only takes one phone call from your accountant, or a communique from your ex-wife's lawyer. That's not a joke and some high earners do not manage their wealth intelligently.

And when you ask for a convincing argument to explain how major stars become involved in a mediocre movie, it's easy. A 'good' script can become a mediocre movie or a great movie. It's all in the chemistry and a lot of things need to go right for it to work. People aren't joking when they say it's a collaborative craft, an ensemble creation. A lot of decisions at many stages of the process can influence the result for better or for worse. I've seen ecstatic crews at wrap parties and directors go into post-production on the verge of orgasm, only to leave the studio screening with their tail between their legs. The point is, some mediocre movies don't start out that way, they just end up that way.

Sometimes it has nothing to do with talent just calling it in for a nice chunk of cash, and sometimes that's exactly what the talent does. Some name actors are jobbers - if they have nothing scheduled for September through November and get an offer to do five week's work for for a few million dollars, they do the sensible thing - they take it. They know it's not going to last and it's not always sensible to turn down a nice chunk of cash for a few weeks' work. There's no rule, it varies from actor to actor. They all know the gravy train is going to end and how they play it until that day comes depends on the individual.

I know you're not doing it - I hope - but slamming an actor for ending up in a mediocre movie isn't cool in my books; it's an unpredictable and unforgiving business and sometimes you just have to make a call on things and take your chances.

CJ Walley
02-14-2013, 05:14 AM
You can flip the question on its head too, you can ask why some big tallent seem to just be very good at judging if a project is going to turn out well.

A bit like an NBA playing leveraging their tallent by going with the best possible team - perhaps something less critical in NBA?

And reasons for being part of projects seem to vary. I was reading on a psychology forum about an acting couple where one partner tended to be attracted to promoting the overal concept of a story, while the other was more drawn to experience playing a particular character or just doing one scene.

CJ Walley
02-14-2013, 05:23 AM
And regarding the criticality thing, yes I agree it's healthy to objectively criticise art that you are passionate about. I was only rebutting the skin deep generalisations often made against popular authors.

kintnerboy
02-14-2013, 06:15 AM
No, I think AnyOtherName won it with a KO within ten seconds of the opening round. Kinda late to throw in the towel when you're already on the mat waiting to get counted out.

Okay, now I'm picking my towel back up.

I wasn't bowing out of the discussion because I was proven wrong. It was because I realized that no one here even understands what it is I am talking about. And I felt it wasn't really worth my time to explain further to people who don't really care, and are more concerned with 'winning' an argument than anything else.

But since I'm here, let me clarify.

I am of the opinion that every single mean-spirited attack by one artist towards another, whether it's an unproduced writer anonymously posting on a message board about how Quentin Tarrantino 'sucks', or Gore Vidal writing a volcanic review for the front page of the Sunday Times, is rooted in jealousy or some other petty human emotion.

That's it.

Does that mean you can't Google a few mean spirited quotes that Norman Mailer or Richard Ford made a few decades ago?

Of course not. But look into the motivations behind all these negative statements.

Did Tom Wolfe attack John Irving? Yes, but only after John Irving wrote a negative review of one of Wolfe's books.

Did Salman Rushdie attack John Updike? Yes, but only after Updike wrote a mildly negative review of one of Rushdie's novels.

The fact that all of this criticism was retaliatory completely undermines it and actually damages the credibility of the reviewer. Even Pulitzer-winning artists succumb to the most petty and base human emotions. In a historical context, it's actually pretty embarrassing for them.

Harold Bloom has written countless texts on Shakespeare and middle-aged literature. Hardly anyone reads them. So he attacks Stephen King and JK Rowling, and his name is in every paper and magazine in the country. Suddenly, he's a relevant voice.

That's vanity. And not even a Yale professor can rise above it.

When I said that 'you hardly ever hear professional writers criticize each other' anymore, it wasn't a challenge for anyone here to prove me wrong in a semantic argument. It was an observation that the great literary feuds have become a thing of the past, in part because writers no longer hold the cultural sway they once did, and because (I suspect) they've learned how petty and damaging it can be.

The one thing about this whole subject that's fascinating to me is the whole idea of book reviews being written by other writers (as opposed to professional critics). It seems like a recipe for disaster. Could you imagine Speilberg reviewing Lars Von Trier, or James Cameron writing about Roland Emmerich?

But anyway, those are just my opinions, posted for thoughtful discussion.

You keep it up with the snarky comments and let me know how that works out for you .

sc111
02-14-2013, 06:50 AM
Kinter --

When I posted the author V. author quotes I neglected to add the fact that all of those snark darts were wrong about the objects of their disdain. That's the funny part.

It's rare for writers to be objective about other writers' work. A lot of writers find it hard to be objective about their own work.

:)

kintnerboy
02-14-2013, 07:23 AM
I guess it's time to deploy the nuclear option. Introducing one of the most hostile book reviews ever:

http://www.powells.com/review/2002_07_04.html


THANK YOU for posting this. This is almost a too-perfect example of my entire argument.

In 2002, Rick Moody published The Black Veil, a memoir about growing up in a 70's-era dysfunctional family.

In one of the most famous negative reviews ever, it was destroyed by Dale Peck in the New Republic.

But what we now know is that Peck was deep into writing his own memoir at the exact same time, about his own 70's-era dysfunctional family. It was called 'What We Lost', and was published the following year, to a lot less fanfare and for a lot less money.

So he attacked Moody's book. A transparent case of jealousy.

To make matters worse, Dale Peck went on to become famous for being an aggressively contrarian reviewer, at time saying things so terrible that they qualify as hate speech.

Ironically, he signed a multi-million dollar book deal in 2008, and joining the establishment seems to have mellowed him, because he did a publicity appearance with Rick Moody where he let Moody hit him in the face with a pie, proving that most of that acrimony was fake.

Perfect.

bmcthomas
02-14-2013, 07:25 AM
Geoff LaTulippe devoted a segment of his podcast to explaining why he hates the show Girls. He finds it "insufferable" and "actively dislike(s) all the characters". To be fair, he also says he understands why other people like it, and that he has no issue with Lena Dunham or her writing, but he's talking about the actual work product. Which he hates.

On this week's ScriptNotes podcast, Craig Maizin criticized one of the three page challenge entries saying that the dialogue was "like an eight o'clock sitcom". John August likened the three pages (pejoratively) to a Lifetime movie. No actual writers were named of course, just entire segments of writers. If you write Lifetime movies or primetime sitcoms, it does not seem that the ScriptNotes folk think much of your work.

So there, kintnerboy, are two recent examples for you. I was going to throw in Matt Damon's interview about Tony Gilroy but wasn't sure you'd consider Matt a writer. Not that I want to win this argument, I just happened to listen to both those podcasts yesterday and found them timely.

It's neither wise nor nice for writers to publicly trash other writers specifically, by name. That's one argument going on in this thread, and I agree.

But I don't think that's the same thing as not liking a particular book, film or program or thinking that some books or movies or shows are just not very good. I said earlier in this thread that shitty books, movies, and tv shows get made and there's nothing a writer can do about that except keep writing. Perhaps I should have picked a milder word than "shitty." Subpar? Not the absolute best it could possibly be? The bottom line is that there is no point in lamenting that other people have succeeded. You can only control your own work.

On another note, I've only been an "aspiring writer" for about a year. When I evaluate a piece of writing, I'm still doing it as a reader/viewer/fan. There's a network show I've watched for years now, since the show's premiere. In the last couple seasons, the quality of the episodes has really declined and that depresses me not because I'm jealous and bitter and think I could do better if I were in the writers' room, but because I'm a fan of the show and love the characters and wish they were better served. If anything, being an aspiring writer makes me less critical, because I suspect network meddling is the problem, not the writing.

JeffLowell
02-14-2013, 07:47 AM
How about we the people? Do I have to be involved in government to have an opinion? If so, why bother have a vote?

The reason I'm against that analogy is because it's not the point. Just because you're the consumer of a product and not the maker of a product doesn't mean you can't tell what's good or bad.

Doesn't HW actually value the opinion of "average people" in test screenings AFTER they've already spent 50 M on a flick?

But of course, that wasn't the point you were arguing at all when you started the thread. You took issue with the argument that a writing career requires talent, and your evidence was one cherry picked movie that you never read a draft of.

And now I'm arguing with one of those people who has declared publicly that she's given up on screenwriting, and yet keeps coming back here to shovel grief on others who are in the field or still trying to break in.

So really, I only blame myself for being stupid.

CJ Walley
02-14-2013, 07:48 AM
On this week's ScriptNotes podcast, Craig Maizin criticized one of the three page challenge entries saying that the dialogue was "like an eight o'clock sitcom". John August likened the three pages (pejoratively) to a Lifetime movie. No actual writers were named of course, just entire segments of writers. If you write Lifetime movies or primetime sitcoms, it does not seem that the ScriptNotes folk think much of your work.

I felt bad for an aspiring comedy writer Craig once said was "whiffy" if I remember correctly. But, I think the whole point of the three page challenge is to try and ground listeners with a taste of what's the come if they ever close in on HW. If anything I've often admired the way they'll defend those that are treated as butt monkeys - Adam Sandler for example.

kintnerboy
02-14-2013, 07:53 AM
It's neither wise nor nice for writers to publicly trash other writers specifically, by name. That's one argument going on in this thread, and I agree.

There's something that doesn't reconcile about the whole thing for me on a personal level.

I have been posting on Done Deal for about 10 years, and with the exception of a few negative comments about James Cameron (owing to my belief that Alien is a far superior film to Aliens) I have never attacked any writer or director's work.

The only possible reaction I could ever have to a film like Avatar or Battleship or Twilight is "That's not my cup of tea. I'll never watch it, but thank God it exists. Maybe some of that money will trickle down to Alexander Payne or the Coen brothers or something I really like."

The idea that I would attack it as a way of defending other work that I find "better" or "more important" is childish and dishonest. Great work will still be around 100 years after I'm gone. It doesn't need my protection.

My time would be far better spent promoting someone genius who's gone overlooked.


The Matt Damon thing is another great gossipy-story.

Tony Gilroy turned in a crappy draft of a screenplay because he was having a office politics type of beef with the producers, didn't like the way things were going, and picked up his toys and went home.

He was however entitled to a guaranteed paycheck for a draft and so he took it. According to Matt Damon, he turned in something unfilmable as a way to really stick it to them.

Now, whether that was ethically right or wrong is nobody's business, and Damon never should have opened his mouth (and has admitted as much afterwards and apologized).

No one, not even for a second, doubted Gilroy's chops as a writer.

And I do consider Matt Damon a writer. Hopefully he gets to do more of it now that his buddy's an A-List director.

bmcthomas
02-14-2013, 08:13 AM
I felt bad for an aspiring comedy writer Craig once said was "whiffy" if I remember correctly. But, I think the whole point of the three page challenge is to try and ground listeners with a taste of what's the come if they ever close in on HW. If anything I've often admired the way they'll defend those that are treated as butt monkeys - Adam Sandler for example.

My point wasn't that they criticized the three page challenge entry - people send them in for that very purpose. They used "eight o'clock sitcom" and "Lifetime movie" as bad examples, that was the point. I've seen "Lifetime movie" thrown around as an insult by other people, too. There's a wonderful blog post, somewhere, from a writer who's done several made for TV movies and knows his work isn't very respected...it's really funny - I need to keep googling for it.

CJ Walley
02-14-2013, 08:14 AM
My point wasn't that they criticized the three page challenge entry - people send them in for that very purpose. They used "eight o'clock sitcom" and "Lifetime movie" as bad examples, that was the point. I've seen "Lifetime movie" thrown around as an insult by other people, too. There's a wonderful blog post, somewhere, from a writer who's done several made for TV movies and knows his work isn't very respected...it's really funny - I need to keep googling for it.

Yeah sorry I did get your original point, I should of qualified that really, I was rambling.

kintnerboy
02-14-2013, 08:22 AM
I felt bad for an aspiring comedy writer Craig once said was "whiffy" if I remember correctly.


I love Craig, I'm happy for his success, and I listen to the podcast every week.

But when it comes to reviewing pages, saying "No one talks like that." is his default setting. He says it constantly. He said it to me when I posted pages last year.

There's 300 million people in this country. I assure you, someone, somewhere talks like anything you can imagine.

I get where he's coming from (about how people talk within the artificial confines of movies) but take it with a grain of salt. You may just be a maverick.

JeffLowell
02-14-2013, 08:43 AM
My point wasn't that they criticized the three page challenge entry - people send them in for that very purpose. They used "eight o'clock sitcom" and "Lifetime movie" as bad examples, that was the point. I've seen "Lifetime movie" thrown around as an insult by other people, too. There's a wonderful blog post, somewhere, from a writer who's done several made for TV movies and knows his work isn't very respected...it's really funny - I need to keep googling for it.

I'm missing the insult. These are people who want to write feature films. It's bad if they read like Lifetime movies or eight o'clock sitcoms. If Mazin and August were running a "let us read the first three pages of your sitcom script," and said "this reads like a feature film," would feature writers be offended?

kintnerboy
02-14-2013, 09:00 AM
After this whole entire thread about the subjective nature of "art" or "entertainment,", I've yet to hear one convincing argument as to how two major stars like Willis and Weaver could possibly get involved in such a mediocre film.


I am posting this to make amends for my derailing the entire thread.

It's a Vanity Fair piece from 11 years ago, about the famously difficult pre-production of David Mamet's 'The Edge' (so famous it became a subplot in the Robert DeNiro movie 'What Just Happened?').

It's a long piece, so you'll need some time (let's face it... if you're following this thread, you've got plenty) but totally worth it.

One of the best things I've ever read about Hollywood, and perfectly answer's the OP's above question- straight from the producer's mouth.

http://www.vanityfair.com/hollywood/features/2002/04/the-edge-alec-baldwin

bmcthomas
02-14-2013, 09:24 AM
I'm missing the insult. These are people who want to write feature films. It's bad if they read like Lifetime movies or eight o'clock sitcoms. If Mazin and August were running a "let us read the first three pages of your sitcom script," and said "this reads like a feature film," would feature writers be offended?

If the same disparaging tone of voice had been used, perhaps.

Look, if it's true that all professional writers unequivocally admire every word ever written by another professional writer, that's awesome. What a wonderful, supportive community. I hope that's the case.

But I suspect at some point, maybe at home alone, in the dark, under the covers, at least one professional writer has had a fleeting negative thought about the work of another professional writer.

Geoff Alexander
02-14-2013, 09:38 AM
After this whole entire thread about the subjective nature of "art" or "entertainment,", I've yet to hear one convincing argument as to how two major stars like Willis and Weaver could possibly get involved in such a mediocre film.

So here's a question for the industry insiders: how often, in your opinion, does major talent just "call it in" for a nice chunk of cash?

How often? I'm not aware of any statistical tracking on this behavior. I suspect that the answer is that actors rarely take a bad role for money, unless they are desperate, but will sometimes take something that is mediocre if the cash is good enough.

Geoff Alexander
02-14-2013, 09:47 AM
If the same disparaging tone of voice had been used, perhaps.

Look, if it's true that all professional writers unequivocally admire every word ever written by another professional writer, that's awesome. What a wonderful, supportive community. I hope that's the case.

But I suspect at some point, maybe at home alone, in the dark, under the covers, at least one professional writer has had a fleeting negative thought about the work of another professional writer.

People have a right to express their opinions on others' work. If they don't like it, fine, but if they are writers, and they are reviewing someone's efforts, I think it is incumbent upon them to hold a very powerful mirror up to their own motivations and biases before they send their thoughts out into the world.

As to Mazin's comments, I don't recall ever seeing him unload with a tenth as much power as he could have, in fact, he strikes me as being very restrained when talking about the amateur pages here and elsewhere. If the worst he does is compare something to a Lifetime movie, well, that's actually very specific and constructive criticism, it's up to the writer to understand what that means, and I think most do.

Geoff Alexander
02-14-2013, 09:50 AM
I love Craig, I'm happy for his success, and I listen to the podcast every week.

But when it comes to reviewing pages, saying "No one talks like that." is his default setting. He says it constantly. He said it to me when I posted pages last year.

There's 300 million people in this country. I assure you, someone, somewhere talks like anything you can imagine.

I get where he's coming from (about how people talk within the artificial confines of movies) but take it with a grain of salt. You may just be a maverick.

You need to look for the note note behind the comment. Responding that surely someone, somewhere does indeed "talk like that" is the wrong way to deal with it. It's like something else I hear pretty often when people are pitching life rights, or historically based material, when you say, "that's not marketable", and they say "but it really happened." The fact that it happened doesn't mean it's interesting, and the fact that someone somewhere may talk like your character doesn't mean it makes for good dialog.

madworld
02-14-2013, 09:57 AM
How often? I'm not aware of any statistical tracking on this behavior. I suspect that the answer is that actors rarely take a bad role for money, unless they are desperate, but will sometimes take something that is mediocre if the cash is good enough.

Along these lines - I've met many humble, healthy actors who are grateful to be working in this environment. Is it an ideal project? Not always. But if you have an opportunity to make money doing something you love, and you can worry less about what you want and focus more on what you've been given - and make the best of that - then you have the perspective it takes to have a career.

Working in the upper echelon of film is rarified air. But good actors - healthy actors - aren't jealous. Maybe they admire from a distance. And understand that if you're blessed enough or lucky or both, then one day you might get your shot and you crush it. But if you don't, you focus on saying thanks a little more for the things you already have.

Geoff Alexander
02-14-2013, 10:05 AM
Along these lines - I've met many humble, healthy actors who are grateful to be working in this environment. Is it an ideal project? Not always. But if you have an opportunity to make money doing something you love, and you can worry less about what you want and focus more on what you've been given - and make the best of that - then you have the perspective it takes to have a career.

Working in the upper echelon of film is rarified air. But good actors - healthy actors - aren't jealous. Maybe they admire from a distance. And understand that if you're blessed enough or lucky or both, then one day you might get your shot and you crush it. But if you don't, you focus on saying thanks a little more for the things you already have.

As well, there's the factor of "who am I working with?" If it's a lightweight movie, but it's a director that you've admired from afar, and an actor or actors you've wanted to work with, or producers who always create a great environment, and it'll be FUN, then sure!

Or, if it's material that is really challenging, and an opportunity to try and push yourself or do something different (which can come with creative risks), then that can also be attractive.

Either of the above scenarios present the risk that you'll end up with a movie that people here on DD take great delight in talking **** about.

There are always risks.

Why One
02-14-2013, 10:52 AM
I agree with Geoff.

Not every actor has to be "the tortured artist" 24/7 where every role they accept must make them bleed and attempt to push filmmaking to new boundaries.

People forget they are regular people with regular people feelings. A lot don't seem to view acting as a real job. But it is. Because like any job people want to do something they love, be in a good work environment where they get on well with other people, try to stay close to family and friends, have an enjoyable experience, try to do good work -- and yes get paid.

ATB
02-14-2013, 12:30 PM
I was watching "Inside the Actors Studio" with George Clooney yesterday and he said something that relates to this conversation.

He said that he's hit the point in his career where he wants to have fun making movies. He won't do a movie if the people on set are going to be yelling at people and creating an atmosphere that doesn't allow the crew to have a good experience.

He said a movie takes around 6 months of his life. Directing a movie takes 1 or 2 years of his life.

He won't sign on to a movie that's going to be torture for that period of time because you can never get that time back.

He used O Brother Where Art Thou as an example. He said Joel and Ethan Coen came to him and said, "We have a role we'd like you to play in our new script." Before they even finished the sentence he said yes. And they said, "Well... um... Don't you wanna read the script first?"

He said, "Oh, yeah... I guess."

He didn't care about the script or the character he was going to play, only about working with the Coen Brothers. Because he knew he would enjoy it.

He said he basically just got lucky that the script was amazing and the resulting film became a classic.

So that may answer some questions. I'm sure Willis and Sigourney feel the same way about that. They want to enjoy the experience of making a movie. And perhaps they did. If the resulting film is mediocre, well, that sucks but at least they enjoyed the 3-6 months of their life they spent creating it.

That's something to be thankful for...

60WordsPerHour
02-16-2013, 02:43 PM
Henry James on Edgar Allan Poe: “An enthusiasm for Poe is the mark of a decidedly primitive stage of reflection.”

Poor EAP - he really attracted some ire.

Aldous Huxley said that his stuff "falls into vulgarity" and is "too poetical" - "the equivalent of wearing a diamond ring on every finger".

I'm a sucker for flourish, I suppose.

Rantanplan
02-17-2013, 05:18 PM
I was watching "Inside the Actors Studio" with George Clooney yesterday and he said something that relates to this conversation.

He said that he's hit the point in his career where he wants to have fun making movies. He won't do a movie if the people on set are going to be yelling at people and creating an atmosphere that doesn't allow the crew to have a good experience.

He said a movie takes around 6 months of his life. Directing a movie takes 1 or 2 years of his life.

He won't sign on to a movie that's going to be torture for that period of time because you can never get that time back.

He used O Brother Where Art Thou as an example. He said Joel and Ethan Coen came to him and said, "We have a role we'd like you to play in our new script." Before they even finished the sentence he said yes. And they said, "Well... um... Don't you wanna read the script first?"

He said, "Oh, yeah... I guess."

He didn't care about the script or the character he was going to play, only about working with the Coen Brothers. Because he knew he would enjoy it.

He said he basically just got lucky that the script was amazing and the resulting film became a classic.


I love Clooney's career. There may have been a couple of misfires here and there, but generally speaking, as an actor, director and producer, he's mostly made great choices that are worthy of much respect.

Rantanplan
02-17-2013, 05:28 PM
I agree with Geoff.

Not every actor has to be "the tortured artist" 24/7 where every role they accept must make them bleed and attempt to push filmmaking to new boundaries.

I agree and my original point had nothing to do with genre. There are great fluff flicks, great popcorn flicks, great every kind of flick. I personally watch everything except horror (I watch some, but very little). In my opinion a bad film is a film where most of the vital elements fall flat: dialogue, plot, acting, suspense, pace, etc. You can have a kick-ass action flick that isn't super character oriented, but still works wonders. Or a great drama or comedy that has superb dialogue and characters but virtually no plot. I though IRON MAN and AVENGERS were awesome superhero flicks, while THOR imo was terrible. So yeah, nothing to do with genre.

Rantanplan
02-22-2013, 12:44 AM
How often? I'm not aware of any statistical tracking on this behavior. I suspect that the answer is that actors rarely take a bad role for money, unless they are desperate, but will sometimes take something that is mediocre if the cash is good enough.

I realize I should have checked my own thread more often... but OK, let's take Nic Cage, one of my faves: this is a guy who has done really interesting work for Lynch, the Coens, Jonze, Figgis, etc., and played great roles on a number of other great flicks like Lord of War, Birdy, and so much more.

He's now considered a bit of a hack, taking on crappy roles because of financial woes. I find that sad, and I would wish for his reps to say, Dude, you're the sh!t, don't take these shitt@ roles, seriously.

Geoff Alexander
02-22-2013, 09:53 AM
I realize I should have checked my own thread more often... but OK, let's take Nic Cage, one of my faves: this is a guy who has done really interesting work for Lynch, the Coens, Jonze, Figgis, etc., and played great roles on a number of other great flicks like Lord of War, Birdy, and so much more.

He's now considered a bit of a hack, taking on crappy roles because of financial woes. I find that sad, and I would wish for his reps to say, Dude, you're the sh!t, don't take these shitt@ roles, seriously.

Well, he has a bit of a spending problem. So he makes decisions that are bad for his career. He's not the only one.

TheBangBangBoogie
02-22-2013, 03:51 PM
You're trying to take a team effort (making a movie) and blame it on a member of the team.

Here's the NBA analogy: despite being filled with talented athletes at the top of their game, do teams go out and have horrible evenings where they're blown out by thirty points? Do they go on double digit losing streaks?



They read a script. You have no idea what they read versus what you saw.

And it's not just execs - it's directors who encourage actors to ad lib, or directors who are visual masters but don't really have a narrative sense; it's rewrites by the actors' friends or the actors themselves; it's multiple writers all addressing different notes until the thread is lost; yes, it can be execs asking for things that send the script south; it's casting actors who turn out to be wrong for the role; it's budgetary/location disasters so you're rewriting on the fly, trying to piece something together...


Can we please send this to every movie reviewer?

FoxHound
02-23-2013, 08:04 PM
Can we please send this to every movie reviewer?

But that also means if a movie is a success, it's a team success. Yet the writer still brags it was all him.

If a movie is a BO hit, the writer considers him/herself "brilliant," but if the same film is a flop, he/she just blows it off as "The script was one small part of a larger host of problems."

I still remember a link that was posted here about the aftermath of the remake of Conan the Barbarian. The writer claimed the film stunk because a lot of character development was scrubbed for mindless action scenes. But if it killed at the BO, I doubt he'd be saying "The script they used, which wasn't really mine, was a load of crap, but hey, the movie did well!"

JeffLowell
02-23-2013, 09:10 PM
Done Deal seems like an odd place to come and **** on writers. But more power to you, I guess.

Richmond Weems
02-24-2013, 12:40 PM
From the original question: "But the difference is, and granted, I am NOT someone who watches pro sports: when it comes to scripts from actual movies playing in actual theaters, writers, pros, and the general public alike, often attend films and wonder: WTF???"

See exhibit A of why screenwriting is just like the NBA:

http://www.grantland.com/story/_/id/8970449/the-trade-deadline-exchange-part-1

A key exchange: "I heard from people from at least a half-dozen teams within an hour of this trade breaking, and the universal reaction was: WHAT!!???"

And there were financial reasons for the trade (flimsy, though they may be). Just goes to show that all businesses, not just the NBA or studios, make questionable decisions from time to time.

ComicBent
02-24-2013, 03:23 PM
This thread has now run about 14 pages, and I have not read everything here, though I did go through the first several pages pretty thoroughly.

I do not intend to argue against any point that anyone has made.

I will say that I agree with the following:
Some interesting statements above. Thing is, Stephen King is a wonderful story teller but a mediocre writer (as far as technical craft).
But I really did not want to beat on Stephen King, because he really is a wonderful storyteller and uses language well most of the time. My greatest disappointment with him is that someone with such enormous talent just never cared enough to bother to learn a handful of things that, really, are not difficult and would have made him a much better writer.

As for people like Stephanie Meyer and a couple of other highly successful pop novelists, they do not even approach Stephen King in technical writing ability. Someone above quoted from Stephanie Meyer's work, and I read the extended quote (or at least a great deal of it). It was painful and laughable.

I do not care how much money something makes, or how much it "reaches" a vast audience. If it is crap, it is still crap. After all, I am old enough to remember the pet rock, which was also a success and reached a vast audience. But it was still just a rock.

Now, I should make my position clear about something. I see young women reading Stephanie Meyer crap all the time at the hospital where I am on staff. One of them even told me that she was re-reading one of the novels. I do not make fun of these people. I am truly glad to see them reading and enjoying what they read. I believe that crappy novels have a place. Nor do I do envy such writers for their success. I hope they make lots of money and spend it (it helps the economy).

What I hate, but nearly always keep my mouth shut about, are statements like, "The writing is so good" or he/she "is such a good writer." Judgments like that tell me a lot about the person saying those things.

I have always been a horror fan. I should enjoy the Stephanie Meyer stuff, whether it is the novels or the films. I cannot read the novels because the writing is truly so horrible. But usually I can enjoy a movie based on anything in the horror genre. I have watched ridiculous films about giant flying insects and huge alligators and various other things.

But I have tried repeatedly to watch those Twilight films on TV, and I simply cannot. I always feel as if I am in the company of some young teenage girls (not even older ones) who are sitting around talking about some boy that they have a crush on and how great he looks in his jeans!

As I said, I am not going to argue against what any particular person has said. I will just say that I disagree with the frequent retort that criticism directed against bad writers arises from jealousy. That can be true, and the person doing the criticizing may not be so great, either. The real issue is the nature of the criticism. In my view, it is always appropriate for any writer to criticize a Stephanie Meyer for awful prose.

robertcc
02-25-2013, 03:11 PM
But that also means if a movie is a success, it's a team success. Yet the writer still brags it was all him.

If a movie is a BO hit, the writer considers him/herself "brilliant," but if the same film is a flop, he/she just blows it off as "The script was one small part of a larger host of problems."

I still remember a link that was posted here about the aftermath of the remake of Conan the Barbarian. The writer claimed the film stunk because a lot of character development was scrubbed for mindless action scenes. But if it killed at the BO, I doubt he'd be saying "The script they used, which wasn't really mine, was a load of crap, but hey, the movie did well!"

These clashes over artistic integrity and ego have been going on since movies started to be taken seriously. From the book Writers in Hollywood: 1915-1951 by Ian Hamilton:

"Hecht [concocted] a story that eliminated heroes and heroines, a story 'containing only villains and bawds.' By this means, 'I would not have to tell any lies.' The script that resulted was called Underworld (1927), and it was assigned to Josef von Sternberg--his first film as a Paramount director. Von Sternberg was the same age as Hecht--thirty-two--and Hecht, who had spent two years in Berlin going Dada with the George Grosz set, was in no mood to be impressed by von Sternberg's efforts to apply expressionistic touches to this modest yarn about small-time Chicago hoods. Hecht knew about Chicago hoods, and he knew about Das Kabinett des Dr. Caligari; to him, the Austrian von Sternberg was a poseur with a monocle: 'There are thousands like that guy playing chess on Avenue A.'

"Later on, Hecht would boast that Underworld was 'the first gangster movie to bedazzle the movie fans, and there were no lies in it.' No lies, that is, except 'half a dozen sentimental touches' put in there by von Sternberg: 'I still shudder remembering one of them. My head villain, Bull Weed, after robbing a bank, emerged with a suitcase full of money and paused in the crowded street to notice a blind beggar and give him a coin--before making his getaway.' At the time, Hecht was indeed furious, but von Sternberg has his own tart recollection of the film:
"'The discerning Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences bestowed one of their gilt statuettes on Mr. Ben Hecht for the best film of the year, and he must have been so overcome with this that he forgot to mention that he had requested that his name be expunged. He failed to show embarrassment of any sort, though he had previously stated in the presence of the press that when he saw the film he felt about to vomit, his exact words being as quoted in print: "I must rush home at once. I think it's mal de mer."'"

sc111
02-26-2013, 06:42 AM
My grain-of-salt opinion:

It's one thing for a pro writer to dis another pro writer's work.

But when a non-pro writer disses pro screenwriters based on produced films -- then rejects any explanation of the development process -- it does sound like sour grapes. There's no way around it. Of course one can have an opinion on a film they paid to see. But to decide the low quality must have been the writer's fault is odd to me.

Back when I had my low-tier manager, he would insist on changes I didn't agree made the script better. The bottom line was -- the script would not be sent out for reads if I didn't make some of the changes he wanted.

I am certain this goes on at a far, far greater degree when deals have been signed and projects greenlit. And I reject the idea that the same goes on in publishing. Publishers do not bring in subsequent writers to rework another writer's last draft. Publishers do not order rewrites to please actors or directors. And so on and so on.

For non-pros, screenwriting may seem easy (or easier than writing a novel). But the deeper I get into it the more I realize it's really an art form unto itself which can't be compared with any other form of writing. It's an art form that must meet the demands of commerce, committee approval, and co-creation with other artists (directors, actors, set designers, etc.). The fact that so many films are really good, and do represent the writer's original vision, is sort of amazing.

sc111
02-26-2013, 07:34 AM
This thread has now run about 14 pages, and I have not read everything here, though I did go through the first several pages pretty thoroughly.

I do not intend to argue against any point that anyone has made.

I will say that I agree with the following:
But I really did not want to beat on Stephen King, because he really is a wonderful storyteller and uses language well most of the time. My greatest disappointment with him is that someone with such enormous talent just never cared enough to bother to learn a handful of things that, really, are not difficult and would have made him a much better writer.

As for people like Stephanie Meyer and a couple of other highly successful pop novelists, they do not even approach Stephen King in technical writing ability. Someone above quoted from Stephanie Meyer's work, and I read the extended quote (or at least a great deal of it). It was painful and laughable.

I do not care how much money something makes, or how much it "reaches" a vast audience. If it is crap, it is still crap. After all, I am old enough to remember the pet rock, which was also a success and reached a vast audience. But it was still just a rock.

Now, I should make my position clear about something. I see young women reading Stephanie Meyer crap all the time at the hospital where I am on staff. One of them even told me that she was re-reading one of the novels. I do not make fun of these people. I am truly glad to see them reading and enjoying what they read. I believe that crappy novels have a place. Nor do I do envy such writers for their success. I hope they make lots of money and spend it (it helps the economy).

What I hate, but nearly always keep my mouth shut about, are statements like, "The writing is so good" or he/she "is such a good writer." Judgments like that tell me a lot about the person saying those things.

I have always been a horror fan. I should enjoy the Stephanie Meyer stuff, whether it is the novels or the films. I cannot read the novels because the writing is truly so horrible. But usually I can enjoy a movie based on anything in the horror genre. I have watched ridiculous films about giant flying insects and huge alligators and various other things.

But I have tried repeatedly to watch those Twilight films on TV, and I simply cannot. I always feel as if I am in the company of some young teenage girls (not even older ones) who are sitting around talking about some boy that they have a crush on and how great he looks in his jeans!

As I said, I am not going to argue against what any particular person has said. I will just say that I disagree with the frequent retort that criticism directed against bad writers arises from jealousy. That can be true, and the person doing the criticizing may not be so great, either. The real issue is the nature of the criticism. In my view, it is always appropriate for any writer to criticize a Stephanie Meyer for awful prose.

Bless your heart, Comic, you are a purist.

First, if you feel like you're in the company of young girls when you watch Twilight it's because you are. Young girls are the target market. These stories are for them, not you.

Now, when I put my mommy hat on I will say I don't like the message Twilight sends young girls mostly because the protag is not pro-active and spends most of her screen time mooning over a vampire boy or a werewolf boy. With mommy hat on, I think Hunger Games and its protag send a far better message to this age group, for boys and girls alike. But that's a side debate I'll end here.

I think the reason you hear people say "the writer is so good" when reading Twilight is not because they admire the quality of the prose. It's because the story strikes an emotional chord in them. When a writer makes you feel something -- no matter how bad the grammar or technique may be -- you resonate with it.

How many times have I read novels -- pop fiction and otherwise -- where the grammar and technique is textbook correct but the story itself just gives me a big "So what?" feeling.

The question is -- why does Twilight resonate with young girls (or women who are still drawn to stories intended for young girls)?

Two words: Male Vampires.

Through the ages, vampire stories tend to center on male vampires and they have always resonated with girls and women (Anne Rice's series starting with "Interview with A Vampire" was a big hit with women).

My hunch? A male vampire -- who can read a woman's mind and know all her wants, needs and even her fears -- strikes a chord in women. Her subconscious says, "A man like this will fully know me. Fully understand who I am."

Add in a huge dose of omnipotence -- he lives forever (subconscious says: he won't die and abandon me) and he's physically powerful (subconcious says: he can protect me in a world where women have less power than men), and what you have is a young girl's perfect love object.

Edward as a character is the polar opposite of real live teenage boys or real live men, for that matter. Mentally and emotionally, he's a female ideal. An ideal which does not exist. He surpresses his most base desires (to suck her blood = to have sex with her), always looks into her eyes (not her boobs, not her butt, and thinks she's beautiful even though she always wears an oversized flannel shirt and jeans, no sexy outfits) and simply adores and protects her (dare I say much like the perfect father?). He's even around her and knows what she's doing when she's not with him.

This taps into the young girl's conundrum -- she's attracted to boys but she's not really sure she's ready for sex. In real life, more often than not, boys her own age are already pressuring her with sexual comments (you won't believe some of the sexual things 5th grade boys say to my 10 year old, 5th grade girl). She worries about if she's pretty enough to keep a boy's interest or if he will like someone else better (Edward only has eyes for Bella).

The Edward character frees the young girl from all concerns. She can imagine herself as Bella adored by an omnipotent man who doesn't pressure her for sex before she's ready.

This is powerful emotional and psychological stuff. So much so it also appeals to grown women who still yearn for the ideal man of their youthful dreams. And no dangling participle or clunky metaphor is going to dissuade them from reading these books.

As writers, I think it better serves us to figure out why such stories strike so deep a chord in readers or viewers instead of turning our noses up at the lousy dialogue. :)

As a writer, I'm not going to pass judgement on Meyers or Collins because they have achieved something I have yet to do -- pen a story that resonates with millions. Isn't that our job as writers -- to create stories and worlds that touch our audiences?

kintnerboy
02-26-2013, 07:56 AM
But that also means if a movie is a success, it's a team success. Yet the writer still brags it was all him.


For some reason I find these sidebar discussions more interesting than the original post, so, forgive my digressing.

There have been a good number of pro writers on Done Deal over the years, and I can't recall a single instance of anyone bragging or taking credit for anything. Professional screenwriters are, for the most part, humble and modest and self-deprecating and have a real sense of brotherhood.

And it's not because they're afraid of political blow-back. Even Billy Wilder, long after he was retired and not dependent on Hollywood for income, never blamed his duds on anyone but himself. And he wasn't afraid of stepping on anyone's toes, either. He thought Marilyn Monroe was an idiot, and said so.

I think there's a distinction to be made between professional critics who are paid to watch films/read books, even some they might not want to, and casual fans.

As far as critics go, there really should be some leeway given as to whether something was intentionally produced to be pop art, a way to kill a couple of hours on a Friday night, or something with serious artistic aspirations, and grade on a curve, as it were. But that will never happen so I have to adjust my expectations based on my own experiences.

But there seems to be this idea that disposable pop entertainment is somehow an attack on more serious artistic endeavors, that somehow the popularity of Twilight is a harbinger of the intellectual doom of civilization (completely ignoring the fact that the average college-age person today probably knows 100x more than Shakespeare ever did). People aren't becoming stupider. The ways we process and use information are just changing. And you don't need to protect the classics. They will always be there.

I don't watch football, but if I want to go to a Superbowl party and have a good time, I don't want anyone looking down at me because I don't really understand the game or am not a 'real' fan. By the same token, if someone tells me Stephenie Myers is a great writer, more power to them. Their ignorance doesn't affect my reality.

And if you're a non-pro writer or casual movie fan, figure out what you like and ignore the rest.

But it's pretty hard to convince me that someone's anti-Tarrantino rants are anything but jealousy when they keep going to see his films again and again.

sc111
02-26-2013, 09:32 AM
kinterboy - This statement of yours is, in my opinion, spot on:
But there seems to be this idea that disposable pop entertainment is somehow an attack on more serious artistic endeavors, that somehow the popularity of Twilight is a harbinger of the intellectual doom of civilization (completely ignoring the fact that the average college-age person today probably knows 100x more than Shakespeare ever did). People aren't becoming stupider. The ways we process and use information are just changing. And you don't need to protect the classics. They will always be there.

I'm going to float a related opinion which may ruffle some feathers. Let me preface it by saying I was an English Lit major and adore the classics; I also hold a minor in secondary education and did an entire year's field work in public high schools before graduating.

Let's look at just a portion of the required reading list of the average American high school. Not recommended titles -- required by coursework:

To Kill A Mockingbird
Romeo & Juliet, Macbeth, Hamlet, Othello
Great Gatsby
Lord of The Flies
Catcher In The Rye
Scarlet Letter
Animal Farm
Moby Dick
Of Mice & Men, Grapes Of Wrath, The Pearl
Homer's Odyssey
1984
Brave New World
Diary Of A Young Girl
Pride & Prejudice
Red Badge Of Courage
Heart of Darkness
Ethan Frome
The Good Earth
Oliver Twist
Jane Eyre
Wuthering Heights
Great Expectations
A Tale Of Two Cities
Canterbury Tales
Beowulf
Pygmalion
The Prince
Cyrano De Bergerac
The Sound & The Fury
Huckleberry Finn

And so on with a good 30-40 more classics, that are required high school reading. And most of the required books I've seen listed, written in the mid-to-late 20th Century, were written by African-American authors:

Black Boy
Invisible Man
I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings

I find a couple of things wrong with this. If you only look at what's required to pass the coursework you'd think very few novels of value were written after 1940.

Is it fair to say that the average high school kid in 2013 -- I'm talking about your average tweeting, facebooking, texting, blogging kid -- doesn't feel these books have anything remotely connected to his/her modern (even late 20th century) experience? Let's face it -- most of the books on the required reading list were published before their parents and grandparents were born.

If we are to bemoan the erosion of people drawn to read well-written "good literature," I think it may have something to do with high school reading lists that stress something like Beowulf or Moby Dick, and test kids on such books, yet ignore a wealth of "good novels" written after 1950, or 1970, or 1980 or 2000, heavens forbid.

Is it any wonder that, when left to their own devices, these kids think any thick book with a hard cover must be boring? (One of the most important things the Harry Potter books accomplished is showing young kids thick books can be fun to read.)

Now, savvy HS English teachers are aware that they lose kids who have no interest in the classics (or the older writing style in which these books were written). And some teahers will slip in more contemporary novels to inspire kids to read good fiction.

However, thanks to all the required state tests, these days teachers are not teaching kids to learn, they have to teach kids to pass tests or risk losing funding. There simply isn't time to include material that isn't on the required reading list. These days I think it's up to parents to encourage their kids to read good contemporary fiction. Unfortunately, many parents were turned off to such books for the same reasons their kids are turned off in school.

bmcthomas
02-26-2013, 09:34 AM
sc111 - regarding Twilight, there's an interesting theory that the books are an allegory of a gentile's conversion to Mormonism. Stephenie Meyer is a devout Mormon, it's easy to draw comparisons between Edward and the idealized version of Joseph Smith and vampirism easily stands in for the Mormon "celestial marriage".

Re: Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins doesn't do many interviews, but I read an interview with her editor, Kate Egan, that was quite revealing. It was Egan who asked Collins to put more emphasis on the Peeta/Katniss/Gale love triangle. Collins didn't want it.

kintnerboy
02-26-2013, 10:17 AM
kinterboy - This statement of yours is, in my opinion, spot on:

Quoted for truth.


just kidding. Thanks.

Just for the record, I love football. Was only making an analogy.

Also, there are a lot of great writers out there who make me want to write better, but Stephen King is the only one who made me want to write, so that's saying something.

sc111
02-26-2013, 12:39 PM
sc111 - regarding Twilight, there's an interesting theory that the books are an allegory of a gentile's conversion to Mormonism. Stephenie Meyer is a devout Mormon, it's easy to draw comparisons between Edward and the idealized version of Joseph Smith and vampirism easily stands in for the Mormon "celestial marriage".

Re: Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins doesn't do many interviews, but I read an interview with her editor, Kate Egan, that was quite revealing. It was Egan who asked Collins to put more emphasis on the Peeta/Katniss/Gale love triangle. Collins didn't want it.

That's interesting about Meyers/Twilight. It only goes to show how much of our "stuff" we unknowingly reveal in our writing.

About male vampires in general -- I've read theories pre-Twilight floating the idea that the appeal of this mythical being for women - starting with Dracula -- has a lot to do with sublimated sexual desires.

About Collins/Hunger Games -- now that's really interesting. Because I did feel the love triangle seemed tacked on for some reason. It just didn't feel organic.

----

kinterboy: :)

60WordsPerHour
02-26-2013, 04:21 PM
For non-pros, screenwriting may seem easy (or easier than writing a novel). But the deeper I get into it the more I realize it's really an art form unto itself which can't be compared with any other form of writing. It's an art form that must meet the demands of commerce, committee approval, and co-creation with other artists (directors, actors, set designers, etc.). The fact that so many films are really good, and do represent the writer's original vision, is sort of amazing.

Completely.

Mathematically speaking -- the odds of a film being good relies on so many variables that it can almost seem like it's impossible for a film to turn out well. Obviously it's not given that there are so many great films, but all of this needs to happen:

The script needs to be good.
The reaction to the script by the people who are needed to get it into production needs to be good so that it improves rather than degrades in the revision process.
The director needs to be good.
The DOP needs to be good.
The money needs to be there to cover the material
The production team needs to be good.
The actors need to be good and bring their A-game to the production.
The on-set relationships need to be good.
Luck needs to be on your side with regards to -- for instance --stuff not breaking at crucial moments.
The editing needs to be good.
The music needs to be good.
The grade needs to be good.
The score needs to be good.
The sound design needs to be good.
The FX if they're there need to be good.
etc.
etc.So much can go wrong that -- as you say -- it's amazing that it does go right as often as it does.

Rantanplan
02-26-2013, 08:49 PM
Re. the books prescribed in high school: the list needs to be updated, for sure, but for some of those titles, they are indeed eternal, and haven't aged a bit. That could be a discussion that could go on forever. But I think that beyond the deep, "universal thruths" that great literature is supposed to offer up to the human soul, there's also, in some of them, the basic love of language that I would hope would transcend the specifics of cultural and historical setting.

The pleasure of words, the beauty of a well turned phrase, the appreciation of great wit. Whether it's to be found in CALIFORNICATION or PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, the clever engineering of words coming out of the mouths of characters or narrators is, to me at least, true cause for celebration. And maybe in the age of Twitter and text messages, you know, those modes of communication that limit your word count, that's something that IS on the verge of being lost among the youth of today, who knows. It sure is worth preserving though. With language comes a certain form of power, the power of self expression. I remember some project I was involved with years ago, and there was a documentary about a theatrical production in which all the actors were literally taken from the streets. And to hear this gang-banger chick from South Central L.A talk about how up until then, the only way she knew how to express herself was through violence, well honestly it was really moving. Language and theater showed her a different way of communicating, a whole different way of being.

Re. the Twilight series, we all have our guilty pleasures. But I think if they totally replace "smarter" pleasures, then yeah, we're not going down a great road. If all we ever watch is dumb, how long before we become a dumb society?

sc111
02-28-2013, 08:06 AM
Re. the books prescribed in high school: the list needs to be updated, for sure, but for some of those titles, they are indeed eternal, and haven't aged a bit. That could be a discussion that could go on forever. But I think that beyond the deep, "universal thruths" that great literature is supposed to offer up to the human soul, there's also, in some of them, the basic love of language that I would hope would transcend the specifics of cultural and historical setting.

The pleasure of words, the beauty of a well turned phrase, the appreciation of great wit. Whether it's to be found in CALIFORNICATION or PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, the clever engineering of words coming out of the mouths of characters or narrators is, to me at least, true cause for celebration. And maybe in the age of Twitter and text messages, you know, those modes of communication that limit your word count, that's something that IS on the verge of being lost among the youth of today, who knows. It sure is worth preserving though. With language comes a certain form of power, the power of self expression. I remember some project I was involved with years ago, and there was a documentary about a theatrical production in which all the actors were literally taken from the streets. And to hear this gang-banger chick from South Central L.A talk about how up until then, the only way she knew how to express herself was through violence, well honestly it was really moving. Language and theater showed her a different way of communicating, a whole different way of being.

Re. the Twilight series, we all have our guilty pleasures. But I think if they totally replace "smarter" pleasures, then yeah, we're not going down a great road. If all we ever watch is dumb, how long before we become a dumb society?

About the last line -- I hear this complaint all the time and fears we're devolving into a "dumb society" when it's simply myth. Frankly, it sounds a tad like elitist BS to me.

Earlier, kinterboy said the average college kid knows more about a lot more subjects than Shakespeare. I'd even go further. I'd say the average 5th grader today knows more about a lot more subjects than Shakespeare or Dumas or Emily Dickinson, and a vast majority of the authors on the required reading list.

The states tests for public fifth graders includes naming parts of human cells, atoms, the earth's atmosphere, algebra, and, needless to say, a lot more history than a writer who died pre-1900.

Sure, we can marvel at these writers' ability to turn a phrase but isn't it also true that many of their contemporaries could barely read a word of what they had written?

The USA adult literacy rate today is near 100%. What was it in Emily Dickinson's time? Around 50%. Clearly, many of those folks weren't reading those required titles either.

Maybe, in 2013, the average person-on-the-street in the USA cannot quote Shakespeare or appreciate the Bard's wit and skill in turning a phrase. But if we went back even 75 years in time, would the odds be better that Mr. Average Joe could quote Romeo & Juliet? I don't think so.

In 1900, your average literate teen (50% fewer than there are today) may have had nothing better to do but read Moby Dick or the Scarlet Letter, likely by gaslight or candlelight. But does that mean they were smarter than teens today who can google any topic possible or communicate with peers around the world via the net. Not to mention get global news instantly, 24/7, on their home page.

And how about societal advances? In past eras, that South Central girl gangbanger you mentioned wouldn't have been allowed near a theater let alone participate in the art. Today, even homeless people can go to the library to check their email and spellcheck can help them compensate for any lapse in their spelling skills.

Sorry, I don't want to turn the clock back to a time when we were better, or smarter, or even kinder to each other, because, for a huge portion of the country, it was never, ever true.

mrjonesprods
02-28-2013, 08:32 AM
If all we ever watch is dumb, how long before we become a dumb society?

If you know dumb is so popular, shouldn't you be able to write some dumb entertainment and make a killing?

Why One
02-28-2013, 09:05 AM
Re. the Twilight series, we all have our guilty pleasures. But I think if they totally replace "smarter" pleasures, then yeah, we're not going down a great road. If all we ever watch is dumb, how long before we become a dumb society?

I know I've mentioned this before; but I've heard self-professed intellects say stuff like, "No intelligent person watches Glee." Yet, some high-schooler that won a science award after inventing something that advanced cancer detection listed watching GLEE as a favorite past time.

There is no "intelligence bias" when it comes to movie and book preferences. If there was, it'd be used to replace standardized tests in schools. There are plenty at MIT students and people at NASA that list THE HANGOVER and THE HUNGER GAMES in their favorite movie lists. Just as there are plenty of "special" people that list GOOD WILL HUNTING and THE GODFATHER as their favorites.

The vast majority of people don't take movies THAT seriously. The only people that do are movie enthusiasts.

mistyritters
02-28-2013, 09:12 AM
Since the comparison's been made, what screenwriters would you match up with the following all-time NBA all-star team?


C) Kareem

F) Larry

F) Lebron

G) Magic

G) Michael


And just for kicks who would be your Pistol Pete Maravich and your Phil Jackson?

sc111
02-28-2013, 10:04 AM
I know I've mentioned this before; but I've heard self-professed intellects say stuff like, "No intelligent person watches Glee." Yet, some high-schooler that won a science award after inventing something that advanced cancer detection listed watching GLEE as a favorite past time.

A lot of self-professed intellects haven't really achieved anything themselves and live very ordinary lives along with the rest of "dumb" society. Articulating how dumb something is or how dumb society is doesn't automatically make someone intelligent. I have met some "not so smart" people rant about "stupid" society. It's a growing trend these days.

Believe it or not but the vast majority of people don't take movies THAT seriously. There is no "intelligence bias" when it comes to movie and book preferences. If there was, it'd be used to replace standardized tests in schools. There are plenty at MIT students and people at NASA that list THE HANGOVER and THE HUNGER GAMES in their favorite movie lists. Just as there are plenty of "special" people that list GOOD WILL HUNTING and THE GODFATHER as their favorites.

The only people who care about this stuff are movie enthusiasts.

Great post. And excellent point about preference. It too often comes down to, "If you don't prefer the same meaningful books and films as I, then you -- sir, madam -- must be ignorant!"

A few years ago I was with a group of people who were bemoaning the "trash" popular music of today. And I mentioned I do occasionally listen to rap music. They were aghast. I could see their estimation of my intelligence drop through the floor. But then I asked them if they ever paid attention to the lyrics, if they ever noticed the poetry, the wordplay .... No, they didn't notice it because they never bothered to listen to it.

There's this attitude that if X,Y or Z is "popular" with the vast majority of unwashed masses it must be declasse and not worth an "intelligent" person's time or attention.

But who is really the dumbo, here? I'd say it's pretty dumb to pass judgment on books, films and music -- and the people who enjoy them --before you experience these things for yourself and form an opinion.

Last week, I printed out the lyrics to Taylor Swift's song, MEAN, because the kid wanted to sing it to audition for the elementary school talent show. I've heard the song many times because the kid plays the CD at home. And I liked it. But when I looked closer at the lyrics it reminded me of Sylvia Plath's poem, "Daddy." And I couldn't help but notice that Taylor Swift, in her lyrics, did a much better job of mining the emotions of a girl raised by a brutish father and, even better, her narrator's voice was triumphant rather than broken. It's pretty amazing.

But I bet you if I told a room full of Classic Lit professors Taylor Swift's poetry stands up to that of Sylvia Plath, I'd be booed out of the place.

Geoff Alexander
02-28-2013, 10:14 AM
I know I've mentioned this before; but I've heard self-professed intellects say stuff like, "No intelligent person watches Glee." Yet, some high-schooler that won a science award after inventing something that advanced cancer detection listed watching GLEE as a favorite past time.

There is no "intelligence bias" when it comes to movie and book preferences. If there was, it'd be used to replace standardized tests in schools. There are plenty at MIT students and people at NASA that list THE HANGOVER and THE HUNGER GAMES in their favorite movie lists. Just as there are plenty of "special" people that list GOOD WILL HUNTING and THE GODFATHER as their favorites.

The vast majority of people don't take movies THAT seriously. The only people that do are movie enthusiasts.

Glee is pretty clever. And the performances are joyous.

Rantanplan
03-01-2013, 08:47 PM
If you know dumb is so popular, shouldn't you be able to write some dumb entertainment and make a killing?

Who says that's what I want to do? Regardless of what you write, I think it's a long shot. So my approach is to write something that means something to me. For every successful teen vampire writer, I have no doubt there are thousands of unsuccessful ones. Just once I wrote something that didn't mean as much to me as it should have, and the concept got some attention, then nothing, so I'm back to being more honest as a writer.

Re. America as a dumb society, here's a thought: I remember hearing Bill Maher on Letterman or some other show, saying "Americans are dumb." Then he quickly corrected himself by saying "No, what I mean is that we are not a cafe society."

And I think he's got a point. Maybe one of the reasons people hang out on these forums and others, is that they don't find the conversation they crave with the people in their lives. I think the art of conversation is not as cultivated in this great nation of ours as it is in some others. Yeah sure, when you're in grad school, and you go out and have a few drinks and talk philosophy and whatever afterwards. But after that?

There are two cultures I know well: France and the U.S. If I compare people with the same level of education in both, i.e. equally intelligent human beings, I would have to say that the level of dialogue is far superior in France. So yeah, nothing to do with intelligence, but perhaps what each culture views as interesting things to talk about. The very notion of discussing the intellectual level of American society or the ramifications of a film like TWILIGHT on the intellect of our youth or its damaging effect on women--most of us can only come here to talk about such things. They're not considered good dinner conversation, I guess.

Anyway, that's just a theory. I've known people with all the right degrees, from all the right schools, with all the right interests and all the right life experiences, and no passion whatsoever when it comes to conversation that barely crosses the small talk threshold.

Steven R
03-02-2013, 10:15 AM
But I think if they totally replace "smarter" pleasures, then yeah, we're not going down a great road. If all we ever watch is dumb, how long before we become a dumb society?

I've said it before and I'll say it again; Idiocracy isn't a comedy, it's a documentary of the future.

Rantanplan
03-02-2013, 11:47 PM
I've said it before and I'll say it again; Idiocracy isn't a comedy, it's a documentary of the future.

What's that famous saying again? Two major different views on how the world will collapse: through tyranny (the Orwellian view if I'm not mistaken) or through... entertainment, but that's not the exact quote. A simper or a... (damn, the words escape me and I'm too tired to look it up).

Anyway, satirical novels like Huxley's BRAVE NEW WORLD or films like Woody Allen's SLEEPERS clearly reflect the latter theory. Death of brain function before death via nuclear disaster or the likes.

Rantanplan
03-02-2013, 11:52 PM
I've said it before and I'll say it again; Idiocracy isn't a comedy, it's a documentary of the future.

What's that famous saying again? Two major different views on how the world will collapse: through tyranny (the Orwellian view if I'm not mistaken) or through... entertainment, but that's not the exact quote. A whimper or a... crash? (damn, the words escape me and I'm too tired to look it up).

Anyway, novels like Huxley's BRAVE NEW WORLD and films like Woody Allen's SLEEPERS clearly reflect the latter theory. Death of brain function before death via nuclear disaster or the likes.

WaitForIt
03-03-2013, 12:01 AM
What's that famous saying again? Two major different views on how the world will collapse: through tyranny (the Orwellian view if I'm not mistaken) or through... entertainment, but that's not the exact quote. A simper or a... (damn, the words escape me and I'm too tired to look it up).

Anyway, satirical novels like Huxley's BRAVE NEW WORLD or films like Woody Allen's SLEEPERS clearly reflect the latter theory. Death of brain function before death via nuclear disaster or the likes.

Amusing ourselves to death?
http://www.amazon.com/Amusing-Ourselves-Death-Discourse-Business/dp/014303653X

"This is the way the world ends, not with a bang but a whimper" (T.S. Eliot)?

sc111
03-03-2013, 03:22 PM
Death of brain function?? Is this the level of deep conversation you enjoy?

Gee -- I bet if you guys lived during the height of the Gladiator games you would predict the end of times based on tastes in popular entertainment. People killing each other to please the crowds. Christians served up as lunch for lions. Oedipus Rex sleeping with his mama then gouging his eyes out. Knights jousting to the death for the amusement of the peasants. Court jesters, minstrels, jugglers and magicians. Punch and Judy. Can-can girls. Traveling circuses. Freak shows. Vaudeville. The Three Stooges. And so on and so on. Surely the human race's 2000-year-old desire for violent and shallow entertainment was always proof the collapse of human kind was just over the next horizon.

Yet, here we are communicating on the net, exploring space, curing disease, transplanting hearts, etc. etc. Somehow we've made it to 2013 in spite of our long-held attraction to anti-intellectual entertainment. Dumb luck about to run out after a couple of millennia? Or, is it possible you're wrong? Is it possible that for a couple of 1000 years people have always wanted entertianment that simply alleviates the monotony of daily life and makes them forget about their troubles for an hour or two. Must they be judged ignorant for this?

And Rantanplan .... In your previous post re French vs. Americans as conversationalists? I think it comes down to a difference in culture. Of the French with whom I've hob-nobbed I do find the majority tend to enjoy ruminating aloud over societal "problems" to a greater degree than Americans who, more often than not, are more interested in finding solutions.

I personally find the French I've spent time with tend to be more fatalistic/pessimistic, glass-half-empty types compared to Americans. Americans are raised to be optimistic, can-do, roll-up-your-sleeves, never-let-them-see-you-sweat, failure-is-not-an-option, anyone-can-grow-up-to-be-president, just-do-it types. We don't tend to hang out in cafes to ruminate on the empty half of the glass. This is our culture.

I do notice Americans in general tend to get impatient with those who spend extended amounts of time discussing "what's wrong" with the world. It doesn't mean we're less intellectual than the French, or less able to have "deep" discussions, we simply don't tend to put our intelligence on display (the democratic, average Joe, we're all in this together thing) and we reject what we 'perceive' as complaining (verses what the French perceive as dialogue). again, two different cultures, that's all.

Maybe this is why you tend to get negative pushback when you post some of your opinions. You've spent a lot of time in the French culture. Perhaps you've been Francophiled. And when you think you're proposing a cafe-esque attempt to dialogue, Americans hear it as you complaining about something.

Add to this, it's a fact Americans, on average, work more hours per year and take fewer, much shorter, vacations than the French. This means we have less free time. And when your free time is scarce, you tend to not to want to use it pondering deep issues in a state of angst. You tend to want to relax and maybe laugh. This could be why our films and TV seem so "shallow" to the French. When to us, it's simply entertainment to divert our attention after long hours of working. Much like our ancestors.