Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Hollywood's journalists

Investigative journalists are great protagonists because--motivated by a desire to find stuff out either for the public or for their job--they are catapulted into the center of whatever action. If you want to tell a story about some crime or some corruption, putting a neutral inquirer in the center of your story is a good way to examine all the angles.

There are other ways to examine issues--like in "Michael Clayton,"where corruption is realized from the inside--but having a journalist at the center of a story removes the tendency for any immediate blame. When something is up, a journalist slowly uncovers pieces of evidence to complete the picture.

I think that Hollywood's version of journalism gets a little skewed when they try to introduce too much glamor into it. Not glitzy glamor, necessarily, but things like danger and intrigue where sources turn up dead after car bombs go off or anthrax gets mailed to the newsroom.

But the fact that those threats exist in the first place--however overstated they may be in movies--is, I think, a large part of what makes a journalist an exciting protagonist. They are in a neutral position, must shed light on some crime or corruption, and must fight (with their pen!) the natural antagonists that arise from the possibility of being found out.

And the fact that these journalists have to persevere to tell their stories, despite the overstated car bombs and anthrax scares, makes them pretty heroic. Even if they are egotistical or womanizing or otherwise flawed.


  1. Good, thoughtful post. Latter-day movie journalists appear to be far from heroic. I'm reminded of the hapless fellow in the Bourne Ultimatum who couldn't follow instructions and winded up with a bullet in his head.

  2. That's true... I was thinking more of Jennifer Connelly in Blood Diamond and others that are escaping me at the moment.