Errors I Spot (#SFWApro)

Back when I reviewed The Shambling Guide to New York City, I mentioned that I found the subplot of the hero working as an editor rather weak and that my reaction might be due to being a writer. Implausibilities in writing-related plotlines are going to leap out at me just as legal or police-procedure errors will leap out at a laywer or a cop.
That doesn’t necessarily make the book bad, I think. As I said of historical fiction, it’s hard to get it perfect; if a reasonably intelligent reader isn’t going to spot the errors maybe it’s not such a big deal (how many people are going to critique the editor’s job performance in Shanbling Guide?). Which is not an excuse for not doing basic research or at making an effort to get things right, but I’m inclined to cut a movie or book I like a fair amount of slack.
(This is separate from disagreements over what is realistic or accurate. As Roger Ebert once observed, journalist Sally Newman’s very unprofessional sleeping with source Paul Newman in Absence of Malice, but that’s not to say it wouldn’t happen).
Let’s look, for example, at two movies, one I liked and one I didn’t, and in both of which I spotted errors a non-writer probably wouldn’t.
How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days. This is the one I liked, a rom-com in which Kate Hudson, a staff-writer for Cosmopolitan-With-the-Serial-Numbers-Filed-Off, is writing a piece on how to ruin a relationship. First, she hits on ad man Matthew McConaughy, then engages in every kind of relationship-killing activity to show how he flees from her. Unfortunately, McConaughy has his own goal: winning Hudson’s heart will prove to a prospective client he knows women well enough to run her woman-centric campaign. So he refuses to flee. And inevitably, he and Hudson fall in love.
When we get to the Boy Loses Girl part of the story, Hudson also discovers that instead of getting to write about world hunger and similar issues, she’s going to be stuck churning out similar fluff. Which is where I have my problems.
If you’re going to write about world hunger, Cosmopolitan isn’t the place. It’s not their brand. It’s like expecting Maxim to write about the frontiers of quantum mechanics.
If Hudson’s smart enough to get the job, she’s smart enough to know this. So why not write it freelance? Working for a major national magazine is the kind of CV entry that makes it very easy for editors to say Yes (or so I hear).
The failure of her career justifies her taking a job somewhere else (as I’ve written before, the happy ending leaves her unemployed) which leads to McConaughy racing to the airport to stop her going (the law of rom-coms is that once they actually get on a plane, they’ll never ever, ever come back, so you have to stop them). But it would have been easy enough to work around without the silly errors.
In I Was a Mail-Order Bride (the one I don’t like) Valerie Bertinelli is a magazine writer posing as a male-order bride (or bride candidate) for an article on what sort of man would pick a woman that way. She doesn’t know it’s not lawyer Ted Wass who invited her, but his partner, who bet Wass he could have a beautiful woman around who was interested in him and not jump her (personally I’d have said to hell with the bet and jumped. Because young Bertinelli is awesomely lovely).
Once again, love blossoms. Then Bertinelli learns the truth and storms back to NYC where she tells her editor she’s going to write an article showing Wass up for the worm that he is (which is rather a double standard given her own agenda).
Once again, incredulity kicked in. No halfway competent editor is going run a potentially libelous story where the writer openly admits she’s acting from malice. Or if she did run it, she’d use a pseudonym for the subject. But nope, the story runs—because the resultant lawsuit gives the lovers a chance to get back together.
Here the errors are much more necessary to the plot. Perhaps that’s one reason it’s a worse movie.


Filed under Movies, Writing

4 responses to “Errors I Spot (#SFWApro)

  1. Pingback: Writing Links (and reading) | Fraser Sherman's Blog

  2. Pingback: Implausibility Redux (#SFWApro) | Fraser Sherman's Blog

  3. Pingback: Don’t blame me if I made up stuff about history, because I’m creating art! (#SFWapro) | Fraser Sherman's Blog

  4. Pingback: Bad Love (with and without time travel) #SFWApro | Fraser Sherman's Blog

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