Hobsonphile (hobsonphile) wrote,

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A collection of random musings (Glass, Adams & B5)

Saturday night, my friends Jason and Daniel invited me to a showing of Shattered Glass, a movie whose release is amazingly timely in the wake of the Jayson Blair scandal, which contributed to the unseating of Raines at the New York Times. A relatively straight-forward telling of the events that lead to the disgrace of Stephen Glass, former associate editor of The New Republic and a reporter guilty of even more egregious lies than Jayson Blair, Glass was one of the best movies I’ve seen in some time. The screenplay was wonderfully written, managing to draw suspense out of a basic office drama, and the cast was well suited to their individual roles. Hayden Christensen in particular was fantastic as the charming, manipulative Glass, a fact that I’m sure will delight the perennial Star Wars prequel defender selenak. And Peter Sarsgaard (who played editor Chuck Lane) shouldn’t go without notice- the very best scenes in the film were the face-offs between Christensen and Sarsgaard.

Glass appealed to my inner anti-elitist- the part of myself that refuses to be impressed with a man simply because he knows his way around Shakespeare or because he can rattle off the names of twenty world leaders or, as in the case of Glass, because he is a talented, colorful wordsmith. Arguably, the heroes of the film include Adam Penenberg and the other fact-checkers at Forbes Digital Tool, ambitious net-based writers whom we first see in a warehouse office that hardly calls to mind prestige. The sarcastic wittiness of Penenberg and company was a source of considerable amusement for me. “Don’t you find it strange that a supposedly major software company put its site on AOL where only AOL members can see it?” they ask in a phone conference with Glass and Lane, knowing that they have the prevaricating Glass, if you’ll forgive the crudeness, by the balls.

Some reviewers have complained that Glass neglects to explain why Glass did what he did. Personally, I don’t see this as a failing. In fact, I find it refreshing that director Billy Ray possessed the moral clarity to recognize that the true protagonist in Glass was Chuck Lane and to refrain from getting bogged down in feel-good pop psychology as a means to explain Glass. As he is quoted in one excellent review:

“There has to be an emotional core to every movie, and the emotional core to me is the story of the least popular kid in high school having to take on the most popular kid in high school. That is the story of Chuck Lane.”

For more of this moral clarity, read two Slate articles on Stephen Glass here and here. One of these was written by a journalist who knew Glass and neither shrinks from judgement. Too often I think our current society sacrifices morality on the alter of “tolerance” and nonjudgementalism. It’s good to see people by and large avoid the temptation in this case.

Over dinner before the movie, Jason asked Daniel and me an interesting question- so interesting in fact that I think I’m going to make it a meme. Everyone who is reading this can answer it at his or her leisure. It will be interesting to see how far this goes. *g*

At any rate, here is the meme:

If a television network provided you with unlimited resources to produce a series, what sort of series would you produce?

Daniel had some thought-provoking comments about the viability of Trek’s Prime Directive- that perhaps “noninterference” is not the best, most moral response in all cases. He proposed the creation of an arm of Starfleet that would look upon Prime Directive-related challenges on a case by case basis- in this setting, he felt that some interesting moral and political questions could be intensely explored.

I didn’t have an answer for Jason at the time, but after some thought, I believe I have come to a conclusion. If I were provided with unlimited resources from a television network, I would produce a biopic on John Adams, the American Edmund Burke and, I think, the most fascinating of our Founding Fathers. Though he was a better diarist and letter writer than a political writer, Adams had some very important things to say about the permanence of human fallibility. He was also acquainted with many of the most famous writers and thinkers of the Revolutionary era and was married to a woman who was noteworthy on her own. A fair-minded, thoughtful exploration of Adams’ life would reveal much about the conflicts that defined early America. I also believe the general audience will find Adams to be an entertaining, often funny, recognizably human protagonist. What I’ve read of his more personal writings reveals a clever, if blunt, individual who isn’t afraid to shock the hell out of his audience.

On another matter entirely, I have finally acquired the first season of Babylon 5 on DVD. Upon receiving the package in the mail, I immediately sat down and re-watched Born to the Purple. andrastewhite has observed that Londo seems to fall in love “at the drop of a hat” and Born reveals that this observation is so very true.

There’s something very… adorable about Londo in love. *g* Dare I say, there seems to be a touch of innocence to it all. (Believe me, I never thought I would use the words “innocence” and “adorable” to describe Londo, but really, they are the only words that fit. *g*) Londo showers Adira with affection and gifts. His dialogue appears to be pulled from the most overwrought of romance novels:

”You make me alive, you fountain of passion!”

Who says such things anymore? If such a line issued from any other character, I would’ve rolled my eyes and released a long suffering sigh. But strangely, with Londo, it works.

The most important aspect of Londo/Adira, however- the element that drove me to describe the relationship as having a certain innocence- is how much Londo trusts Adira. We learn as the series progresses that Centauri society demands one learn to distrust as a survival skill and that Londo certainly knows how to keep his cards close to his vest. But with Adira, Londo is completely undone, admitting vulnerabilities that he would never reveal to political allies in the court.

andrastewhite is right to be amazed at the intensity of Londo’s feeling for Adira and how quickly it arose. The effects of Born linger to the very end of Londo’s life, contributing to one bad, heat-of-the-moment choice and two emotional breakdowns.
Tags: babylon 5, history, politics

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