pageok
pageok
pageok
When Truth Inspires Fiction:

Those who make movies "inspired" by true events often take substantial liberties with the underlying facts. According to John Hinderaker, this is the case with "North Country," a new movie based on the book Class Action, based upon a class action sexual harassment suit filed against a mine in Minnesota. While the movie's heroine is inspired by Anita Hill's testimony against Clarence Thomas to challenge the sexual harassment at her workplace, this is not what happened in real life:

The real Jenson case was filed in 1985, six years before the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearing. So this particular embellishment is pure fiction. Why did the moviemakers throw it in? Why do you think? The Supreme Court is in the news, and Justice Thomas is a hero to conservatives. So the liberals who made North Country went out of their way to slime him, shifting the movie's time line by six years just so they could slander a Republican. No wonder conservatives hate Hollywood.

UPDATE: Some of the comments below make some good points, but I think many protest too much. It seems uncontroverted that the filmmakers injected the Anita Hill-Clarence Thomas controversy into North Country, suggesting it had a role in the events the film depicts, even though any such implication would be false. It was certainly reasonable for the filmmakers to condense the history to make the film, but this cannot not explain the Hill reference. On the other hand, the filmmakers' political leanings can.

I think this is a good example of how filmmakers' politics creep into movies, and because the vast majority of filmmakers these days are liberal, most such references are liberal. The point is not that there is some vast left-wing conspiracy of writers and producers looking for ways to advance a leftist agenda -- I don't believe any such conspiracy exists, and I doubt Hinderaker does either. Nonetheless, there is a regular stream of politically charged references in movies and television, the vast majority of which tilt in the same direction. One of my favorite examples is Lethal Weapon, in which police station billboards are curiously adorned with numerous animal rights posters. (In a university dorm this would be one thing, but a police station?!?) In other instances, the political storylines are far less subtle, as The Constant Gardener. A screenwriter friend has told me many stories of how politically charged non-sequiturs have been put in his scripts by producers and directors.

In the present case, it seems clear that someone thought it would add something to the story line to have the heroine inspired by Anita Hill -- not because it happened, but because it conformed with the filmmakers' sense of how things could or should have happened. From what I understand, North Country tells a powerful and inspiring story --- and the filmmakers sought to connect this story to Hill, even if it meant adding one more bit of fiction to an already fictionalized account of a true story.

I agree with several commenters that it would be absurd if Hinderaker were implying that the Anita Hill reference was inspired by the Harriett Miers nomination. Perhaps I am being too charitable, but this is not how I read the Hinderaker quote. The Supreme Court, and judicial nominations, have been a hot political issue for the past several years. The nomination of Supreme Court justices was a major issue in the 2000, 2002, and 2004 elections, and I seem to recall the Supreme Court has done some other things that sparked controversy in the past five years as well.

Greedy Clerk (mail):
Juan, why are you listening to that clown Hinderaker. He tries to show this as evidence of liberal bias, but a simple google search would have revealed that production and writing of the movie started long before either recent vacancy on the Supreme Court. Thus, his assertion that the story was changed because "the Supreme Court is in the news" is absurd. Moreover, he hasn't even seen the movie. If he had, he would have seen that it is crap that trumps a bunch of right-wing-libertarian-volokh type talking points such as it has a clear anti-abortion message to it.
10.23.2005 8:20pm
boonelsj (mail):
Greedy Clerk has it right. This is ridiculous. Oh, and isn't Hinderaker a lawyer? Could he maybe get out his torts book and read the defamation section before he starts accusing people of slander?
10.23.2005 8:51pm
NathanD (mail):
As the director pointed out, the real case dragged on for 11 years, with the final decision handed down in 1997. The timeline was intentionally compressed, as she didn't feel the movie worked with that long a timeframe. 1991 is pretty much dead in the middle of the case, which makes it the logical choice.

And it didn't hurt that the logical timeframe also coincided with the most famous sexual-harrasment hearing of all time. In this movie, that's too good a coincidence to pass up.
10.23.2005 8:55pm
Freezer Burn:
Codswallop. Whether the film-makers were in a lather about current events is irrelevant. Of course this anachronism was written in for political reasons; you'd have to be an idiot (or a shameless apologist) to conclude otherwise. Hollywood people may be stupid about math and physics, but they're grudge-bearing and very attentive to their politics.

And when did Anita Hill get grilled about her "sexual past"? All I remember is commentary about the (figurative) length of her nose.
10.23.2005 9:04pm
Scenescent:
North Country isn't a shot at Thomas any more than Big Lebowski was a shot at Bush pere. Movies (in contrast to other performed media like television or plays) are all about scale and scope, and referencing and tying into national news lends scale cheap.
10.23.2005 9:10pm
Greedy Clerk (mail):
"Freezer Burn": Hollywood is about one thing and one thing alone: Money.

Get your head out of the Glenn Reynolds/Powerline echo-chamber and realize that not everything is the result of some vast left wing liberal conspiracy. Sometimes fiction writers take liberties with the facts just because they do. Sometimes, the media reports "negatively" about Iraq because the news in Iraq really is bad. Sometimes the President really is dumb. S

Stop being a tool for either side of the political spectrum and buying into these idiotic conspiracy theories. Because that's all this right-wing talking about a liberal "MSM" is, bs conspiracy theory that will soon be in the dustpan with Hillary's vast right-wing conspiracy, the Kennedy assasination theories, the fake moon-landing, etc.
10.23.2005 9:11pm
Adam (mail) (www):
"Hollywood people"? The director is from New Zealand; the star South African.
10.23.2005 9:16pm
DonBoy (mail) (www):
The Supreme Court is in the news

And movies are written, filmed and edited over a three-month period.

I suppose there's a sense in which the SC is always "in the news", but then his point is reduced to nothing.
10.23.2005 9:44pm
DonBoy (mail) (www):
You know, if I'd read Greedy Clerk more carefully, I'd have avoided repeating that point.
10.23.2005 9:45pm
anonymous coward:
"According to John Hinderaker..." I can feel my outrage! at liberals! rising! already!!!!
10.23.2005 9:49pm
Brett Bellmore (mail):

"Freezer Burn": Hollywood is about one thing and one thing alone: Money.


Nonsense. Year after year after year, the real money making movies are the family films, and for the most part Hollywood avoids them like the plague, prefering blood, sex, and angst to uplifting money makers. Hollywood is about any number of things, of which making money is maybe number two.

You want a real example of ideological revision in Hollywood, though, try "Runaway Jury". "Big Tobacco" changed to "Big Guns".
10.23.2005 10:00pm
anonymous coward:
"Year after year after year, the real money making movies are the family films, and for the most part Hollywood avoids them like the plague, prefering blood, sex, and angst to uplifting money makers."

How curious that the market continues to ignore this clear opportunity! I suppose that's to be expected when Commies like Rupert Murdoch own the means of movie production.
10.23.2005 10:38pm
confused (mail):
Greedy Clerk,

But the point still holds, doesn't it, that the Thomas bit is an anachronism that had to be added as fiction for a particular reason. So even if the writers didn't anticipate Harriet Miers or Sandy O'Connor retiring or whatever, why slam Thomas if it's a "based on real events" movie?
10.23.2005 11:03pm
gwangung (mail):
Jeezus Christ....you people are ignorant of the nuts and bolts of movie making and you all have the soul of an accountant when it comes to artistic stuff.

No, it DOESN'T take three months to write, edit and film a movie....you're lucky to do that if you're a one man digital filming (its a years long process from writing to preproduction to filming to post production). If the case drags on for 11 years, you certainly want to compress...and the real world parallel is a natural to make if it's close in time--it's not going out of the way to do so.
10.23.2005 11:13pm
Passing By:
The Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings, complete with sexual harassment accusations and testimony by Anita Hill, happened. If you want to deny that, you're confused by a lot more than what Greedy Clerk said. As in, you're confused by history, or perhaps by your desire to rewrite history.

What in observing the fact of the hearings, or the fact of Hill's accusations, constitutes a "slam" on Thomas?

(And I realize that some conservatives adore Thomas, but I'm not sure that a majority of conservatives consider him to be an above-average justice, let alone a hero. If there's revisionism here, it seems to be by muckra..., er, Hinderaker.)
10.23.2005 11:17pm
CrazyTrain (mail):
The real money making movies are the family films, and for the most part Hollywood avoids them like the plague, prefering blood, sex, and angst to uplifting money makers.

Yup, there's no money in sex or violence. Videogames and pornography are the creation of the vast left-wing conspiracy.

There's money in family films, yes. There's also money in sex and violence. Hollywood makes a lot of money in both -- see, e.g., Disney which makes both types of films. It's called diversification --- basic economics here. Look into, or are you so brainwashed by Rush Limbaugh that you have convinced yourself that Hollywood is not intereested in money and instead just wants to indoctrinate them with supposedly left-wing values like sex and violence. . . . . Keep ignoring the real world and dreaming up new conspiracy theories there Brett.

10.24.2005 12:02am
Quarterican (mail):
Nonsense. Year after year after year, the real money making movies are the family films, and for the most part Hollywood avoids them like the plague, prefering blood, sex, and angst to uplifting money makers. Hollywood is about any number of things, of which making money is maybe number two.

You want a real example of ideological revision in Hollywood, though, try "Runaway Jury". "Big Tobacco" changed to "Big Guns".


Go look at box office results by year - here is one source; the top movies are a mix of "family" films, more adult comedies, dramas, and action flicks. And the success of those family movies is deceptive; if you've had kids - or remember being one - you might be aware that often they like to see movies again. And again, and again, and again. Hollywood doesn't turn out more kid-friendly films because they don't need to; a nine-year old wants to go to the movies, and he wants to go to the big hit kids movie (among other things), and he'll see it again, and he's probably not very discriminating ahead of time. It's not as though movie studios sit around thinking: "Gosh, we're sure Shrek 2 is going to be a success, but maybe we should develop some other kids movies to get slightly different demographics...there's kids out there who just won't go see a movie voiced by Mike Myers." On the other hand, I'm picky; I have favorite actors, directors, a developed sense of what I like and don't, and lots of entertainment options aside from movie-going that are frequently more appealing to me. To get everyone in my circumstance (adulthood) into a theater, you need to produce a lot more movies pitched at a multiplicity of audiences.

I don't think the change from Big Tobacco to Big Guns was about ideology - think about how Hollywood now has less onscreen smoking than seems realistic, even given how much smoking has declined, as opposed to the days when people smoked constantly on film. I chalked the change up to an attempt at relevance; by the time the movie was made, the lawsuits against Big Tobacco were over and done with, which wasn't the case (I think) at the time the book was published. It wasn't a public issue anymore. It also sapped the movie of some interest - tobacco and guns are horrible substitutes for each other - but it's not as if the movie was interested in exploring ideology anyway. When a movie is significantly shallower than the Grisham that inspired it...I just shake my head.

I just saw Good Night, and Good Luck tonight, and I highly recommend it; now there's a movie that could be accused of having an explicit liberal agenda. And a ton of smoking.
10.24.2005 12:13am
AppSocREs (mail):
Anybody who thinks that ideology doesn't often trump the bottom-line in left-coast la-la land, has very conveniently forgotten Hollywood's treatment of Mel Gibson when he tried to get distributors for "The Passion of Christ", one of the biggest box office block busters of all time and a movie which stands to be raking in the bucks for years to come.
10.24.2005 12:14am
Mr. P:
Actually, this post was just funny. I mean, does anyone seriously believe this tripe? He could have followed the "Why do you think?" line with "To distract America from the Jewish conspiracy to cover up Mossad's role in 9/11" and it would have made more sense.

Man, conservatives have enough to be upset about, why invent things out of thin air?
10.24.2005 12:39am
Rich Gould-Saltman (mail):
Says V.C. "We're also hoping that people try to be as calm, reasoned, and substantive as possible. So please, also avoid rants, invective, and substantial and repeated exaggeration."

So why's the Hinderaker quote even up here, unless perhaps as a reference to an example of "rants, invective, and substantial and repeated exaggeration" from
"a crank, a blowhard, or as someone who vastly overdoes it on the hyperbole"?


RFGS
10.24.2005 12:49am
llamasex (mail) (www):
More money in Family films? There was a nice friendly family film that opened up against a film set in Hell filled with rampaging murders, R rated. They are Dreamer and Doom. Guess which one opened bigger this weekend?
10.24.2005 12:53am
gr (www):
"Anybody who thinks that ideology doesn't often trump the bottom-line in left-coast la-la land, has very conveniently forgotten Hollywood's treatment of Mel Gibson when he tried to get distributors for "The Passion of Christ""

This is a good example because it also upsets the "family film" vs. "violence" argument.
10.24.2005 1:44am
Quarterican (mail):
Re: The Passion, I think it bears pointing out that more than anything - from my perspective - Hollywood is afraid. Afraid of the new, afraid of that which truly unsettles (as opposed to "unsettling" in the manner of countless unscary scary movies...). Afraid of being associated with controversy (remember, Disney ended up unwilling to distribute Dogma solely on the basis of criticism raised by people who not only hadn't seen the movie but didn't even know anything about it, when the most objectionable thing in the movie was, in it's creator's own terms, "a rubber poop monster"). So is anyone surprised that they were afraid of a film with an explicit religious agenda that had some people - rightly or wrongly - accusing it of anti-Semitism? Which Roger Ebert - in a four-star review - said was the most violent movie he'd ever seen (and not movie violence, but squeam-inducing soft wet realish violence)? Which was entirely in three foreign languages, two of them with very small groups of speakers and the - anachronistic - third long dead? Accuse Hollywood of not having its finger on the pulse of the nation, sure - it's wrong all the time - but it's not unreasonable to assume that there were reasons to be afraid of this movie that didn't have to do with distaste for Gibson's message.
10.24.2005 1:56am
MattDessem (mail):

"Anybody who thinks that ideology doesn't often trump the bottom-line in left-coast la-la land, has very conveniently forgotten Hollywood's treatment of Mel Gibson when he tried to get distributors for "The Passion of Christ""

Hollywood's reluctance to distribute The Passion of the Christ had very little to do with its religious overtones and a great deal to do with the fact that it was in Aramaic and Latin. I believe that if Gibson had made it in English, he wouldn't have had a hard time finding a distributor. And as it was, he got Newmarket to distribute it (for a 12% distribution fee) and they opened it on more than 3,000 screens; it's not as if this was a handmade production with Icon putting up the money for prints and advertising. And Newmarket wouldn't have accepted a percentage instead of a flat fee or opened that wide if they hadn't thought the movie would make enough money to justify that release. That said, given the appeal of the "Christians are under attack in America!" meme, it wasn't in anybody's best interest to point out that the movie was being distributed by Hollywood.

As far as Hinderaker's original point goes, everyone who's posted abou his lack of film knowledge is right on. For another recent example of him misrepresenting things to fit a metanarrative of conservative persecution, see here.
10.24.2005 3:16am
Shelby (mail):
Getting back to the original issue, Greedy Clerk is fundamentally right that there is no reason to give any weight to Hinderaker's argument. (As usual, GC then goes overboard and tries to smear Glenn Reynolds, but kudos for getting something right.)

That said, I'm sure "Hollywood" (as if it were an entity) would be happy to throw in some anti-Thomas rhetoric, but in this case it's absurd to read that as related to the current administration or Supreme Court events.
10.24.2005 3:51am
WB:
NathanD has it precisely right.

And Hinderaker's an idiot, yet again. Perhaps he can watch the movie for us and tell us about all of the examples of anti-conservatism and anachronistic typefaces depicted in the movie, and then the "conspiracy" will be laid bare.
10.24.2005 10:28am
Adam (mail) (www):
Let's also remember that Disney refused to distribute Fahrenheit 9/11, forcing Moore to go with a Canadian distributor, Lion's Gate.
10.24.2005 11:05am
corngrower:
Facts. There is/or not, a reason to include a Tomas/Hill reference. I dont know movie making but I have always heard that 10 or 15 seconds is a big deal. So, it was just thrown in for filler I guess, since it has no meaning. And we all know that 'Erin Brockovich' never came close to how the movie played out the story. Hollywood is fiction by deffinition so lets give them the credence they deserve.
10.24.2005 11:05am
Master Shake:
Gwangung - are you unfamiliar with the concept of sarcasm?

Juan - what in the world made you think that a BS post from Powerline was worthy of the VC?
10.24.2005 8:02pm