Portrayal of Journalists in Movies
Mahon, Bill, Editor & Publisher
THIS HAS BEEN a banner year for movies that feature journalists as major characters in their plots and that trend is heating up even more as the fall line up of films begins to appear in theaters across the country.
The Paper and I Love Trouble, released earlier in the year with major stars such as Michael Keaton, Glenn Close, Nick Nolte and Julia Roberts playing the part of journalists, offered light-hearted views of the profession while at the same time showing reporters righting some of society's wrongs. An image most journalists can live with and maybe even feel good about.
At the other end of the extreme is Oliver Stone's controversial new movie, Natural Born Killers.
Killers includes in much of its publicity posters and advertising the journalism-bashing tag line: "The media made them heroes."
The movie is doing big business at the box office -- more than $11 million the first weekend in release -- and it is also generating a great deal of attention in the same media that is a critical target of the film.
Some of the other action you will see in movie theaters during the coming months will also portray the dark side of the profession -- reporters chasing their own fame and fortune with more vigor than the search for truth. Newsroom based movies go back at least 80 years when Thomas Edison produced a silent movie with a reporter character, The Reform Candidate.
Since that time, however, more than 1,000 movies have been made with reporters as central characters in their plots. Most of them are not along the lines of All the President's Men, where heroic (and handsome) investigative reporters go after bad guys in the U.S. government and save the free world. Most journalism movies show reporters with flaws, rough edges, and a disregard for playing by the rules that the rest of society lives by. Sometimes the rule breaking is for a good cause -- the search for truth. But more often real reporters probably cringe at the portrayals offered by actors.
Natural Born Killers stars Robert Downey, Jr., in the role of a tabloid television reporter out to get the scoop on vicious killers Woody Harrelson and Juliette Lewis. The criticism of the media that is offered through the movie's portrayals is played up in the advertising to get the movie-going public interested in the film.
A full page advertisement in the New York Times on August 21, quotes a number of national reviewers in bold headline type proclaiming that Natural Born Killers is an "indictment" of the media.
Moment of Truth: Caught in the Crossfire, a made for television movie that recently aired on NBC, served up a "fact-based" story of a journalist, played by Dennis Franz, who agrees to work undercover for the FBI.
In Blankman, Damon Wayans was a good guy superhero with a bad tailor who, while chasing bad guys, was himself chased by television reporter Robin Givens.
Quiz Show, which opened in theaters this week, is directed by Robert Redford and starring Ralph Fiennes, John Turturro and Rob Morrow, and exposes a scam at one of the hottest television game shows of the Golden Age, Twenty-One.
A number of other movies with journalists as central characters are scheduled to be released between now and the end of the year, and some additional television programs will use newsrooms as backdrops to their stories this fall.
These movies range from lightweight comedies to dark dramas, and they take place at newspapers, magazines, radio and television stations. And if you get tired of watching all this action, you might relax by listening to the sound track to the movie I Love Trouble, where you can find such hit songs as "Everybody Buys the Globe" and "Scoop Du Jour."
Among the upcoming media movies are:
* Radioland Murders Starring Brian Benben, Mary Stuart Masterson and Ned Beatty, this plot is a comedy murder, produced by George Lucas, that evolves around the search for a murderer who interrupts life at a live radio show. …