John Heaton (jheaton) wrote,
John Heaton
jheaton

  • Music:
A few weeks ago I got the idea in my head that I wanted to watch the movie Broadcast News. I'm not clear on why I got the urge, because it's hardly one of my favorite movies, but I happened to mention it to my friend Lori (a.k.a. tivogoddess), who mentioned in turn that she happened to own Broadcast News on DVD. Which gave us a perfect excuse to get together for one of our all too infrequent movie nights.

This was the first time I'd seen Broadcast News in at least eleven years. It may have been longer than that since I last saw it; all I know is that hadn't seen it since moving to Washington in 1992. In fact, I had forgotten it took place in Washington.

The most startling thing about returning to Broadcast News after all these years is realizing that Aaron, the character played by Albert Brooks, is the least likable character in the movie. Back in the day, I always felt a certain affinity with Aaron; I could relate to his frustration over his unrequited romantic feelings toward Jane. And that much, at least, hasn't changed. His comment to Jane -- "I would give anything if you were two people, so that I could call up the one who's my friend and tell her about the one that I like so much! -- still hits home, as it's a feeling I've had on more than one occasion. But aside from that, Aaron is kind of a jerk: taking every opportunity to belittle Tom, even after Tom worked with Aaron to prepare for his anchoring assignment; deliberately sabotaging Jane and Tom's relationship; teaching his son to call Tom "the Big Joke."

This time around I found Tom to be the more appealing character. The crucial difference between Tom and Aaron, and the thing that makes the former more appealing than the latter, is that while both men are keenly aware of their shortcomings, Tom doesn't allow himself to obsess over them. And Tom is a nice guy. He's straight-forward, honest, and friendly, he likes everyone, and he doesn't hold a grudge. The last scene is telling: despite their rancorous breakup at the airport, Tom is obviously still on good terms with Jane, and respects her enough to ask her to be his managing editor; and he appears genuinely pleased to see Aaron at the conference. (Aaron, on the other hand, obviously still holds a grudge against Tom, as evidenced by scornful reaction to Tom's offer to help him if he ever wants to change jobs. Jerk.)

I remain ambivalent toward Jane. I never saw her as a particularly sympathetic character, and I still don't. I understand her better now, I think, but I don't like her any better. I still think she over-reacted to the "Tom's tears" incident. There was no harm in what Tom did, and even if it was taped after the rest of the interview, it was still an honest reaction on Tom's part. I don't see it as a big deal.

Jane was right about the television news industry though. It's certainly much worse now than it was in 1987. But I think she might be surprised by how much worse it is. Not only is there more of the kind of fluffy, image-driven "news" stories like the domino-toppling film she cited at the beginning of the movie, the hard news that does make it to air is amazingly shallow. And I think she'd be appalled by shows like The O'Reilly Factor. One would hope she's appalled by shows like that anyway.

In the end, though, Broadcast News redeems itself by featuring one of the all-time great movie quotes, one without which my conversations would be much poorer: "I'll meet you at that place by the thing we went that one time." To which Jane replies, "OK." That's the kind of friendship I aspire to. I come closest to that kind of relationship with the aforementioned Lori. I don't know that we're necessarily at the "place by the thing" level, but a few weeks ago I made reference to "that one really good episode of The Love Boat and she knew I was talking about the one with Scott Baio and Kristy McNichol. I'd call that close enough.
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