‘Richard Jewell’ and Olivia Wilde’s Offensive Portrayal of the Late Journalist Kathy Scruggs

The Big Picture


Brian on your podcast with David Shoemaker. The press box talked a lot about the controversies around Richard Jewel. Let's unpack some of those quickly before we start getting into the nitty gritty of the film Maybe you can help us understand specifically what role. A person named Kathy scruggs plays in this. Yeah she plays a problematic role. I think we should say she was a big figure. In in the coverage of Richard Jewel. She was a co byline on the very first story in this movie she is kind of a suggestion of a character. More than character. Actor probably The big news of courses that they in the movie they suggest or I guess more than just right she sleeps with an FBI agent. Yes after he gives her a tip yes that they are investigating Richard Jewell. Yes it literally say. She does not literally say I will now sleep with you because you have given me this information But that happens in rapid succession in the span of thirty seconds. It's kind of like the trump Ukraine call. Oh it's a quid. Pro Quo don't have to say it. We know what happened. It was a perfect bout of sex for information as trump might say and Olivia Wilde. And I think you're talking about the delivery. Wild has suggested that she was a relationship with this. FBI This is. This is again some reporting that none of us were aware of before this. That's not what's Woodson the movie the movie is high. Sure Gimme some information and I will do you a favor and then the FBI agent played by. Jon Hamm mm says Oh so we are doing this. which would suggest that they were not doing this before the exchange of information? Yeah Yeah So. This controversy has swallowed the movie up in a lot of ways and I did not think that was going to be the case. And over the course of the run up to the release of the Movie Warner Brothers released a statement sort of defying the Atlanta Journal. Constitution's rebuttal of the movie. They were very proactive. In identifying the fact that this is a movie and there is some fictionalization traumatisation happening here. I wanted to talk to you guys especially about what happens when a movie takes liberties like this is generally speaking. For Art's sake. I think we should always be doing doing this. There's the movie should always be stretching and redefining and re imagining and re contextualising these stories to tell better stories that it's not the job of movies to make good journalists. It's the job of journalists to make good journalists but this seems to be a situation where cleese would obviously the director and and grandfather grandfather of this film. hasn't very specific points of view about authority in the media and there is an expectation that he brought a lot of those ideas. Do Do you think that the movie suffered greatly because of this conversation or or is this just something that we talk about on podcast. Because we're all in the media. Dave Weigel political writer had a great tweet where he said all this controversy convinced fenced liberals that they didn't WanNa see Richard Jewel but the controversy wasn't big enough to convince conservatives that they could own the lips by seeing Richard Jewel. So it Kinda put Richard Jewel in this weird have state I'm with you. I'm all for historical fiction and broad license to do it. The exception I would make is in a case like like this because you could have just picked a random person but you picked a real life reporter who's not famous and you're telling the world the one thing you should know about this woman other than that. She broke the story. Initially but Richard Jewel being under investigation by the FBI. She slept with somebody to get the information. So I think if you're going to do that and then take the additional step as wild suggested that this is based in reality this isn't billy ray writing the screenplay allow. Let's make something up you owe it to show your work in some way whether it's an op-ed whether it's an interview or something because this is beyond this is not famous people. Having a conversation in the White House is a real person sue. This is a a very pernicious and well-established trope in movies about female journalists female journalists in movies are always sleeping with the sources which you know I should just go on record in case you you are not as involved in the media as we are. That's not what happens in real life. We're not all sleep with our sources just so you know. That's not allowed. But when I saw this movie. It was a couple days before the the kerfuffle started and I was so shocked. I thought that either I assumed assumed that. This journalist Kathy scruggs portrayed in the movie was not a real person and then when i Google that it was she was I was like okay. Either there is. She wrote a memoir where she literally said. This happened and I did this. And this is how I got the story in my involvement or else she's dead and friends it's option B because otherwise I was like how do you get away away from this with from a liable perspective. It's so blatant. And so and it stands out and the other thing is just it really it. It undermines the movie. I don't understand why you have to do this. Because this is a movie about how the media was responsible will in in and ruining rituals life which is like. That's fact right that is that definitely happened But to put in this seemingly fictionalized or unsubstantiated and like gross comment on a female journalists in the movie undermines all the legitimate if if tricky cases that Clint Eastwood and movie wants to make about the media's role in American politics in life I completely agree with this man was trapped in his home mm-hmm with his mom for eight days while people everyone in America thought he was a terrorist who had set a bomb and blown up people and it wasn't a case of some of these cases of guilt or innocence. Where it's Oh? He was a little bit involved but he wasn't no he was completely innocent. And Somehow you've done this and taking him him he's no longer the sympathetic figure and the journalists who was part of a team with the JC that made mistakes in covering him. And we're not skeptical enough of the government's evidence evidence and case you've turned them into the into the sympathetic figures. I just don't get it at all. It's a bit of a confounding thing I think a lot of journalists are struggling with the movie for the exact reason you mentioned. Amanda which is that I. I think it's actually quite a strong film in one of Clint's best movies and last fifteen years and it's been completely cast aside and a lot of ways not the Clinton needs another successful movie had plenty in his career but it's a movie that metastasized as a lot of ideas that he's fascinated by kind of like libertarianism in the pursuit sort of like a single man's pursuit of success in the face of a lot of people working against him the Atlanta Journal Constitution response to this though. I think has been a little little bit curious. The long piece that they that they published a sort of profile. Kathy's life I think in some ways was very helpful in terms of saving her reputation specifically early about these kinds of allegations but also revealed a person who obviously had a lot of struggles in her life. Who who did some things that are I think just on the page people will look at me like Oh? Maybe she didn't do that but she was that it's Actually like I thought hyper generated new conversation around her life and around the movie Brian. What did you think about? The idea of trying to memorialize is her in. Defend her in the pages of the paper like that. Well I thought one is I think you just want to give her an identity. You know she is she's been. She's not really much character as I said in this movie. Clint Eastwood doesn't really care about the media in this movie. Other than as there's this noise in this thing that's happening Richard. You didn't care about the way that story got written was very interesting actually is a bunch of editors editors and writers kind of putting that together imperfectly as often. Journalism is so they were trying to give her an identity. I think we've Kinda gone now over the falls where we've corrected is using this horrible. Oh stereotype that got into this movie and now we're kind of excusing. What the paper did and all the media did and saying? Oh Her story. I saw held up. No they didn't one guy was innocent and two there were actual mistakes in the peace even in the first piece in the paper together which so. It's totally understandable. Hannibal that the paper wants to do this. But to me at some point it becomes okay. You're giving us one identity. You're telling us the real story behind your life and then there's this conversation about what the media did to Richard Jewell. which is it's actually kind of separate one thing? That's a little lost in the conversation around this. I want to get your perspective on an Amanda is when you're making something let's say you're making a podcast or you're working on a story story or you're making media company every day you're collaborating people. And you're interrogating all of the choices they're making on a regular basis. You have questions about things. The Livia Wild Defense of the character is one of those things where you think that at some point you might ask a question. You might not just presume and I guess that's questioning maybe the integrity of what Olivia while saying the defensive. Her character but movies take a long time even even one day Clinton movies take a long time to make. There's a long time in the making so how. How did how was not not everyone on the same page with this? What am I going to say? Movies do take a long time to make but relatively this was like a very quick movie At least in the filming like this was filmed over the summer of two thousand nineteen and it's December and now we're watching it so that's pretty wild and and it does really seem like Olivia Wilde. Got wanted to takes and it's like go okay. This is the performance going with which is it's it's a caricature I think. It's pretty generous and cruel version of a reporter which is fascinating because Libya while the daughter of journalists so i. I wouldn't say that this is a portrayal of empathy eighty and understanding at least from what I've seen Granted you only get to take her to but she the material is not there on also. Her interpretation of the material is pretty pretty intense but it definitely seems like it wasn't examined at the time and it certainly seems like no one anticipated this and no one got on the same page about their talking points because Libya has been all over the map. And I'm you know what I'm not sympathetic. With the fact that she's answering search for somme choices. I like this movie directed by Clint Eastwood. It's written by Billy Ray. But also she knows what she's doing. She read the

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