Monday, May 07, 2007

Spiderman and PJ ethics

Since most people get their news from talking heads lately, the "big news" about the movie "Spiderman 3" is its box office gross sales. It broke a record. Big deal.

What should be discussed is the PJ ethics in the movie. I'll give director Sam Raimi credit for scratching the surface on this important topic. It's easy to bypass PJ ethics altogether. This time, it worked for the plot. So, it's there for us to create dialog with our readers.

For those who haven't seen the movie, there's a competition for a staff PJ job at The Daily Bugle. The freelance beatdown pits Peter Parker (Spiderman) against new freelancer Eddie Brock, a textbook jerk. This competition ends when Brock scoops Parker and gets the staff job.

Fast forward past love triangles, fight scenes, graphics, impossible plot twists and more obnoxious singing. Now, the "bad" Parker confronts Brock in the newsroom with a secret. It seems Brock digitally manipulated an image to get the job.

This is the point where most casual observers miss an important point. Not only did Brock manipulate the image, but he also committed plagiarism and copyright infringement. He manipulated a copy of Parker's image.

Brock knew he was in deep poop because he says his career will be ruined by this. Parker doesn't say what I would. I'd say, "You wanted this on the day you did it. You obviously never wanted to be a PJ because you don't respect PJ ethics or our readers."

Appropriately, Brock is fired on the spot. Score one for PJ ethics.

Next, Parker gets the staff job. Ummm... he walked into the newsroom, slammed a PJ into a glass photo frame and disturbed the peace in a busy newsroom. For the record, this normally gets PJs fired. Don't try this at home kids.

Since we're talking about PJ ethics and who gets fired, let's look at Parker a little closer. He sets up his photos. Hopefully, they'll figure it out in the next episode. Everywhere I've worked, setting up images is a firing offense. The Daily Bugle should be the same.

In the movie, The Daily Bugle's circulation numbers are crashing. I'll bet a large part of its decline is lack of credibility. J. Jonah Jamison, the newspaper's editor, isn't a storehouse of ethical values. He sends the freelancers to come back with specific images to support his stories - whether true or not. So, I think he turns a blind eye to set-up images - until the paper gets caught.

After the Brock revelation, Jamison is furious about needing to run a retraction for the first time in 20 years. Just wait until he has to remove all of Parker's images from the AP archive, remove images from The Bugle's Web site and internally block access to his images. Sound familiar?

Jimmy Olson doesn't set up his images. I'm sure circulation at The Daily Planet is dipping too, but Olson keeps street cred. Represent.

If Parker was an artist like Cindy Sherman, it's fine to take self portraits and sell them. She sells fictional images of herself. Nobody thinks Sherman's images are real.

However, Parker is trying to keep his crime-fighting identity secret. Meanwhile, he pretends to be catching "real" moments. So, these images are supposedly candid and/or documentary - which they aren't.

As far as I see it, if he sets up an image, it's set up. If he sets up a news image, it's time to get a box and collect personal belongings.

If anyone wants to tell fictional stories, there's a market for it. Fiction actually pays much more than truth. Put on the black suit, tell fiction, call it fiction and put the money in the bank.

If you want to tell the truth, don't wear your black Spiderman suit in the newsroom.

Oh, the movie plot. Brock, who sucked from the beginning, gets even worse and eventually dies. Yippee.

Enough for now,

1 comment:

Michael said...

It did always bother me that Parker would not only set up his photos, but he was basically creating the news. And what's up with all the direct flash? Clearly no friend of Strobist either.