Don’t Believe Everything You Hear

Without reliable authoritative information and accurate narratives, we are inclined to construct our own.  These false narratives are often misleading or needlessly inflame.  Presenting a few case studies for your consideration.


Warner Brothers nearly cut the “No Man’s Land” scene from Wonder Woman

In a Fandango interview, May 2017, Director Patty Jenkins is quoted regarding the No Man’s Land scene:

“It’s my favorite scene in the movie and it’s the most important scene in the movie.  It’s also the scene that made the least sense to other people going in … When I started to really hunker in on the significance of No Man’s Land, there were a couple people who were deeply confused, wondering, like, ‘well, what is she going to do?  How many bullets can she fight?’ and I kept saying, ‘It’s not about that.  This is a different scene than that.  This is a scene about her becoming Wonder Woman.'”

Clear and direct right?  This is the director herself, quoted on the record.  However countless outlets ran this story after injecting an additional false narrative.  A few are listed purely to corroborate the point with evidence.  No other commentary is being made about these publications or the authors.  In each case, they add a narrative of Jenkins against short-sighted studio executives unable to understand a creative vision:

  • Slashfilm  – “when she laid out the scene to people at the studio before filming” / “in order to convince the higher-ups that it was necessary”
  • Business Insider  – “Jenkins said to convince others at Warner Bros. this would work”
  • CBR  – “the sequence was harder to sell to studio execs than one might imagine”
  • io9  – “someone at Warner Bros. thought at one point it wasn’t worth being part of Wonder Woman’s runtime” / “the scene did not go down well at all with her colleagues at Warner Bros.”
  • Vox – “But it’s also easy to see why a studio might suggest cutting the sequence.” / “What’s interesting about this isn’t that Jenkins had to talk some of her bosses into signing off on the No Man’s Land sequence.”
  • The Mary Sue  – “For some reason, none of this registered with the higher-ups at Warner Bros, who apparently saw this entire sequence as a waste of time”

However, Jenkins had said nothing about the studio, executives, higher-ups, or Warner Brothers.  A director quote is an impeccable source, but still vulnerable to the imposition of false narratives.  At a June 11th DGA event in Los Angeles, Jenkins sat down with Richard Donner for a brief Q&A where she corrected the narrative.

Warner Brothers had not opposed the scene:

“It’s funny, I feel badly about this cause it’s been reported that Warner Bros. was against it, which it was not Warner Bros., it was my own people in England. It was our own crew at points, who were like, ‘Why are you doing this scene? She’s not even fighting anything,’ So Warner Bros. was not unsupportive of the No Man’s Land scene. It was much more in-process that everybody was like, ‘What’s this scene for? There’s no one to fight. We’ve already seen her block a bullet in the alley and then she’s going to go in and save this church tower, why do you need this other scene?'” (transcription via CinemaBlend)

The video of the event is currently down, but audio is available here in the DGA’s podcast, episode 77 at 18m22s.

In other words, Patty was not battling with studio executives but her own creative team.  The fight was not about the soul of the film versus corporate interests, but between like-minded, supportive, creative individuals attempting to collaborate towards the best film.

The objections to the No Man’s Land scene were based in story-beats, presenting novel challenges, and characterization (not logistical, as I claimed in error in my own Wonder Woman episode).

The concern was that Diana had already faced gunfire on the beach, the alley way, and would do so again against the village sniper; How many of their marquee moments did they want to spend on Diana and bullets yet again?  Moreover the enemy is abstract and impersonal: Wonder Woman against machine guns.  Finally, given that they would immediately start the Veld action sequence, was this scene necessary?

These are good questions and good notes, creatively, character, and story driven.  Thankfully, Jenkins had her own creative instincts to insist upon the scene.  But look how different the narrative!  Instead of a David and Goliath struggle between art and suits, this is a collaborative push-and-pull to polish a picture.  Resistance is not the enemy but the assurance that something deserves to be in the film.

Considerably fewer outlets published this correction of the narrative.

Imagine if you only knew and believed the injected false narrative. What kinds of unnecessary anger and judgment you’d bear against the studio who were, in fact, innocent of your accusation?

Fortunately, Jenkins quickly clarified and does so again in our second case.


Wonder Woman 2 is a love story

On November 1, 2017, Variety’s Playback podcast (Episode 48) published an interview with Patty Jenkins wherein she said:

“So [Wonder Woman 2 is] like that but because she is Wonder Woman and she’s here now and she’s fully developed, it’s got great fun from the start and great big superhero presence from the start, and is funny and a great love story again and a couple new unbelievable characters who I’m so excited about, who are very different than were in the last movie.”

Again, no better source than the director and her own words on the record.  Outlets immediately ran with it.

  • Collider “Wonder Woman 2 New Love Story teased by Jenkins”
  • Gamespot “Wonder Woman 2’s Patty Jenkins Promises Love Story”
  • Slashfilm “Wonder Woman 2 Will Have A Great Love Story, But At What Cost?”
  • Screenrant “Wonder Woman 2 Is Another Great Love Story”

Jenkins took to twitter to correct the narrative, naming Collider specifically:

Ever gracious she adds that she doesn’t blame the writers but nonetheless, their narratives were wrong.  This is only the latest time (not the last) Jenkins would have to correct the narrative.  She had to quash the alleged confirmation back in June.

Let’s look at another happenstance on Twitter.


Larry Fong confirms Justice League picture locked

On February 17, 2017, via Vero, Zack Snyder published a photo of him working on digital color grading.

His friend and collaborator, Larry Fong, shared it on Twitter.  Fong dismantled the narrative that Snyder just slaps a “filter” on his films.  Instead Fong brings attention to the pain-staking shot-by-shot effort filled with creative choices and artistic merit.

However, his use of the words “final look” and “picture is locked” has led to narrative that Fong was confirming that Justice League‘s edit was complete and locked.

An authoritative source in the sense that Fong is friends with Snyder, they worked together on 300, Watchmen, and BvS, and the quotes were taken directly from his twitter feed.  Nonetheless, the narrative is false.  Fong explicitly disclaims it:

“Repeat, I did NOT say JL picture is locked.”

Avoid equivocating claims on authority.  Everything stated about Fong’s authority is true, but it does not mean he knows the state of Justice League for a fact.

Nonetheless, Fong is still, broadly an authority in the field and possesses professional experience and knowledge which carries weight.

Even if he does not know, factually and specifically, the state of Justice League, he can talk generally about where a picture usually has to be to work with a digital intermediary suite.

In a way, Fong is similar to the corroborated visual effects leakers.  They can speak with authority about what was under their direct purview and speak generally about something within their realm of professional experience, but they cannot speak with authority outside those realms.  In more direct terms, VFX leakers can tell you what was in a cut they observed or worked on, they can tell you what it takes to complete a cut generally, but they cannot tell you about a cut IF it exists outside their purview.

It is easy to want everything to be absolute, clear, without nuance and without ambiguity but that’s not the real world.  We want the word of a director to be absolute, for sources to be infallible, for journalists to not mislead, and to be able to take anyone’s word entirely or not at all.  But isn’t that exactly what BvS challenges?  Superman and Batman get swept up into narratives that aren’t entirely true but not entirely false either.  The film highlights what happens when we act rashly on incomplete information.

In Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice: The Art of the Film, co-producer Curt Kanemoto says:

“The big theme of the movie is, at the end of the day, are we too quick to judge sometimes?  Do we act on impulse?  Do we act on disinformation?  Do we have all the facts before we do something?  That’s the takeaway of the film.”

Learn to navigate information with discernment.

Sometimes our biases and prejudices override our senses, even when provably false.


Superman never smiles, Metropolis was annihilated, etc.

Whether disdain, inattention, or intentional falsehood, when it came to Man of Steel there were a lot of counter-factual narratives proffered afterwards.  The most maddening thing is how many of these were obviously untrue simply taking the film as-is, based on what was explicitly on the screen!  That resulted in the creation of this site, the podcast, and a playlist of Man of Steel Myths.

Myths like Superman saves no one, Superman never smiles, the Singularity Sucked Up the Scout Ship, the Hostage Family Dies, or Metropolis Was Annihilated simply require watching the film to disprove.

Other narratives take only basic interpretation and domain knowledge to debunk, like Kryptonian Fetuses Were Killed,  Clark Should Have Used Super Speed, Zod Should Have Terraformed Mars, or Lois Shouldn’t Have Fallen.

Finally, finding a work worthy of apologetics, many other narratives can be countered with alternative explanations.  Where both the critical and apologetic narratives rely upon assumptions and supposition, there is no reason to insist upon the inconsistent and critical one when a logically consistent alternative is available.

Narratives can be so powerful that even someone who saw the identical film can come away with a false belief directly contradicted by the film itself!

Unfortunately, many are so ready to adopt narratives in the absence of information.

In the above cases, an authority came out to defuse a narrative.  Jenkins as an authority on her own words, Fong in the same capacity, what Man of Steel footage actually shows as authority over what people erroneously claim about the film.


DC Extended Universe is the official name

This story has already been widely covered (1, 2, 3, 4, 5) reiterating Abraham Riesman’s ancillary investigation into the origins of the term for his Vulture story.

Instead, it was the invention of Entertainment Weekly writer Keith Staskiewicz who intended it as a joke.

Since the term first appeared, I have always been reticent to use it.  Especially seeing that the term was not actually trademarked despite Staskiewicz adding the trademark symbol in the article and because no one from DC seemed to use the term, on the record, despite countless opportunities to do so.  (I acknowledge a few exceptions exist but they prove the rule.)

Regardless, despite a lack of authority supporting the term and despite the fact that it was not in-fact actually used internally (or otherwise) as the official name, it was adopted by fans.  While it is fine to adopt the name as a matter of convention, many also adopted the false narrative that the name was officially endorsed and promulgated by Warner Brothers.

This case study shows that even if you are factually right and even if a false narrative lacks authoritative support, the masses will adopt it in the absence of an alternative.

To this day, even people who recognize the term was never official, are still stuck using the term for lack of a better, official alternative.  This shows the importance of controlling narratives.

However…


“The directing is minimal and it has to adhere to the style and tone and the template that Zack set.”

So stated Warner Brothers Pictures President Toby Emmerich in the May 22, 2017 Hollywood Reporter article revealing Zack Snyder’s departure from Justice League.

Unlike the above examples expressly debunked with incontrovertible authority, this is much more of a subjective question difficult to address exhaustively or objectively in the same way.  For those who feel and believe Warner Brothers did not adhere to this, to them the WB has lost credibility along with the ability to spin or shape narratives or propose optimistic alternatives.  With those who defended and believed studio reassurances that the vision is intact, that the influence is only a “sprinkling”, etc., it will take heroic efforts to reestablish credibility.  An empirical analysis of the prior films and marketing against the final product would probably tend to discredit the studio, but this is speculation without having done the exhaustive work required.

To those who believe the studio did adhere, I apologize for my last article.

Truth Must Replace Lies

A cardinal principle I live by is to build up rather than tear down.  I broke that rule with my last post aimed at the dissecting a narrative surrounding the dissemination of a false list as actual, factual, and true.  In that article I made a concerted effort not to attribute the author or repeat the list (though tempted to for the sake of a more comprehensive tear-down).

The problem with restating falsehoods (even for the purpose of debunking them) is that it creates an anchoring and familiarity bias, where the falsehood becomes the default our mind turns to!   Even if we consciously KNOW it to be a lie, false, and wrong, as it is our only point of reference and something increasingly familiar each time we hear it, our minds turn to it as fundamental in the absence of anything else.  Basically, I neglected to build-up or fill-in the truth to displace and replace the lie.  My apologies.

While discrediting Differences, I should have provided actually known, proven, and sourced differences based on cast interviews, promotional materials, social media, reliable leaks, etc.  However, that is extensive, difficult, and time-consuming work which I hope I can leave to others to do and aggregate in some meaningful way.  Note, this is a factual exercise with the sole agenda of bringing to light the truth as an alternative to lies.

Truth Transcends Agenda

This is not staking out a position on preference or merit.  This is hoping that we can pursue truth like archeologists, detectives, or scientists attempting to bring facts to life, rather than push an agenda.  Irrespective of beliefs or agenda, debate and discussion is without merit if based upon erroneous facts, falsehoods, and made-up narratives.  Why get heated about the Studio interfering with No Man’s Land?  Predict problems with Wonder Woman 2‘s love story?  Or argue the merits of something sourced from a discredited list of rumors?  When the fundamental facts are false?

If you want to rationally discuss or debate the merits your underlying facts must be accurate whichever side you land on!  If you don’t want to waste breath on fiction, there’s a burden to fact-check, be skeptical, test narratives, and to wait for or seek more complete information.

Truth Is A Check On Bias

With so much incomplete information, making truth paramount helps ensure your personal integrity and any agenda you might have.  If you are willing to adopt any rumor or lie because it serves your agenda, you’ll just lose credibility when the lie comes to light.  Putting truth first means being honest even if something seems like it hurts you or your agenda.

Truth Fosters Empathy

Pursuit of truth means you should be able to view a situation from multiple narratives if the facts have not solidified yet.  In most cases of incomplete facts (and even some complete ones), a positive narrative even for your adversary should be conceivable.  If you cannot conceive of such narratives in the first place, what will you do when confronted with the facts which prove it?  You will discard it, ignore it, and act as if it were a lie despite knowing the truth or at the expense of your credibility.  Until all the facts are in, you should be able to imagine a narrative where the parties all have the best intentions.  Not because that is the most likely case in every scenario but because that is a necessary possibility for you to be able to accept every conceivable fact.  Keep an open mind.

Truth Guides Narrative Responsibly

Again and again we’ve talked about the power of narratives, myths, and stories on the show.  It is remarkably easy to craft them to suit nearly any agenda.  Ensuring truth is first makes you hesitant to create unfounded narratives or rely upon half-truths or lies.  Sadly, this isn’t how most people use narrative or our everyday experience of narrative.  As Zack Snyder said in his exit interview (emphasis added):

“Here’s the thing, I never planned to make this public.  I thought it would just be in the family, a private matter, our private sorrow that we would deal with.  When it became obvious that I need to take a break, I knew there would be narratives created on the internet.  They’ll do what they do.  The truth is … I’m past caring about that kind of thing now.”

While he is resigned to how others will behave, it doesn’t mean he didn’t speak his truth (even at the cost of family privacy).  Even something that personally painful, something no one should have to deal with, it was important to at least give the truth an opportunity to be heard rather than be lost to a sea of false narratives.  Zack provides another critical check on our priorities:

“In the end, it’s just a movie. It’s a great movie. But it’s just a movie.”

Why compromise yourself over a movie or over an agenda?  Isn’t being an honest, truthful, trustworthy, thoughtful, and empathetic person more important than a movie?  As Albert Einstein once said (emphasis added):

“When the issue is one of Truth and Justice, there can be no differentiating between small problems and great ones. For the general viewpoints on human behaviour are indivisible. People who fail to regard the truth seriously in small matters, cannot be trusted in matters that are great.

Or, as he would later restate, “Anyone who doesn’t take truth seriously in small matters cannot be trusted in large ones either.” / “Whoever is careless with the truth in small matters cannot be trusted in important affairs.”

Don’t believe everything you hear.  Prioritize truth.  Be careful with narratives.

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6 Comments

  1. Hi Dr.awkward,

    I really mixed about all this justice league still being a zack snyder movie. I can see that almost quite majority of justice league in the theatrical version are almost entirely reshoot based on the cavill cgi moustache and all that unnatural or forced humor and some of the recognised jokes style from whedon like flash falling on wonder woman and lois being apologised for her grievance.

    It is said that majority of superman scenes have been reshoot. I don know DR. What do you think about justice league in the theatrical run? HJvae u watch it? DO you think that studios have meddling in too much for because of snyder original cut being too dark?

  2. Hi Dr,

    I’m really mixed about the justice league in the theatrical cut. We know that Joss Whedon initially brought in to help finish the justice league after zack league had leave and promised that this is still zack snyder movie. But instead we see that the movie have been reshoot and changed quite majorly and we can see that majority of superman scenes have been reshoot judging poor cgi on cavill mustache.

    This is really bother me because i’m not so sure now if the justice league we see in theatres is the one exactly as intended by zack snyder given that so many scenes have been reshoot. Not to mention they have deleted so many things that we have seen from the trailer. I don know Dr, do you think that WB have meddling in too much just because of so called zack snyder cut is too dark and they attempt to lighten it up even more??

  3. This one was needed. Thank you!

  4. I think once the box office run of Justice League is over, we will hear more from Warner Bros. It would be in their best interest to communicate directly with the fan. Looking forward to your next episode Doc.

    • @John Bui, I am not sure the (true) fans had an impact on the box office. First of all, It seems like Justice League is a more popular brand overseas. Note that the animated series “Justice League Action” was released overseas before it was released in the United States. The same thing goes for the premiers of “Justice League”. The studio and their marketing gurus probably knew that there would be little interest in the “Justice League” brand domestically so they heavily marketed the IP overseas anticipating a similar box office run as some of the Harry Potter Films that were released in November. Had they any faith in the domestic audiences, the film would have probably been released as a summer block buster film. Anyway, there are still a little more than 80 days left in this release cycle and the opportunity to get the film over $700 million worldwide. I would suggest to anyone that hasn’t seen it in theaters to go watch the movie. It’s very good.

  5. @DrAwkward, people are questioning why Cyborg looked different in the Justice League flashback scene from the way he looked in BvS. It would be nice if you could give an explanation for the two different scenes.

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