I recently read a fascinating interview with James L. Brooks on Broadcast News, his 24-year-old movie gem on the game of the business that is called news but is really show. One section of the interview came fresh to my mind after the weekend's events:
Interviewer: One of the first scenes in the picture is when Jane (Holly Hunter) cries to release tension. Did someone specifically inspire that?
Brooks: This is one of my rules on research: the third time you hear something, you can start to think that it's generally true. Three or four times, different women told me that in the course of a day, they cried. It wasn't that they were crying in a programmed way, it was just a release. Jane doing that is one of my favorite things in the movie.
As amusing as it is to consider Dwyane Wade on the run with Nic Cage and their newfound baby, I didn't recall it because it was a great way to slap a dress on Wade and question his masculinity. I just wanted one reporter in the last 48 hours to lift his notebook a bit, gain eye contact, and ask, "Did it help?" People cried. (Probably.) Did it release tension? Did it provide clarity? Is the desperation still heavy in the heart?
We won't know for some time, though. Sadly, we lost the chance for Scott Raab, humanitarian and sensitive soul, to ask the right questions soon after he referred to LeBron James as the whore of Akron. Surely he would've sensed recently-veiled vulnerability and shouted thoughtfully, "Did you get the sand out of your vaginas in the shower?" Scott's good that way.
And that room, filled with middle-aged men just as insecure as the one on the dais, is absolutely the worst place to ask that question. Read the box scores, give good quote, move along.
I'd like to think there was a time when just seeing the wart wasn't enough. I'd love to believe the polish of handlers and publicists and image makers over the wart has left us poor media hounds to spend so much time scraping it off that we forget why we started the chiseling in the first place.
So excited about the find, we scramble off to tell everyone without actually finding out the story behind the wart. We're excellent investigators but lousy dermatologists.
I'm fairly certain that faraway time of emotional clarity in the media is all nonsense, though. Walter Winchell didn't write features, after all.
So I understand why the question wasn't asked, but I wish it had been. There might be a man in Virginia Beach who finished his degree two years ago and hasn't had a job interview in six months and there's just so little control to his life now. There could be a man in Seattle who has a job but whose debt makes that damned near pointless.
There could be a man from Akron who thought his new job would make him happy but has found it a whole lot harder than he ever considered with no happiness in sight, except of course after he leaves the office.
I wish someone in the room had asked, "Did it help?" Because maybe it did. And maybe those men, who haven't cried outside of a movie theater in 15 years, might consider it just this once. Then they can see the same basketball player get right back to work, like Holly Hunter in Broadcast News.
Unfortunately, despite the lifetime achievements of Alan Alda, we haven't gotten past the point where we're excited to find out a guy cried and he hasn't gotten past the point where he can acknowledge that he cared that much.
To quote William Hurt's anchor character from Broadcast News in a more sensitive moment: "Wouldn't this be a great world if insecurity and desperation made us more attractive?" Or, more honestly, "Let's never forget: we're the real story, not them."