Kevin Smith probably won't be subscribing to the New York Times anytime soon.
The director of the upcoming Ben Affleck-Jennifer Lopez film "Jersey Girl" was recently interviewed by the Times to discuss changes he's made to "Jersey Girl" in the wake of the "Gigli" disaster (In its second week of release, "Gigli" dropped 10 spots to number 18 on the box office chart). The Times article (registration required) attributes a couple of less-than-flattering comments to Smith. For example, in response to suggestions that "Gigli's" demise led to Smith cutting down Lopez's part, Smith countered by saying changes were made pre-"Gigli," and these changes were prompted by a lack of co-star chemistry rather than bad Ben-and-Jen press. The exact line from the article reads as such:
"Many of the changes had been made well before 'Gigli' even showed up in theaters, largely because of the two characters' chemistry--or, in this case, a lack thereof, Mr. Smith said."
It's a juicy little paraphrase, right? Unfortunately for the Times, Smith is refuting the comment--and lambasting the article--in a message board posting on his News Askew Web site.
"The fact of the matter is that I DIDN'T say anything to the author of this current NY Times piece regarding a lack of chemistry between Ben and Jen," Smith writes. "I talked with Laura [M. Holson -- the writer] about editing the movie based on test screening reactions, but never went into specifics, and certainly never sighted Ben and Jen's scenes or an imagined lack of chemistry. As written, this Times piece implies I DID say something to that effect. That pretty much trashes what little faith I had left in the press--especially the holy NY Times--because I'm attributed with saying something I didn't."
Smith goes on, deconstructing the article point-by-point. He doesn't call the writer a liar, but he does make a convincing case for the importance of context.
"I know it's en vogue at the moment to place Jen Lopez in the cross-hairs for all that [sic] wrong with the world, so of course the author of this piece is inclined to write that I whittled away Jen's screen time," Smith writes. "However, what she fails to mention is that I whittled away EVERYONE'S screen time."
Now that I'm about to step upon my soapbox, let me pause a moment for some full disclosure. I'm one of those people who likes to blame Jennifer Lopez for the world's ills (Have you seen the "Jenny from the Block" video? It's evil incarnate). I also admit that I've found significant pleasure in watching the "Bennifer" monstrosity take a shot in the crotch for "Gigli." But from my perspective, the Smith-NY Times battle unearths a problem far more troublesome than Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez.
Beyond the misrepresentation and the misquotes, the most unfortunate part of this debacle is that the majority of people will never know that Smith disagrees with the New York Times article. Web sites and news outlets picked up the Times story and disseminated it to millions, but how many readers will venture onto Smith's site to see his reaction? How many know Smith posts to his site? How many know he has a site?
Before this goes too far, let me acknowledge that in the grand scheme of things--and even in the moderate and minute scheme of things--this story adds up to squat. I mean, the whole thing revolves around "Gigli" for chrissakes. But a lesson sits amidst this nonsense, and this lesson has nothing to do with inept journalism or anything like that (see my rant about Stephen Glass if you want a taste of my holier-than-thou journalistic sensibilities). Rather, the lesson the casual movie/entertainment fan can take away is this: Don't buy this stuff at face value. Entertainment journalism is allowed to play a little faster and a little looser than its newsroom counterparts, and while that shouldn't be the case, it would behoove us--the consumers--to remain conscious of the apocryphal nature of this fluff we all love so much.
Mac Slocum dislikes people who refer to themselves in the third person, which is ironic since he's writing this column bio.