Image used under a Creative Commons license courtesy of Arbron.
Perhaps the first glimmering of this came last summer, when in the State of Play remake, the intrepid and principled junior reporter from the original British serial was transmuted into a blogger when the story was transferred to Washington, DC. But I think we may have reached the tipping point where bloggers are replacing journalists on big and small screens. Jude Law’s playing a scaremonger blogger in Stephen Soderbergh’s new movie, Contagion, about a deadly viral outbreak. And Summer Glau’s going to play an investigative blogger helping out a superhero in a new NBC series, The Cape.
I’ll be interested to see how these performances play out. One of the great virtue of putting reporters on film is they’re great drivers of narrative. They’ve got to go out into the world (even if there’s an extent to which that’s not reflective of actual reporting), whether they’re chasing the results of a toxicology report on a murder victim or a dizzy heiress on the run, and interact with new people pretty much all the time to do their jobs. Movies and television shows about bloggers are going to have to find a replacement for that narrative momentum.
I can see them going in a couple of different direction. First, if these characters are just representatives of the typical slam on bloggers as folks hiding out from the world in their mother’s basements, the character writing is going to have to be quite good, and the reach of those bloggers’ influences quite extensive, to give them heft and impact. One way to do this might be to kind of borrow from hacker movies, and to turn bloggers into characters like Mr. Universe in Serenity (who is really basically a vlogger on some level) or Razor and Blade from Hackers: folks who have built structures to keep themselves secret, but still exert considerable influence. Second, they can do what they seem to be doing with Glau, making folks blogger-reporters, so the means of information delivery changes, but the means of information gathering can stay essentially the same. That was kind of what they did in State of Play, where Rachel McAdams’ blogger character learns the value of good, old-fashioned reporting (and maybe teaches Russell Crowe a thing or too). Or third, they could focus on Gawker-style bloggers, and focus on the lives beyond the job, on the kinds of unique personalities that make folks uniquely good at that odd combination of gossip writing, personal reveals, and analysis.
Whatever direction television and movies begin to go in, though, I’d say the big-name bloggers should keep an eye out for appropriation, and maybe draw up contracts to their life rights. Those things might be about to get valuable.