So, looks like James Frey’s paint-by-numbers fiction factory‘s produced at least one Hollywood movie that’s actually going to make it to release:
I don’t think there’s any chance I’ll see this except perhaps in support of Diana Agron’s awesomeness—she’s one of the few things about Glee that doesn’t feel super-tainted for me. But I think it’s fascinating that there is a difference between how we feel about engineered entertainment depending on whether it’s on paper or film. When shops construct fiction according to formulas of what they think will be successful in books, it occasions a fair bit of disapprobation. Companies like Alloy Entertainment get criticized for producing trash—and worse, for degrading the idea of authenticity and authorship through the writing teams they sometimes use, for producing plagiarists like Kaavya Viswanathan.
I think it’s notable that critics are, or have been, obsessed with Gossip Girl as a television show, when many of them might have dismissed the book series as cynically constructed chick-lit junk. We expect television and movies to be lab-produced to the extent that we can enjoy particularly successful executions of genres and cliches without feeling that we’re debasing ourselves and an art form by enjoying them. We expect to be manipulated so we don’t have to feel guilty about it. But literature is supposed to be special, and we treat anyone, like Frey, or Alloy, who understands that a lot of what we like is simple and formulaic and that there’s money to be made in hitting our sweet spots, as if they’re debasing something. Literature’s supposed to stay pure. Television and the movies were born fallen.