Tuesday, September 21, 2004

`Have you heard?'
Stealth advertising puts products and pitches everywhere . . . and you may never know


Young girls
By Nell Minow
Special to the Chicago Tribune

September 21, 2004

Selling products through advertising is like what George Burns said about acting: "The most important thing is sincerity. Once you learn how to fake that, you have it made."

Ads try to speak to us in the voice of friendship, urging us to buy products because of what they will do for us -- making us younger, thinner, more fragrant, more confident, more popular. Very often they show us a person with a problem being counseled by a wiser friend who explains that new and improved Yummy-Yums are just what we need. But even kids are skeptical, learning very young that commercials are made by people who want to sell us things and, unlike friends, they may not always have our best interests at heart.

That's why business is doing its best to eliminate the middleman. If we are less susceptible to the advice of the pretend friends in ads, they reason, maybe we will listen to the advice of real friends. That sums up the latest tactic for selling products: "viral marketing," encouraging people to spread the word to their friends, who then spread the word to more friends.

Ads on television and in print are clearly identified as such, but viral marketing is a form of stealth advertising in which one party knows that there is a commercial purpose to the conversation but the other does not.

This is particularly useful -- and particularly unconscionable -- when it comes to those much-valued consumers, older children and teenagers. Teens spent $175 billion in 2003, an average of $103 per week, according to a January 2004 report by Northbrook-based Teenage Research Unlimited. They like to express their developing sense of individuality with their purchases and are resistant to any efforts to sell to them that appear to be too corporate. So, to get some of that $175 billion, companies take a lower-key approach.

Procter & Gamble's in-house "Tremor" program has identified a quarter of a million "influential" teens, the ones who are likely to be perceived as trendsetters, and gives them free samples, CDs and movie passes. Tremor asks for feedback, but more important to them is the cool factor their products gain thanks to the "influential" teens.

Similarly, Girl's Intelligence Agency is a marketing and research firm specializing in selling to girls and women ages 8-29.

"In today's market where teens and tweens are using so much media, it's really hard to get through the clutter. We understand how these kids communicate with each other, what messaging turns them off, and we make recommendations to our client about the best way to position products so you get strong word of mouth," Laura Groppe, the company's CEO, said in an interview.

Slumber parties

"Our main way of providing marketing services is through slumber parties hosted by tween and teen girls," Groppe explained. GIA has 40,000 "secret agents," each pre-qualified to fit specific marketing-related criteria, sorted by age, interests and "body care ritual" preferences.

"They check in with us every week, and we do surveys and polls and personality quizzes and introduce them to new products, concepts and ideas," she said. "We do a minimum of 500 parties, with each girl inviting 10 or 11 girlfriends. We send them a `slumber-party in a box' so there are branded pieces with games and activities built around, for example, the theme of a movie or free samples of various beauty or skin care products."

`An exclusive trailer'

To make the girls feel special and important, GIA will send them "an exclusive [movie] trailer or something personal from the talent [celebrity], to make a strong emotional connection," Groppe said. "We work with them online to plan snack and game ideas" for the party to help promote the product. "If 6,000 girlfriends are partying on the same night, they can potentially spread the word of mouth to 300,000 girls."

This market is a hot one. Companies that previously focused only on adults are eager to expand their markets to younger customers with buying power. "For the beauty-care industry, the teen and tween demographic is a new category for them -- low-hanging fruit," Groppe said.

For example, hair-coloring products traditionally have been pitched to adult women with slogans such as "Because I'm worth it," or "Hate that gray? Wash it away!" For young women to whom hair coloring is a fashion accessory, the pitch has to change.

"These girls are making purchases based on a friend's recommendation, not a TV ad," Groppe said. So instead of creating commercials for that age group, a company might rely on girls signed up as "secret agents" (to clients, GIA refers to them as "agent influencers") to get the word out.

On its Web site, GIA tells prospective clients it will take you "behind enemy lines -- GIA takes you into girls' bedrooms."

"Thousands of party attendees are unleashed into the field armed with a voice and a personal connection to you and your product," the Web site says.

In an interview, psychologist Dr. Susan Linn used words such as "insinuate" and "infiltrate" to describe such marketing tactics.

"Ad agencies are feeling threatened by commercials because of TiVo and remote controls, and they want to insinuate their brands into every aspect of children's lives any way they can," said Linn, who is associate director of the Media Center for Children at the Harvard University-affiliated Judge Baker Center. "Even what used to be a purely social experience becomes infected with marketing that exploits children's friendships. They are exploiting young girls' need to belong and their need to be popular."

Groppe resisted the suggestion that it is unfair to blur the line between friend and hired sales representative, noting GIA does not sign up girls under ages 8, and in every case it gets permission from the girl's parents.

GIA has turned down inappropriate products, she said, but declined to give an example.

Before movie finished

However, the company accepts movie promotion business before the movie is completed, Groppe said, so GIA does not necessarily know the content of a film its "agent influencers" talk about to their friends.

Indeed, the movie "Just Married" got GIA's slumber-party-in-a-box treatment. That film included very raunchy and explicit humor about having sex in an airplane lavatory and about an electronic sex toy -- the kind of content that earned it a PG-13 rating. Some parents might be dismayed to learn their daughter attended a slumber party aimed at creating buzz about a movie they prefer she not see.

Groppe disputes the idea that GIA's marketing approach is unfair or exploitive. "We're not endorsing a product or telling them to tell their friends this is good -- the power is in their hands," she said.

No one can make them endorse a product or a movie they don't like, she continued. "They're smart enough. They're watching Nickelodeon; they know what ads are."

But the whole point is that these viral marketing strategies don't involve ads. The Web site inviting girls to become "secret agents" does not mention GIA is a marketing company hired by corporations that want to sell products to girls. It appears to be a special club for girls with "the right stuff," complete with quizzes, polls, contests to win slumber-parties-in-a-box -- and promotions for GIA clients. "Secret agents" also get to share their thoughts and problems on public message boards. Current messages include "Am I fat?" from an 8-year-old. The reply from "Agent Kiki," whose "administrator" designation suggests she is a GIA employee, is fine -- she tells the child not to worry about her weight, to eat healthy food and exercise, and she signs off with kisses and hugs.

`Big sis'

The company describes it this way to potential clients: "GIA maintains a `big sis' relationship with over 40,000 Agents, ages 8-29, nationwide. These young women look to GIA for support and guidance as well as insights into the `next big thing' for their [demographic]."

Though they are unlikely to realize it, kids who are chosen by marketing companies as "secret agents," "influential" teens and the like are giving up their own credibility as honest and candid evaluators of consumer goods for a box of giveaways and some positive reinforcement.

An online "big sis" who is getting paid to make them feel important, grown-up and part of an exclusive club might give responsible, appropriate advice to children and teens. But when Big Sis creates and maintains the relationship for marketing purposes, she is a fake friend who is just selling something.

The dilemma for parents is clear. It's difficult enough to resist the nagging of a child eager to have something she saw on TV. Now it requires teaching her to be mistrustful of commercial messages from friends. Unfortunately, the current advertising climate makes it even harder for a parent to remind children it's not what you buy, but who you are that is important.


Nell Minow reviews movies for radio stations across the U.S. every week and on http://movies.yahoo.com/moviemom.

Friday, August 13, 2004

Movie 'ratings creep' means PG-13 isn't what it used to be.

By Nell Minow
Special to the Tribune
Published August 13, 2004


Pop quiz


PARENTAL GUIDANCE SUGGESTED: Some material may not be suitable for children


PARENTS STRONGLY CAUTIONED: Some material may be inappropriate for children
under 13


RESTRICTED: Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian


No one 17 and under admitted

Pretend you are on the Motion Picture Association of America's movie ratings

What rating would you assign to the following movie plotlines?

1. Recent middle school graduates make a date with a stranger they meet
on the Internet and then dress to appear older, sneak out of the house and
into a club to meet him at the bar. There, the movie's heroine, on the advice
of a friend, orders a drink called "Sex on the Beach."

2. A man experiences obvious and exaggerated sexual arousal and a woman
comments on it. Later she has sex with him.

3. Characters use various euphemisms for sex ("boinking," "doing it" and
"hitting,") and for body parts (boobs, etc.) as well as a clinical term.
A character says she wants clothes that don't make her look like a whore
but don't make her look like a virgin, either. An extended scene features
a character sitting on a toilet, experiencing severe digestive distress.

4. A man attempts to rape a woman. A woman slits a man's throat.

5. A character holds up a muddy garden implement and jokes that it's a "dirty


The plots came from these films and here's how the MPAA rated them.

1. PG "Sleepover"

2. PG-13 "Anchorman"

3. PG-13 "White Chicks"

4. PG-13 "King Arthur"

5. PG "Cat in the Hat"

A study released on July 12 by Harvard University documented the "ratings
creep" that has, in effect, ratcheted down the MPAA ratings so that material
once considered a PG-13 now gets a PG and what once was an R is now a PG-13.

The report covered all movies released from 1992 to 2003 and found that
"movies with the same rating can differ significantly in the amount and
types of potentially objectionable content . . . and the criteria for rating
movies became less stringent over the past decade."

Part of this trend reflects loosening standards in all categories. These
days, broadcast television sitcoms regularly contain jokes about threesomes
and impotence and "reality" shows bring us people who are little more than
strangers climbing into hot tubs together. The vice president of the United
States uses the f-word on the floor of the Senate and some newspapers print
the word, both unthinkable just a few years ago.

But in the case of the movie ratings, there's a sense of bait-and-switch
as parents who think they have understood what the cutoff is between a PG
and a PG-13 or a PG-13 and an R find themselves -- and their children --
surprised by material they consider inappropriate.

Jane Horwitz writes the syndicated Family Filmgoer column to provide parents
with more information about the content of movies they should consider before
deciding whether a movie is right for their families. Her reviews since
2000 frequently feature assessments like "awfully R-ish for a PG-13," "awfully
profane for a PG-13," "awfully sexualized for a PG-13." This "bracket creep"
is especially true of comedies. The MPAA will allow material in a PG-13
comedy that would earn an R in a drama, as in the "White Chicks" and "Anchorman"
examples above.

The MPAA is also very formulaic. It will allow one or two uses of the f-word
in a PG-13 movie, as long as the word is used as an expletive -- not as
a reference to a sexual act. Rigid adherence to this entirely arbitrary
rule produces absurd consequences. Movies like those in the Austin Powers
series, known for constantly raunchy humor that includes jokes about oral
sex and genital size, avoid triggering an R rating for language because
they use the made-up word "frickin'."

Indeed, the movie studios understand and cynically manipulate the MPAA ratings
system. The lovely "Fly Away Home" was about to receive a G rating, despite
a harrowing car crash that kills the main character's mother. The distributor
thought school-age children would think the movie was babyish unless it
got a PG. So the studio inserted one four-letter word, said off-screen by
a bad guy, to ensure a PG rating -- further proof of the absurdity of a
rating system that relies on counting specific words and body parts rather
than examining content and context.

The producers of the raunchy "South Park Bigger, Longer & Uncut" bragged
that they intentionally loaded in more offensive material than they planned
to include in the final cut so that they could bargain with the MPAA. The
result was a movie released with more explicit material than had ever before
been permitted in an R film.

Detailed descriptions

Jim Judy's detailed descriptions of movies in the Screenit.com Web site
he created for parents provided much of the data for the Harvard study.
Judy said in an interview there is no way parents can learn what they need
to know from a description of a movie's content that is brief enough for
use on a poster or ad.

The MPAA's attempts to explain the basis for the ratings it gives movies
are ambiguous to the point of being Delphic. Who can explain the difference
between the MPAA's description of the PG-13 version of the horrible "My
Boss's Daughter" ("crude and sex-related humor, drug content and language")
released in theaters and the R-rated version released on video ("crude humor,
sexual content and language")? The PG-13 version of that movie included
a character's apparent seizure after ingesting alcohol and pills; a rape
joke; racist, homophobic and anti-Semitic epithets; a character who urinates
on other people to intimidate them; a blind quadriplegic character who falls
out of his wheelchair; and a gaping and oozing head wound -- all supposed
to be funny.

The MPAA gave the magnificent documentary "Heart and Soul of America," ideal
for family viewing, a PG rating for "mild thematic elements" -- perhaps
a reflection of the movie's brief references to alcoholism and divorce.
But MPAA gave the same "mild thematic elements" explanation for the PG rating
it gave "Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen," which features a high school
girl who wears skimpy clothing, lies to her parents and best friend and
sneaks off to crash a party so she can meet a rock star. Parents would need
a degree in semiotics to figure out what "mild thematic elements" means
in relation to either film.

The anonymous members of the MPAA board hold these credentials: They live
in the Los Angeles area and they have had children. They are selected by
MPAA CEO Jack Valenti, who created the system in 1968.

Jim Steyer is the founder of the non-partisan, non-profit Common Sense Media,
an organization formed to promote family friendly media content. On its
Web site, the group publishes reviews of books, games, music, television
programs and movie reviews -- my own among them.

Steyer notes that the different standards and ratings systems applied to
movies, television, music and computer games -- each conducted by its own
industry -- make it just about impossible for parents understand the basis
for any of the ratings or age recommendations. He calls for one rating system
across all media, independent of industry, based on research about developmental
issues and how violence, sex, language, substance abuse and product placement
affect children, with selection procedures and criteria to ensure that ratings
board members are qualified and accountable.

Overhaul needed

Former Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman, who will take over from Valenti
on Sept. 1, should put an overhaul of the MPAA rating system at the top
of his priority list.

Until then, the rating that best reflects the current system is one that
everyone understands: F.

Nell Minow reviews movies for radio stations across the U.S. every week
and on http://movies.yahoo.com/moviemom.

Friday, July 16, 2004

Interview with John Irving and Tod Williams about "A Door in the Floor"

Acclaimed author John Irving wrote A Widow for One Year, about a writer
named Ruth Cole. For "A Door in the Floor" screenwriter/director Tod Williams
adapted the first part of the book, about the summer that Ruth's parents,
children's book author Ted Cole and his wife Marion, separated when she
was four years old. Nell Minow spoke to Irving and Williams about the film.

NM: Mr. Irving, how involved were you in developing your book into a film?
JI: Well a lot, though he did all the work. All I did was respond to various
drafts. I gave him a lot of notes. I liked everything about the concept.
The book was like a play in three acts so it had its own closure at the
end of part one. The title is especially well done. I really liked the
post-production part, watching the dailies and taking pieces and putting
them together in different ways. That part of the process feels more like
writing a novel to me, moreso than writing a screenplay. I am a "more is
more" person and he is a "less is more." There was a shot of the snowplow that
was too good to leave out, like a sentence too good to throw away. It
may be extraneous but it's a good sentence so you leave it in. There was
something I liked so much I still sometimes imagine it is in the film.
We shot it and had it in dailies. It was a line said by Marion, after she
says she won't be a bad mother to Ruth and it wasn't in the book. But it
was a shocking comment. My novels always go too far -- funny and true and
then one note that is uncomfortable. But that was not like Tod's Marion.

NM: One striking aspect of the novel is the narrator's omniscience, even
greater than usual because he not only knows what everyone is thinking;
he knows and frequently tells us what is going to happen, even many years
later. The narrator's voice is almost another character in the book, and
a vivid one. Did you try to adapt that to the storytelling in the film?

TW: It was my fantasy earlier on to bring more of that to the film, to make
something very strange like "21 Grams," but that's a different movie. In
this story, as we saw it, it was not the technique but the people and the
characters that were important. Telling a story is different on screen.
Even when it was still in words, in the screenplay at one point, it just
said that Ted looked at Marion and "the look means something." Then, when
we filmed it, Jeff Bridges brought all we thought for that moment and more.
That is one of the transitory, ephemeral, gestural moments, the tiny things
that say so much in a movie.
JI: There are visual images in the book that translate well to the screen,
certain totemic things like the sweater and Mrs. Vaughn destroying Ted's
drawings, one of the most successful translations to the literal in the
movie. I love the opening credits with Ted's drawings. One of the most
literally faithful scenes is when Mrs. Vaughn shreds the drawings Ted made
of her. That's the kind of thing that film can do better than a novel.
TW: And the black ice cubes, made from squid ink, are a great image -- they
summarize everything Ted does to his women and himself.

NM: Mr. Williams, you cast an unknown in the key role of Eddie, the 16-year-old
hired to assist Ted who becomes involved with Marion. Tell me a bit about
how that worked.

TW: It was a huge advantage to bring someone new to the audience, so they
could get to know him as the other characters in the movie do. Eddie is
our window to the story. In the beginning, we know only what he knows,
and he is our tool to get to know Ted and Marion. They are married, but
in the whole movie they have only four scenes together with very little
dialogue between them. So Eddie is the glue. Jon Foster had to be sincere
without being stupid and sensitive without being sappy. At the end of the
story he had to be less sweet than he was at the beginning, capable of cruelty.
He handled all of that brilliantly.

NM: What is it like to work with characters who, like you, are writers?
JI: When I finished "The World According to Garp," I said I would never
write another story about a writer. Originally, these characters were all
actors. Ted was a character actor, Eddie was a child actor who never got
to be an adult actor, and Ruth was a real actor. But then everyone in the
book became a writer. It is a challenge; you feel that you are stretching
the audience's patience by writing aspects of yourself. Ted is a kind of
failure as a writer. But he is also the author of everything that happens
to him. It is daring in a film to make a character so much the architect
of his own demise, his own undoing.
TW: Ted could have been a good writer. He took his talent and didn't do
anything with it.

NM: One thing that works very successfully in the book and the movie is
the way you include surprising moments of humor in the midst of a very sad
moment in the lives of the characters. How do you make that work?

JI: You can go to further ends of the extreme in a novel. Though there's
a polarization between slapstick and tragedy, you can do both. In a film
you have to find a tone to a degree and stick to it or the audience is confused
or misled. In "The Cider House Rules," [director] Lasse Hallstrom and I
lost most of the humor in turning the novel into a movie. Every time we
went there, we lost the melancholy that the film is so infused with. This
film has more successfully brought the humor in without losing the melancholy
tone. I think the Mrs. Vaughn stuff is exceedingly funny. Marion's teasing
Eddie about boys his age and what boys want, her discovery of the way he
was using her things -- that could make everyone wince, but we played it
with some humor.
TW: The movie is a tripod that loses one leg when Marion leaves. The most
tragic moment is when she leaves and the most slapstick moment is immediately
after that. I really like the way that the composer of the soundtrack,
Marcelo Zarvos, put both playfulness and pathos into the music as well,
a waltz with strings.

NM: Mr. Williams, is it easier to adapt someone else's work, as you did
here, or start from scratch, as you did with "The Adventures of Sebastian

TW: It's easier to adapt, because you get better stuff to start with!
JI: We're hoping to be able to work together on a script I wrote, "The
Fourth Hand."

NM: I hope I get to see that. Thanks very much!

Thursday, July 08, 2004

Interview with Richard Linklater about "Before Sunset"

Director Richard Linklater (“Waking Life” “School of Rock”) and actors Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy have produced a sequel to their “Before Sunrise,” a 1995 film about two students, one American, one French, who impulsively get off the train in Vienna and spend the night walking and talking. This new film catches up with the characters nine years later as they meet in Paris for the first time since a night that as Hawke’s character says in the new film, he remembers better than he does whole years. Nell Minow spoke to Linklater about how and why they made the sequel.

Nell Minow: One of the things I really love about your movies is the way the talk is so distinctive, not homogenized or dumbed-down to explain every reference. Tell me about how you and the actors developed the script together.

Richard Linklater: After talking and thinking about it for maybe seven years, we actually sat down and in a three-day period worked on a very specific outline, very specific trajectories of the characters, then we faxed each other scenes and dialogue, and I fashioned it into some kind of script and we all sat down in Paris and got to re-writing it. We demand a certain honesty from each other and only use things all three of us can get behind. We all have to agree on everything. We all kind of got into the whole thing and we all wrote for both characters, drawing from everything that we talked about as we worked. In that first outlining session, Julie was talking about having been to a Nina Simone concert and I remember sitting across the room and watching her imitate Simone's walk and I said, "That's the end of the movie."

Nell Minow: We follow the characters in real time as they sit in a café and then walk and take a boat and a limo through Paris. How does the setting help to tell the story?

Richard Linklater: It's more the situation, the fact that it's in Paris, and the pressure of time. It could happen anywhere, Philadelphia or anywhere, but it seemed realistic because her character lives there and it seemed plausible. We had it all mapped out for an emotional build, for the first layer in the café being honest and engaging but not revealing, feeling out how much they will reveal to each other. You can't just say in mid-sentence, "I think I'm falling in love with you." It's a slow incline, and then in the car ride it sort of peaks there. The ticking clock of the whole movie is working for us. We know their time is almost up and they both admit a lot more.

Nell Minow: What was it like getting yourselves back into the mindsets and situations of characters you created nine years ago?

Richard Linklater: Although Julie and Ethan and I had remained great friends and had worked together subsequently, it was surreal to be back with these two characters, but it was kind of how life is. I love the cycle of life; you're back in some place with someone from your past and it gets more poignant and more meaningful.

Nell Minow: Actually, we have checked in with these characters once in the past nine years. They appear in a brief scene in your animated film, 'Waking Life.' Yet that encounter clearly has not occurred (or has not occurred yet) in this film. In what universe did the conversation in 'Waking Life' take place?

Richard Linklater: In a strange way they sort of exchanged characters, in the way that they talk about things, and so that scene takes place in some cinematic dream in my imagination. In terms of getting this movie going, we had talked about working together again but creating that conversation with them really kicked it into reality. And there is still another sort of imaginary encounter. What Ethan says in the movie, about including in his novel what he wanted to have happened six months later, we did write that. It does exist within his fictional world.

Nell Minow: Tell me a little bit about Celine, the character played by Julie Delpy.

Richard Linklater: The whole movie is our view of her. We all fall in love, or re-fall in love again with her. Her feelings with him are all there, but she's going to be a little slower to announce that. She'll make jokes about sex in the abstract and he brings her into the reality with his comments. She doesn't give it up that quick, because she knows stuff about his life that in her mind is insurmountable, but we see it in him a lot; he is ready.

Nell Minow: An important moment in the movie is when he asks her to sing and she gives him a choice of three songs. He chooses the waltz. What if he had chosen the one about her cat?

Richard Linklater: The ending would have been different! We had various songs, and there was one that was funny and upbeat we were going to use, but we then changed it and decided we had to have the waltz.

Nell Minow: Is this movie going to inspire people to look up their lost loves?

Richard Linklater: Probably not. My daughter is reading that old story, "The Lady or the Tiger," about the princess who has to decide whether to let the man she loves marry someone else or be mauled by a tiger. She asked what I would do, and I said sometimes your beloved is going to marry someone else -- that's how it goes in real life. We all go through that. It steps outside the boundaries of the fairy tale story book, but it happens! But those formative years are pretty strong. There are still a few women I would actively avoid seeing again. We're talking twenty plus years ago, but if I got into the room with them I could propose marriage.

Nell Minow: Someone like Celine?

Richard Linklater: I did meet this woman in 1989 in Philadelphia and we walked around and spoke openly all night and I did say I was going to make a movie about it, but she didn't show up at my equivalent of a book reading.

Nell Minow: What should people know about what is going on with Jesse and Celine in this movie? And about what might happen in a third movie nine years from now?

Richard Linklater: We see in this film that they can't take it lightly. It's just a big enough deal. If you don't care much you can hurry the process. This is some deeper, meaningful soul mate type person, so you have to tread lightly. They're not finding themselves in perfect circumstances, but with a perfect connection. It's often interfered with by the world around that perfect thing. It battles itself out there. How do the trappings of your life as you get older play into that connection? If there was going to be a third one we'd have to get into the belly of the domestic beast a little bit, something original, not just about the toothpaste and toilet paper roll.

Nell Minow: I hope I get to see it! Thanks very much.

Thursday, July 01, 2004

Interview with Ashley Judd about "De-Lovely"

NM: What drew you to the role of Linda Porter, the wife of songwriter Cole

AJ: I was attracted to playing someone really rich! And I thought the locations
would be nice [laughs]...No, that wasn't really it. What drew me to the
role was the project as a whole. I got all Hermes-ed up to go meet with
Irwin Winkler and I could see that he would create a safe and lovely environment
to work in. I also wanted to try taking a supporting role and see if it
would help my performance to have some breaks rather than being on screen
every day.

NM: How did you prepare to play the role of a real-life character?
AJ: I never bothered to watch the Cary Grant film ["Night and Day," the
highly fictionalized 1946 biopic with Alexis Smith as Linda Porter] just
like I never bother to read the junk about my family. But I did read the
biographies. Kevin [Kline, who plays Porter] did an immense amount of research
and it really shows in the film, as when he tells the performers that he
can't hear the consonants in the song. Porter really did that.

NM: You get to wear some magnificent clothes in the film. What was that

AJ: They were so comfortable! Except for the shoes. They were all Armani,
taken from recent archives with period touches, which really shows the timelessness
and versatility of his work. Simple, elegant, beautifully made, a lot of
jewelry. Someone once said that Linda Porter's favorite department store
was [jeweler] Van Cleef & Arpels!

NM: What was Irwin Winkler's style as a director?
AJ: "Do it in a take!" We had a low budget, and he wanted to get everything
done in one take. He works with a lot of poise and equanimity, a real old
school gentleman, with his family all around him, which I admire very much.

NM: Were you a Cole Porter fan before the movie?
AJ: I always loved him and knew he was gorgeous and chic, but did not know
how many of the wonderful old songs were his.

NM: Do you have a favorite?
AJ: The one from "Kiss Me Kate" called "So in Love." It kills me! If I
could hear my sister [country star Wynonna Judd] sing that, wouldn't it
be great? I heard that Cole Porter called Frank Sinatra about the way he
sang "Under My Skin" and said, "I hear you like my music. Why don't you
play it the way I wrote it?" Can you imagine saying that to Sinatra?

NM: What's the best advice you ever got about acting?
AJ: Don't do it for the money!

NM: The movie is really about the relationship between Cole Porter, a gay
man, and the woman who was his best friend and muse. How would you characterize
their connection?

AJ: They had in common an appetite for life and a sense of how to move through
this world. She was very protective of him and a world-class enabler. She
created a workspace for him that was a prototype minimalist room, all white
walls and smoked glass that let in light but did not let him see out to
get distracted -- except for one space left just to let him look out into
the courtyard at a tree.
They had a very nurturing and sustaining marrige for more than 30
years. He described their intimacy as stunning. People want to be known
and authentically accepted for who they are, and that can surpass sex.
He never considered a song finished until he had her approval.

NM: There is a touching scene in the movie where he presents her with a
rose named in her honor. Is there really a Linda Porter rose?

AJ: Yes, there is! I am a dedicated rosarian and have searched the internet
to find one, but haven't been able to yet. I'm hoping that the movie will
help me find someone who has it.

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Interview with Jenna Malone and Macauley Culkin about "Saved!"

Movie Mom: This movie has a large cast of young people with a wide variety of backgrounds and styles. How did you all figure out a way to work together so well?
Jena Malone and Macaulay Culkin together at the same time: Shock therapy!
Macaulay Culkin: Other people have different processes, and you have to be respectful of that. You watch. You see how they work. Some are method; some don't like to run lines. You have to try to figure that out and try not to interject.
Jena Malone: For one scene Eva (Amurri) was banging into the wall with such force that she got crazy bruises. So I did tell her she didn't have to throw herself into it so completely!

Movie Mom: Most of the cast in this film is very young, but you did work with two of the finest grown-up actors in movies today, Martin Donovan and Mary-Louise Parker. What was that like?

Macaulay Culkin: I was only in one brief scene with Mary-Louise, and she was only around for a short time at the end of the shoot. But we worked with Martin (who plays the school principal) a lot. It took a little while to open him up. He has a very serious air. What finally got him was a discussion about the proper name for a group of ducks. I got totally into this thing about the names of groups of animals -- a murder of crows, for example. A group of geese are called a gaggle in the sky and a flock in the air. But we couldn't find the name for a bunch of ducks. Finally, we tracked it down: it's a paddling of ducks.

Movie Mom: Good to know! Macaulay, tell me how you got so adept at using the wheelchair for the film.

Macaulay Culkin: A couple of months in advance, I had the producers send me a wheelchair to try out at home. My apartment has hardly any furniture and no rugs, so it was easy to get around. I also worked with some people at a rehab facility, including a therapist and a kid about my age who had only been in a wheelchair for six months. He helped me to learn about how to get out of bed, get up from the floor, go to the bathroom, and other strategies that wheelchair-bound people have to cope with every day. One really important thing is "shifting in the chair" to prevent bedsores. As an actor, you have to get used to doing the scene from lower down than the person you are talking to a lot of the time. It was fun to learn, but that was because I knew I could get out of it any time I wanted to.

Movie Mom: And you, Jena, had to wear a pregnancy pad. What was that like?

Jena Malone: Believe it or not, this is the third time I have been pregnant in an acting role. Once was on an episode of "Homicide" when I was just 12! It isn't just adjusting to the changed shape and size of your body. You also have to remember the health issues, feeling sick and all that, making that a part of the performance.

Movie Mom: Did you visit with some evangelical Christians to help you prepare for the part?

Jena Malone: Yes, we visited a New Age youth group, really church squared. It really helped to see the kids my age together and also one on one as they talked with me about their faith. It was important to get acquainted with their ferver and absolute passion for their belief because it is very specific.
Macaulay Culkin: I went to a concert and rally in a big 40,000 seat field, with a U2-sound-alike band. What was interesting was that at the concert there were Christians picketing other Christians, Christian groups protesting the kind of Christianity being celebrated inside the field. Everyone thinks everyone else is doing it wrong.

Movie Mom: What's next for you?

Jena Malone: Well, he has a pilot....

Movie Mom: You've been doing this so much you can answer each other's questions?

Macaulay Culkin: Yes, we can! I have done a pilot for NBC and I hope it works out. I'd also love to do more theater anytime. I love the process of the six weeks of rehearsal and the immediacy of it.
Jena Malone: My next movie is 'The Rose and the Snake' with Daniel Day-Lewis.

Movie Mom: One thing I liked a lot about the movie was that while it is very tough on the way some people interpret Christianity, it is very respectful of the teachings of Christianity. What do you think is the most important message of the movie?

Macaulay Culkin: It has two messages that mean a lot together--you should have respect for your beliefs and the strength to question your beliefs.
Jena Malone: That's right. The movie is about having faith and re-evaluating your faith.

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Daughters, mothers and 'Gilmore Girls'
By Nell Minow
Special to the Chicago Tribune

May 18, 2004

This week's episode of "The Gilmore Girls" is the season finale, but for me it is the end of something much more important. It is the last time my daughter Rachel and I will watch the show together because she is leaving for college in the fall. When she goes, one of the things I will miss most is our Tuesday night post- "Gilmore" discussions.

Both of my children usually think it is a little unseemly of me to enjoy the music or movies they like, but with "The Gilmore Girls" the fact that Rachel and I both love the show has been as great a pleasure as watching the program itself.

Rachel was about 14 when she first told me about "The Gilmore Girls," then in its second year. It sounded sitcom-y and formulaic -- a single mother who had a baby at age 16, her daughter Rory, then 16 herself, and their relationship with the mother's wealthy parents.

I politely tried to think of something nice to say: "Rory is a pretty name."

"Her real name is Lorelai, like her mother," Rachel said matter-of-factly. "But that's because she was so young when she had her that she didn't have good judgment, and mistakenly just gave her own name when the hospital asked her what the baby's name was." Well now, this was interesting. A television show had informed my daughter that teenagers can make foolish choices they later regret, and she liked it?

I got another surprise when I sat down with her to watch the next episode, about Lorelai's reluctant agreement to organize a school fundraiser.

Amazingly, this did not follow the standard television formula for comedy plus warmth: Incompetence leads to comic mayhem, happily concluding when a powerful character either intervenes or is delighted with the unexpected outcome; then everyone learns a lesson and lives happily ever after until next week.

This was different. Lorelai was confident and capable. The characters were complicated and intelligent. There was plenty of humor and warmth, but it came from the people and the dialogue. And that dialogue -- it was fast, funny and dazzlingly, omni-culturally literate, sprinkled with references from Henry David Thoreau to feng shui, Kofi Annan, Joseph Campbell and any television star who was ever featured on a lunchbox in the 1980s. I was hooked.

"It's easy to make things funny if people mess it up," producer-writer Amy Sherman-Palladino said in a telephone interview. "It's harder to make people qualified at what they are doing and find the comedy somewhere else. Lorelai can be a bit of a kid, but this is a woman who made a life for herself with no formal education, a woman of great determination and great competency."

Sherman-Palladino wanted to make sure Lorelai was the kind of person who would create a cheerful, loving environment for her daughter. She also wanted Lorelai to read, because of her own curiosity about the world and to keep up with her brainy child.

And she wanted Lorelai and Rory to be irreverent, but not snarky. "They don't take things seriously, but they are genuine. They know how goofy some of their town's festivals are, but they truly love them," she said.

The same could be said about the show's quirky characters. One of the best is Rory's roommate, the hyper-focused, hyper-competitive Paris.

"Rory's nemesis has to be not the popular girl with the blond hair and perfect stomach dating the football player, but the smartest girl, the one who, in the womb, was preparing for her SATs," Sherman-Palladino said.

"With Rory, I wanted to write about a teenage girl whose focus in life was books, music, reading, Harvard; friends with her mom; who was not interested in being in a clique. She needs challenges, and Paris is relentless. Rory will want to stay close to that kind of person because it keeps her sharp, her eyes focused on the prize."

She said she liked the contrast between "Rory's complete acceptance of people for who they are" and Paris, "who is not willing to accept anyone, even herself."

One of Sherman-Palladino's best ideas was to bump the mother-daughter conflict in the show up a generation. The clash is between Lorelai and her mother, Emily, who is firmly committed to traditional standards of behavior. Lorelai was estranged from her parents for 16 years, until she needed their help to pay for Rory's tuition at a private school. In return, they insisted that Lorelai and Rory have dinner with them once a week.

"Their last real interaction was when Lorelai was 16, so they didn't have the softening, growing-up years," Sherman-Palladino said. "They revert back to the rebellious 16-year-old and judgmental mother."

Teenagers get to see Lorelai as both idealized mother-as-friend with her daughter and as conflicted, angry and needy with her own mother.

Rachel has grown up with Rory, and we have loved watching together as Rory found her way through the challenges of high school, friends, boyfriends, family, applying to college and her first year at Yale.

I hope one lesson Rachel has learned from Rory is how easy it is to stay in close touch with home, even from a dorm room.

She and I and some friends are planning a "Gilmore Girls" marathon party to watch the first year of the show, just out on DVD, so we can catch up on the episodes we missed. I hope families whose daughters were too young for the show when it began will watch it together on DVD too.

I am looking forward to going back in time to when Rory was just starting high school. If only I could do the same with Rachel.

Thursday, April 29, 2004

Art mirrors life: Alpha girls create indelible images
By Nell Minow
Special to the Chicago Tribune

April 29, 2004

The alpha girls are doing what they do best -- taking center stage. You know who I mean -- those impossibly perfect beings who mask ruthless domination with artificial sweetness. They seem to appear out of nowhere in middle school, instantly and infinitely confident and cool, as exotic as another species.

Just as the rest of us feel like a hopeless mess of hormones in the midst of an ever-changing and incomprehensible world, these creatures seem to understand and master whatever they do not actually control.

Almost 10 years ago, Mary Pipher's surprise best seller "Reviving Ophelia" (Ballantine Books, $14.95) described an almost-epidemic among teenage girls of anorexia, substance abuse, self-mutilation and depression. Inevitably, adult concerns that adolescent girls are fragile and even self-destructive have become manifest in our fictional representations of them, both as predators and victims, in comedies and in more serious films.

"Mean Girls," which opens Friday, and several other recent movies give families a great opportunity to examine the way social dynamics change in middle and high school, especially the way alpha girls recognize and exploit whatever ideals of fashion and behavior they happen to be able to pull off.

In the movies, "13 Going on 30" has a 7th grader longing to be one of the "Six Chicks" clique, moaning, "I don't want to be original -- I want to be cool!" In Disney's "Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen," Lindsay Lohan plays a high school sophomore who clashes with an alpha princess over who will get the lead role in the school musical.

Last year's harrowing "thirteen," co-scripted by then-13-year-old Nikki Reed based on her own experiences, had Reed herself playing the middle school alpha girl who leads the main character into sex, drugs and piercings.

Even those proto-alpha girls, Cinderella's mean stepsisters, are still trying to keep her away from the prince in the most recent filmland version of the story, "Ella Enchanted."

We also see alpha girl behavior in reality TV and the real-life adult world. On television, we have the "Protege Corp." women of "The Apprentice"; we see women on the extreme makeover shows trying to be molded into idealized alpha images. In the gossip columns, Paris Hilton reigns. And let's not forget Martha Stewart, who made a career out of the alpha girl's most important technique for domination: appearing to be supportive and helpful while making everyone else feel clumsy and inadequate.

The source for "Mean Girls," written by "Saturday Night Live" head writer Tina Fey, is Rosalind Wiseman's non-fiction best seller about alpha girls, "Queen Bees and Wannabes: Helping Your Daughter Survive Cliques, Gossip, Boyfriends and Other Realities of Adolescence" (Three Rivers Press, $14.95).

Set in Evanston

In the movie, Fey gives us the aptly named Regina and her two sidekicks who rule Evanston's fictional North Shore High School as "The Plastics." Newcomer Cady (Lindsay Lohan) arrives from Africa, where she had been home-schooled by her zoologist parents.

Since everything about the high school experience is new to her, Cady brings an outsider's perspective to the social interactions of the suburban teenager, drawing a social network map based on the seating selections in the school cafeteria. She compares the Old Orchard shopping mall to a watering hole in the savanna, a site for the various species to observe and interact with each other.

The approach that had always worked for Cady in the past -- assuming that everyone is sincere and means what they say -- turns out to be inadequate.

Even dressing up for Halloween is more complicated than she thought. Regina's social control is so complete that when she ends up wearing a torn blouse as the result of a prank, everyone instantly copies it as the latest fashion.

No wonder Cady is happiest in math class, where everything follows the rules. She doesn't even make sense to herself anymore, admitting, "I could hate [Regina] but I still wanted her to like me."

The movie illustrates Wiseman's descriptions of the way alpha girls establish their power, usually supported by a "banker" sidekick who deals in information and carries messages. Wiseman says she hopes the film will help girls and boys understand that they have choices.

"It shows what girls do. It may make people uncomfortable to see it, but the message is a positive one," she said in a phone interview. "I like it when the teacher explains that saying someone is fat does not make you thinner."

Wiseman says teenage girls will not tell someone who has made them feel angry or hurt how they feel. They use indirection. They tell their friends, inciting gossip and backstabbing. Or they sugarcoat their hostility with poisonous put-downs, pretending to be friends in public but creating "burn books" filled with insults in private. New technologies like three-way calling, e-mail, instant messages and cell phones become weapons of mass destruction of fragile self-esteem.

Based on facts

Wiseman's readers tell her they vividly recall their own experiences. "Adult women still remember the names of the girls who made them feel bad," she said. "One woman who was in her 80s told me, with tears in her eyes, about getting a letter signed by all the other girls in school that they did not want her coming back."

She also hears from former alpha girls: "They write to tell me that my book inspired them to send apologies for behavior they have felt bad about for years."

In their dealings with adolescent girls, it is important for teachers and students to acknowledge two core realities explicitly. First, young women become alpha girls not because they are confident but because they are insecure. Their behavior is exaggerated to cover up their lack of certainty. Wiseman says they always "over-hate or over-love." Their domination is defensive first, offensive second.

Amanda Potts, a teacher at The Field School, a Washington, D.C., private school for 7th-12th graders, said in an interview, "The adolescent sense of `everyone's looking at me' promotes the need to be on top, to get attention by making sure no one else is getting it. The goal in middle school is to hide, and if you can't hide, be on top. So they think they have to attack first."

Second, the techniques alpha girls use work best on the young, vulnerable and confused. This is why early teen alpha-girl experiences remain so vivid for so many of us -- and for screenwriters. But teenagers need to know that while conformity and indirection may go far in high school, it is individuality and the ability to communicate directly that lead to success later on.

Adults can help teenagers notice that after a strong start, none of the women on "The Apprentice" made it to the final episode. Paris Hilton is more punchline than role model. Even apart from her legal problems, Martha Stewart has attracted as much criticism as praise for her "domestic dominatrix" persona.

Help beyond parents

Teenagers usually don't like to talk to their parents about these issues. So movies, television shows, Wiseman's book and even the gossip columns can be a significant tool in showing them how to recognize -- and prevent -- alpha girl behavior in themselves and others.

Wiseman's Empower Program is a Washington, D.C.-based consulting firm that conducts workshops for schools and students to address these issues explicitly and provide tools for more constructive interactions. Teachers play a crucial role.

"You have to be conscious of who the alpha girls are and find ways for them to interact beyond the clothes and the giddiness that they seem to prefer," says Potts, who outside the classroom is academic adviser to the Field School's extracurricular book discussion club. "We try to create social and academic situations where cooperation gets them further than competition."

Potts says teachers can help kids understand that the standards for status that the alpha girls try to establish are not the way to achieve popularity and success.

"I praise the craziness I see to let them know that it is their offbeat individuality that makes them so wonderful," she says.

Once they learn to celebrate that in themselves and in each other, the "mean girl" power of the alpha girls will disappear faster than pizza at a slumber party

Thursday, April 08, 2004

Interview with Gail Carson Levine, author of Ella Enchanted

Gail Carson Levine, author of Ella Enchanted, is very small, with sparkling eyes that seem to notice everything in case there might be something she might want to use in a book someday. Ella Enchanted was her first attempt to write a chapter book, after several picture books for younger children were turned down by publishers. “I was very much a rejected author. When a picture book I wrote was turned down and the editor asked me to expand it, I learned that I was really a novelist.”

Then her first novel began with the idea of the curse of obedience, which added a lot of life and texture to the traditional story of Cinderella. It also made the story much more appealing to modern readers, who are so used to the idea of independent women with a range of choices that they can find it hard to identify with a Cinderella who would allow herself to be commanded by her mean stepmother and stepsisters.

Once Ms. Levine had the idea of the curse, she had to develop a heroine who would respond to it. “Ella is braver than I am,” she told me. “I developed her to fit what I needed when I developed the curse of obedience, someone who could respond to it.” Because Ella must follow direct orders, she quickly learns to think very carefully about language. And so did Ms. Levine. “As a writer I had to be very careful about the commands I gave her. If someone ordered her to ‘be a good person’ it would be overly vague.” Playing with the language was part of what made writing about Ella fun. Every time Ella was ordered to do something, she looked for ways to bend the meaning of the words to give her as much power to decide how she would obey as possible. That may be why Ella became so interested in studying other languages, and so good at it.

Ms. Levine also enjoyed the way Ella’s thinking about the meaning of the words she said and heard helped her to make jokes, one of her qualities most admired by the more serious Prince Char. Ms. Levine said that she wished she could be as naturally funny as Ella. “Her humor comes from my mother and my husband. When I am writing and something funny comes out, I am the happiest person in the world.”

As she wrote the book, Ms. Levine found that it did not always work the way she thought it would. She solved one problem in telling the story with a little magic of her own. Because the story is told by Ella, and we can only find out what she sees, Ms. Levine had to find a way for Ella and the reader to learn about what was going on with the other characters when Ella was not there. That’s how she came up with the idea for the magical book. The problem of undoing the curse was almost as much of a challenge for her as it was for Ella. She took the advice of a writer friend to “overwrite it” -- just to write and write and write until the right answer appeared.

Ms. Levine has enjoyed hearing from readers, including one class that turned the book into an opera. One letter was from a girl who said that she does not resent doing chores as much any more because she recognizes that it is a choice. But Ms. Levine’s favorite letters are those that say “I was never a reader before, but now that I have read this book, I want to read more.”

Her next project will give us another new look at a famous character. This time it will be about Peter Pan’s fairy friend Tinkerbell and her world.

As Ms. Levine looks back on her first book, almost 10 years later, she is proudest of the concept of “big magic” and “small magic.” “I needed Ella to have a friend but I did not want the friend to be too powerful. And I wanted people to think about the way that all of us have so much big power that we don’t think about.” Clearly, both she and Ella understand that humor can be very big power. When I asked her to sign a copy of her book for my daughter, she wrote, “To Rachel – Don’t be TOO obedient!” For a moment, I thought about not giving it to Rachel. After all, what mother wants her daughter to disobey? But then I decided that it was a very good message, just like the story itself. And Rachel and I are both looking forward to big magic in Ms. Levine’s next book.

Tuesday, March 02, 2004

Shocked, Mr. Mogul? Look at the world you tell kids is cool

By Nell Minow
Special to the Chicago Tribune
Published March 2, 2004

One of my lawyer friends spent the day at the headquarters of a recording industry client to talk about protecting copyrighted material from being downloaded over the Internet by teenagers.

At the end of the day, he said goodbye to the company's top executive, who thanked him for all his help and handed my friend a stack of the company's most popular new CDs, all filled with songs about shooting people, selling drugs, being pimps and "gangstas" and raping women. As he talked about how proud he was of the company's music, he shook his head in wonderment at the way teenagers did not seem to understand that downloading music was wrong.

"What's the matter with these kids?" he asked. "Why don't they have any sense of morality?"

He may be the only one left who sees no irony in that question. It's time for the people who sell our kids music, movies and video games to think a little bit about the messages they are selling them, too.

I'm not advocating a return to the old Hays Code, which governed all Hollywood movies from 1930 until the MPAA rating system was developed in 1968. It seems quaint to us now, but the Hays Code governed everything from the length of on-screen kisses to the portrayal of clergy, who were not allowed to be shown as foolish or corrupt. Its most famous application was ruling that Clark Gable, as Rhett Butler in "Gone With the Wind," could not use the d-word in the famous "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn." The studio ended up paying a $5,000 fine rather than make Butler say "darn."

Under the current system, anything goes, and the Motion Picture Association of America's anonymous ratings panel assigns ratings that are supposed to provide some guidance about the movie's content.

They tend to be very formulaic, based on body parts, graphic violence, and particular words rather than what they call "thematic elements." So last year's lovely "Whale Rider" gets a PG-13 for a brief reference to drug use, but they give a PG to "Catch That Kid," a movie about a child bank robber who heartlessly manipulates her two best friends and risks the lives of her friends, her baby brother and everyone else in her path.

The point of view of the movie is that all of this is OK because her father needs the money for an operation and the bank president is really mean. In the end, she has to give the money back, but she never has to deal with the consequences of her actions.

Also rated PG and heavily marketed to younger kids is "Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen," with a heroine who lies to her mother and her best friend, asks a friend to steal a dress for her, wears extremely skimpy and revealing clothes and tries to crash a party so she can meet her favorite rock star, who turns out to be drunk.

The movie treats all of this as nothing more than "girls will be girls"-style high spirits. She gets grounded, but that doesn't interfere with her starring in the school play and having the rock star come to her town to let everyone see that he's her friend.

Then there is "The Perfect Score," a PG-13 movie produced by MTV, about a group of teenagers who steal the answers for the SATs. All of this is OK because the SATs are really hard, and colleges really care about them. In the end, the kids don't use the answers, but turn them over to a bunch of stoners who then ace the test and get accepted to Ivy League schools.

Bypassing the M rating

Despite the M (over 17) rating, over 70 percent of teenage boys have played the video game "Grand Theft Auto," where players score points by driving over people, having sex with a prostitute and then killing her, shooting police, carjacking and running drugs.

Amazon's review of the latest version raves, "The combat system has been tweaked and will allow you to easily target combatants while pummeling more than one victim at a time. There are a number of new weapons, including machete and chain saw, and an improved targeting system that makes it easier to pick out your victim in a crowd."

That version, called "Vice City," has been challenged in court by civil rights groups because of its direction to "Kill the Haitians." The manufacturer has apologized and agreed to remove the offending language, but of course that still leaves all the machetes, chain saws, prostitutes, drugs and murderers.

Higher penalties

Last week, broadcast executives were called before a congressional committee to discuss new, higher penalties for violating decency standards. Just before appearing, John Hogan, president of Clear Channel Radio, the nation's largest chain of radio stations, announced that Infinity Broadcasting Corp.'s shock jock Howard Stern's program would no longer air on Clear Channel stations, following years of extremely raunchy and explicit broadcasts.

Hogan also said Clear Channel talk show host "Bubba the Love Sponge" had been fired. In January, the FCC fined Clear Channel $750,000 for allegedly indecent content in a Bubba broadcast. Hogan said he was ashamed of the show: "I accept responsibility for our mistake and my company will live with the consequences of its actions."

Hogan said that while he supported the FCC's proposed higher fines for future broadcasts, Clear Channel's lawyers are still reviewing the recent fine for Bubba's violation of FCC rules, so he would not commit to paying it.

Comic-strip character Pogo once famously said, "We have met the enemy and he is us." It is time for the people who produce the media our children consume to recognize that if they bombard them with messages that it is cool to lie and steal, some kids will decide that there is nothing wrong about downloading movies and music. One sin kids will always recognize is hypocrisy. Unlike the characters in their songs, movies and games, recording and film industry executives cannot avoid the consequences of their actions.

The Hays Code said, "the MORAL IMPORTANCE of entertainment is something which has been universally recognized. It enters intimately into the lives of men and women and affects them closely; it occupies their minds and affections during leisure hours; and ultimately touches the whole of their lives. A man may be judged by his standard of entertainment as easily as by the standard of his work."

Maybe that's not as outdated and quaint as we thought.