Years ago, 60 Minutes ran a segment on Dan Whitney.
They followed him around his farm, showed clips of him on tour, and listened to him wax philosophic on… well, nothing, really. They just let him toss out quips here and there, which was apparently enough for their journalistic integrity.
Right now, you might be wondering, “Um, who is Dan Whitney?”
It’s a good question, because if 60 Minutes even mentioned the name, they did so in passing at best. For the segment, they covered Dan Whitney as his famous character: Larry the Cable Guy.
It was fairly disgusting.
Not the fact that they did a segment on Larry the Cable Guy, fact they presented Larry the Cable Guy as a real person and not a fictional character. That’s what’s irritating. 60 Minutes had every opportunity to discuss the creation of Larry, to show clips of Dan performing comedy back in the day, and breakdown and examine the arc of his career. It would have been interesting, and informative. Like good journalism is supposed to be.
But they didn’t take that path. 60 Minutes did the basest fluff piece possible, something akin to “Kitten Rescued From Tree,” and it wasn’t worth watching in the least.
I have no idea why they chose the path they did. Did Dan’s management team make them sign contracts saying they wouldn’t discuss his early career? If so, why would they ever agree to such terms? Or, even worse, did no one do even the basest of Google searches and say, “Holy poop-on-a-stick! This origin story is fascinating!”
I’d forgotten all about the segment when a couple weeks back I listened to the Planet Money podcast do a piece on Blumhouse Productions. If you’re interested, it’s Episode 650: The Business Genius Behind Get Out.
An overview of the episode is an examination of the business acumen of Jason Blum, a Hollywood producer who instead of creating huge, big-budget tentpole blockbusters, puts out mini-budget horror films and cashes in.
During the episode, they interviewed director Rob Cohen. According to Planet Money, The Fast and the Furious shot Rob to the top of Hollywood. Then he made Stealth, an enormous flop, and was suddenly persona non grata. Only Jason Blum approaching Rob and asking him to direct the tiny flick The Boy Next Door saved his career.
Except that’s a false narrative.
Before The Fast and the Furious, Cohen was already a workhorse director; he didn’t come out of nowhere.
He directed television episodes in the 1980s, and found a decent level of success in the 1990s directing films like Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story and Dragonheart. What’s true is that The Fast and the Furious launched his career into a new stratosphere.
But what happened after that? Did he really go from Stealth to nothing?
After The Fast and the Furious, he directed the incredibly successful XXX, with Vin Diesel. Following that came Stealth. But Stealth didn’t end his career. After that flopped, Cohen still made the moderately successful Mummy 3, as well as the commercial and critical flop Alex Cross.
The Boy Next Door came after Alex Cross.
So why lie, Planet Money? Why completely ignore the big-budget (and moderately successful) Mummy 3, which occurred after your supposed career-ending Stealth?
I’m guessing it’s because that isn’t an interesting story. To tell listeners he continued making films even after the massive failure isn’t an interesting story arc. There needs to be failure, followed by redemption, in order to engage listeners. It creates drama and suspense, even if it’s technically not what happened.
I wrote to Planet Money and asked them why they falsified their narrative, but received no response. I’ve still no clue why 60 Minutes dropped the ball on what could have been such an informative and interesting piece.
It does make me wonder, however: if omissions and alterations take place in the little nothing stories like these two, what is altered in the bigger stories?
For the most part, news is about ratings, not information. To get ratings, you have to manipulate.
The practice is nothing new; it’s always been this way. The media fabricated a compelling lie about Kitty Genovese back in 1964, and in 2017 every outlet broadcast the video of a man being dragged off an airplane with relatively little examination of everything that led up to that point.
I’m not saying there’s no truth in the news, I am simply remembering there is absolutely an agenda; a hook to get eyeballs.
Watch out for it.
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