Friday, October 14, 2011

How To Talk About Inaccuracies in Movies Like The Big Year

The Big Year is coming out and birders are wondering how upset they should get at the mistakes it makes. Some birders instinctively roll their eyes and shake their heads when things are out of place. Others say "let it go, it's just a movie!"

Chuck Klosterman once gave an interview (I think it was on Bill Simmons' podcast) about the TV show The Wire where he spoke about how he bought into the reality of the show. The lives of policemen and drug dealers presented in the show were so convincing that Klosterman - who had never been a policeman or a drug dealer - believed that they must be an accurate reflection of those real lives. He was convinced of this realism until the final season of The Wire, when the show took on a topic that Klosterman had a lot of experience in: newspaper journalism. Klosterman found that the "reality" of being a newspaperman presented in the show was so inaccurate, so far from his own experience, that he was forced by logic to retroactively call into question the realism of the previous seasons' depictions of police and drug dealers.

I think about this when I see errors related to birding, that thing I have experience in. If the birds are wrong, what else is wrong? What other corners are being cut?

I've recently caved to peer pressure and began watching Breaking Bad. In the pilot episode the main character has a reflective moment sitting by his pool in New Mexico. Blue Jays and Eastern Towhees - birds not found in New Mexico - sing clearly in the background. Not only can I not ignore these sounds, but, like Klosterman, I'm forced to reconsider the rest of the world presented to me by the show.

When I watch The Big Year (tomorrow, I think), I'll be looking for mistakes. Not because I'm a debbie-downer or a cynic, but because it's almost insane to me that there could be bird-related mistakes in a movie about birding. It's not that difficult, and they knew we would be watching closely, so the number of errors will simply be direct evidence of editorial laziness. Or something else? I don't really know. Either way, I encourage birders to see the movie and to leave comments or email me with inaccuracies they find.


Anonymous said...

The geek in me can't let go that New Mexico does get Blue Jays regularly in southeasternmost Lea County but a sighting in Albuquerque will bring out the rare bird squad. Eastern Towhee appears very rarely but since it is less beautiful than our Western Towhee no one cares.

Bob Cates ABQ NM

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