who cannot rewrite the past are condemned to repeat it
by Mad Dog
The guns they used
to be holding have been digitally removed and replaced by
walkie-talkies. It’s a good thing the aliens didn’t get violent or
the agents would have had to throw their walkie-talkies at them.
||If you had a chance to
rewrite the past, would you? Lets put aside the time travel conundrums
we know so well from books and movies, like whether changing the past
would mean altering the present so there’s a chance your parents might
never have met, Osama bin Laden might have been born a girl, or TV might
not have sunk to new lows like having John McEnroe host a quiz show with
the riveting hook of—yawn!—watching someone’s heart rate go
up and down.
What if you could change things
you’ve done without any dire consequences? Or even better, make a few
more bucks because of it. Steven Spielberg is doing just that in the new
version of E.T. he’s getting ready to release. Remember the
scene near the end of the movie where FBI agents surround the spaceship?
Well the guns they used to be holding have been digitally removed and
replaced by walkie-talkies. It’s a good thing the aliens didn’t get
violent or the agents would have had to throw their walkie-talkies at
them. “Take that, you mean old extraterrestrials!”
Reportedly he did this, at a cost of
$100,000, to keep Drew Barrymore happy. I sure hope he has more success
than Tom Green did. The New York Post reports that Drew, Spielberg’s
godchild, is “fanatically opposed to all forms of weapons.”
Apparently that doesn’t include pouting lips, stamping feet, and
Trust me, I don’t say
it lightly when I claim that some writers and directors need editing.
After all, I’m a writer so editors are one of my few natural
He’s far from the only person doing this. Releasing
director’s cuts, both on DVD and in the theaters, is big these days. A
director’s cut, in case you’ve been too busy being grateful that
President Bush choked on a pretzel instead of throwing up on a Japanese
dignitary to pay attention, is when a film director releases a version
of the movie which is the way he or she intended it to be. In other
words, longer. Remember, it’s called a cut because they cut the film
negative, not because the director cuts anything out. After all, most
directors are men, and no matter how many times we’re lied to, we
still believe size matters. Thus they add scenes, characters, and
dialogue, turning Apocalypse Now into Apocalypse Forever.
They’re doing this with books too.
They’re called “restored” novels. They’re the final draft of a
book the way the author turned it in. You know, before an editor got his
or her grubby pencil on it. The past 10 years have seen restored novels
from writers including Mark Twain, William Faulkner, and Thomas Wolfe.
Some changes are small. Others, as with All The King’s Men,
include going back to the main character’s original name and cleaning
up his foul mouth. You know, kind of like changing Larry Flynt to Bob
Jones and having him found a fundamentalist university instead of a
It’s true there are a lot of
reasons a movie or book is edited. Sometimes it’s because the director
or author is being self-indulgent. Other times it’s because petty,
small-minded, incompetent people in positions of power who are unable to
create anything themselves like to exert their influence. Trust me, I
don’t say it lightly when I claim that some writers and directors need
editing. After all, I’m a writer so editors are one of my few natural
enemies. Bears, sharks, and scorpions don’t make me break out in a
sweat, but people who live to hack up—I mean, refine—what I’ve
spent so much time, energy, sweat, and talent writing do.
Contrary to what your mother-in-law wants you to believe,
there is a right and wrong way to ride a broom. At least according to
Kevin Carlyon, High Priest of British White Witches, and I’d have to
be insane to argue with anyone who can turn me into a toad.
sometimes changes have to be made. For instance, when books migrate to
the silver screen they have to be altered. After all, novels can be
longer, cover more years, and include more characters and scenes than
anyone’s butt could possibly sit through. Sometimes the changes are
small, as in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. Sometimes
they’re big, as in Forrest Gump where the book’s “Being an idiot
is no box of chocolates” became “Life is like a box of chocolates.
You never know what you'll get,” totally changing the main thrust of
the book and creating a sickeningly sweet Whitman’s Sampler aphorism
in the process.
Even though the Harry Potter movie
had to eliminate and subrogate characters, they overstepped the
boundaries of rewriting the past when they showed Harry and his class
mates riding brooms the wrong way. That’s right. Contrary to what your
mother-in-law wants you to believe, there is a right and wrong way to
ride a broom. At least according to Kevin Carlyon, High Priest of
British White Witches, and I’d have to be insane to argue with anyone
who can turn me into a toad.
According to him you don’t ride a
broom like they did in the movie—you always wear a helmet. Just
kidding. Actually that’s only required in California. He says that
when witches ride brooms the bristles face forward. Of course you also
see drawings of them riding sidesaddle but that wouldn’t have been
appropriate in the movie unless they wanted to inject sexual
proclivities where they don’t belong. That doesn’t start until the
sixth book, Harry Pottymouth and the Sorcerer Get Stoned.
The problem, of course, is that when
directors and writers revert back to their original intentions they’re
tampering with what we’ve become accustomed to. We’re used to the
governor in All The King’s Men being Willie Stark. We’re used
to The Exorcist ending without an explanatory
conversation. Hey, we got it, okay? And we’re used to FBI agents who
don’t put their firearms away because Drew Barrymore doesn’t like
them. Luckily we won’t have to worry about changes to John McEnroe’s
TV show, The Chair, since the only change there will be that it
won’t be around long. See, some change is good.
©2002 Mad Dog
Productions, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
These columns appear in better newspapers across the country.
Read them before they're rewritten.