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Have you ever heard the Hollywood expression “story is king”?
It’s a phrase referring to the writer’s plight in the entertainment industry and is used to appease frustrated writers by emphasizing the point that their work is all that matters. It implies that none of the bull honkey of endless meetings, pitchfests and asinine studio notes matters. Only the work. It means that in the end, everything will be all right and you will get what you want as long as the story is good. In other words, it’s a phrase used to calm the infantile, like something you say to a child to get them to stop crying.
In Hollywood, story is not king. It’s more akin to something like a serf; that is something to be exploited by the blue suited penguins that rule this business. In Hollywood, a good story and three dollars might buy you a cup of coffee. For all their blustering about looking for great material, producers and studio executives could care less about story. If you want proof, just go to your local multiplex.
But, like all stereotypes and great lies, there is truth in the saying “story is king”. You see, what the blue suited penguins care about is money. And they make money by selling widgets. In the case of the movie industry, the widget is a marketable story. What is a marketable story? A marketable story is something that can be easily sold to the public. And while a marketable story is still not “king”, it is at least, in this medieval analogy, the equivalent of a knight.
For those of you who are living in a cave or are supporters of Hilary Clinton, Diablo Cody is the pen name of stripper turned blogger/author/screenwriter Brook Busey-Hunt.
While working as a stripper, Diablo Cody wrote a blog about her life as a stripper titled The Pussy Ranch. The popularity of her blog landed her a publishing deal where she wrote the memoir Candy Girl: A Year in The Life of an Unlikely Stripper.
Her manager, Mason Novick of BenderSpink, discovered Diablo Cody when he was looking for porn on the internet. Novick encouraged her to try screenwriting and the result was the script for Juno. After a stellar theatrical run that exceeded expectations ($132 million and counting), Diablo Cody walked away with the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay.
What makes Diablo Cody unique is that she is the living embodiment of the phrase “story is king.” While her script for Juno is competent, no literate or sane person would call her update of an 1980’s-John Hughes-type teen comedy a literary or cinematic achievement of note. The marketable story in this case is not that of the screenplay, but of the screenwriter.
In real life, there is no such thing as the stripper/hooker with the heart of gold. It only exists in Hollywood movies. But the colorful history of Diablo Cody allowed Hollywood to sell a “real” stripper with a heart of gold story (“and she has brains too!” cried the marketing guru) to the public.
To her credit, Diablo Cody has a personabe writing style and a distinct voice. That Juno was watchable and didn’t completely suck helped as well. The penguins had a widget to sell. And sell they did: to the public and the Academy.
Can Diablo Cody remain marketable to the powers that be? That remains to be seen. Already, there is a backlash surfacing over Diablo Cody and Juno. Nude photos have surfaced online.
Diabo Cody has tried to spin it in a favorable way by claiming she published the photos herself. Only time will tell if she emerges as a viable screenwriter or merely one in a long line of widgets sold by Hollywood.
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