According to L.A. Times columnist Patrick Goldstein, what makes Michael Bamberger‘s “The Man Who Heard Voices” “especially damaging” is that Lady in the Water director-writer M. Night Shyamalan told Bamberger absolutely everything and let it all hang out. In so doing, says Goldstein, Night “violated Hollywood PR Law No. 1: Never let people see you as you really are. In an era when stars hide behind their handlers, who vet writers, limit their access and keep them miles away from any dirty laundry, Night let Bamberger see it all — straight, no chaser.”
This is an early July riff, I realize, and it’s time to move on, but Goldstein’s column just came out and I’m reacting
I said this before in my response to Janet Maslin‘s N.Y. Times review about Bamberger book, and here it is again. By giving Bamberger access to his insecure inner sanctum without restrictions, Shyamalan allowed for a portrait of “a vulnerable egoistic guy with problems — a guy with a deep belief in dreams and voices (as all creative types need to be) but with control-freak tendencies and a need for a certain kind of approval that requires being not just rich but fully understood by colleagues; a guy with demons and uncertainties like anyone else, but amplified by the power he’s accumulated as a big-time Hollywood director.”
What I find very revealing is that Maslin and Goldstein and a lot of others in the media are contemptuous of Night’s honesty. And they endorse and approve of people who carefully edit their public persona and spin everything up and down the flapgpole. They’re actually standing on the side of the 2006 Generic Deceivers. We all recognize that everyone has to play the game this way if they want to survive, but why am I one of the few people to at least show respect for Shyamalan’s willingness to let people see his trembling inner child? The guy may have problems, granted, but you can’t say he doesn’t have a kind of cast-iron courage.
And one other repeated point: take off the armor and we’re all scared and anxious and messed up in this or that way, including myself and Patrick Goldstein and Janet Maslin and Michael Mann. The difference is that Shyamalan has the courage to confess this and Bamberger has the focus and discipline to just lay it down as he heard and felt it, and all Maslin and Goldstein can write in response is tsk-tsk, “not very smart”, and a repeat of the John Lennon lyric, “Hey, you’ve got to hide your love away.” How very big of them.