Mel Stuart deserved better August 10, 2012 9:21 AM   Subscribe

Why editorialize in a FPP obit?

Mel Stuart's work gave a lot of pleasure to a lot of people, and it's really too bad that the FPPoster couldn't manage an obit with editorializing.
posted by Ideefixe to Etiquette/Policy at 9:21 AM (74 comments total)

I agree but don't stop at obits.
posted by Talez at 9:26 AM on August 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


In what sense is a recounting of historical fact editorializing?
posted by enn at 9:26 AM on August 10, 2012 [9 favorites]


Oh god. The Oat People got to you, didn't they?
posted by Atom Eyes at 9:29 AM on August 10, 2012 [29 favorites]


In what sense is a recounting of historical fact editorializing?

It's unnecessary to bring up the (presumably evil, corporate) role of Quaker Oats when talking about a man for whom that movie was only one (awesome, though) example of a whole body of work over years. In that sense.
posted by phunniemee at 9:30 AM on August 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


essentially an elaborate product-placement for Quaker Oats

It should be noted, if you use a weasel word in your FPP without a doubt you're fundamentally, basically editorializing.

Now I'm off to take a scolding hot shower with steel wool to try and get this Wikipedia admin off my skin.
posted by Talez at 9:30 AM on August 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


Big Oat is everywhere.
posted by no regrets, coyote at 9:31 AM on August 10, 2012 [7 favorites]


In the sense that it calls out a detail that has little or nothing to do with the individual, making it seem as if the post has some agenda other than marking someone's death.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 9:31 AM on August 10, 2012 [4 favorites]


If it were me I'd have skipped that in the framing of the post and saved it for later discussion in the thread as the Wonka stuff came up, yeah.

But for what it's worth, it read to me more as an odd historical angle on a high-profile part of the guy's work than an attempt to soapbox or whatever. I can see readings differing, but that's a big part of me not being particularly bothered by it the way some more "and let me tell you why x is awful" editorializing in posts seems bothersome.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:34 AM on August 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


This calls for a meme of some sort...
posted by KokuRyu at 9:34 AM on August 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


purely in the spirit of vote-taking, i didn't take it as editorializing. it just seemed like a factoid to me.
posted by facetious at 9:34 AM on August 10, 2012


I dunno. If the movie he is best well-known for has a fact that an appreciable segment of people aren't aware of, that makes it more interesting to me.

Not sure how it deprecates the obit subject - I think it speaks well of him that he could take something so cynically intended and turn it into a movie that many love decades later, and which generated life-long admiration for the actors, particularly Gene Wilder.
posted by batmonkey at 9:35 AM on August 10, 2012 [10 favorites]


I stand with batmonkey!

(Oo, that was fun to say!)
posted by He Is Only The Imposter at 9:37 AM on August 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


I took at as facetious did. It's the work for which he's best known, so it makes sense to mention it in the post. And it's an interesting factoid about that work that people probably didn't know (I didn't). I don't think the poster included it to diminish Stuart (and I don't think it does diminish him).
posted by enn at 9:38 AM on August 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


A post that derails itself -- I like it!
posted by El Sabor Asiatico at 9:41 AM on August 10, 2012 [4 favorites]


I wonder how many, e.g. Batman, movies get major funding from toy manufacturers. Or do the tie-in deals usually go the other direction?
posted by DU at 9:42 AM on August 10, 2012


Big Oat is everywhere.

Those motherfuckers will straight up steel-cut a fool.
posted by zombieflanders at 9:42 AM on August 10, 2012 [35 favorites]


Yeah it just struck me as an interesting bit of trivia.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 9:42 AM on August 10, 2012


I would have left it out, but I agree with Batmonkey that maybe it adds an interesting aspect. One thing I've noticed about MetaFilter is that many users will tend to dismiss and deride something if they suspect it was produced with some nonobvious commercial motive, and I don't really see why. If the Quaker Oats thing is true, then it's a great example: Who cares if something is viral or PepsiBlue or intended to soften the ground for the new Superman film, if that something is good?
posted by cribcage at 9:43 AM on August 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


I can see readings differing, but that's a big part of me not being particularly bothered by it the way some more "and let me tell you why x is awful" editorializing in posts seems bothersome.

Why even have the rule at all if you just have to be subtle, clever or appear facetious about it?

And not even when you're being subtle, clever or appearing facetious.
posted by Talez at 9:44 AM on August 10, 2012


Considering Stuart and his producer basically brought the idea to Quaker Oats, I actually think it's a little insulting to him to dismiss the facts of the matter as insulting. Just because somebody didn't have the same (oddly misplaced in my view) moral qualms about getting funding to make their art as you do doesn't mean talking about them is besmirching their character.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 9:46 AM on August 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


Talez: "essentially an elaborate product-placement for Quaker Oats

It should be noted, if you use a weasel word in your FPP without a doubt you're fundamentally, basically editorializing.


"Essentially" is a weasel word now? What about "ostensibly"?
posted by zarq at 9:47 AM on August 10, 2012


I read this thread before seeing the post and thought we were talking about making people dead or animal cruelty or something. Dial down the drama, everyone gets their money from somewhere. Or are most of the films you enjoy funded by non-profit clean water charities and the proceeds sent to orphanages?
posted by the young rope-rider at 9:51 AM on August 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


Yeah, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory was an elaborate product placement for Quaker Oats, full stop.

It was also a wonderfully entertaining movie that Roald Dahl wrote a screenplay for.

It was also a movie that Roald Dahl didn't like the end result.

None of that is editorializing.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 9:53 AM on August 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


"Essentially" is a weasel word now?

Now? It always has been.

What about "ostensibly"?

If you can't say it without a qualifier as an unequivocal piece of information it's not really a fact now is it?
posted by Talez at 9:54 AM on August 10, 2012


yeah, I don't think it's a bad thing.
posted by boo_radley at 9:55 AM on August 10, 2012


DU: "I wonder how many, e.g. Batman, movies get major funding from toy manufacturers. Or do the tie-in deals usually go the other direction?"

Generally, films are funded by studios and the merchandising tie-ins to toy manufacturers are kept exclusive. A film contains content and a toy manufacturer collects royalties and can create additional merchandising opportunities.

However, Hasbro's relationship with Marvel, for example, is far more intricate and involved. Hasbro currently owns exclusive licensing rights to create toys and games based on Marvel movies through 2017, and is able to create their own unique television programs through Hasbro Studios. Hasbro Studios then syndicate those programs globally -- lately on the cable channel The Hub in the US -- and they become a cash bonanza. In this way, their roles are reversed when it comes to television: Marvel gets royalties. Hasbro creates the content.
posted by zarq at 9:55 AM on August 10, 2012


Talez: "now is it?"


J'accuse!
posted by boo_radley at 9:55 AM on August 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


I thought it was an odd aside in a short obit, but didn't really read it as editorializing, at least not in the way we've seen it in past obit threads.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 9:56 AM on August 10, 2012


Really, I don't think the problem is so much the topic, so much that it's there, and causes (as El Sabor Asiatico notes above) the thread to derail before even getting out of the starting blocks.
posted by phunniemee at 9:56 AM on August 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


J'accuse!

Touché?
posted by Talez at 9:56 AM on August 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Talez: "Now? It always has been.

I've never seen used that way.

If you can't say it without a qualifier as an unequivocal piece of information it's not really a fact now is it?

Oh, please. Both words are often used in perfectly cromulent situations, when a person doesn't have specific numbers to quote. They don't need to be used nefariously, nor should every instance of their use be considered such.
posted by zarq at 9:57 AM on August 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


I saw it as an interesting fact and not an editorial judgement. Pirates of the Carribean was a Disney movie based on one of their kiddy-rides with signing pirate mannequins - this does not diminish my enjoyment of it one whit, and it's fun to know.
posted by Slap*Happy at 10:00 AM on August 10, 2012


and honestly, metafilter isn't a newspaper and it's awesome that people want it to be like one sometimes I guess but there's just a crazy world full of random shit where yes Quaker Oats did essentially pay for a big movie that amazed and terrified kids and they probably didn't ask for that and maybe that's ok.
posted by boo_radley at 10:01 AM on August 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


I would have left it out because directors have nothing to do with product-placement. If the guy had produced the movie, sure.

Or maybe if he was the legendary Quaker exec who somehow tied together Roald Dahl, Gene Wilder, and whoever wrote that trippy-ass music all as to be a commercial for an overarching family of food products? Sure, that is some talent right there.

But eulogizing Mel Stuart? Leave oatmeal out of it.
posted by Sara C. at 10:04 AM on August 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


It's an interesting fact about the movie. It's not editorializing if the poster hasn't injected their own opinion into the post. Can we know Joey Bagels' feelings about Quaker Oats' involvement from that post? It doesn't seem like it to me.
posted by oneirodynia at 10:11 AM on August 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think including the oatmeal bit was also (perhaps unintentionally) inserting some, "Your favorite movie sucks!" -- kind of a weird thing to see in the body of a post. It appears to anticipate Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory love and attempt to dampen it.
posted by brina at 10:11 AM on August 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm off to the pub, everyone! Have a great weekend.
posted by the quidnunc kid at 10:13 AM on August 10, 2012


Oh, please. Both words are often used in perfectly cromulent situations, when a person doesn't have specific numbers to quote. They don't need to be used nefariously, nor should every instance of their use be considered such.

Just out of interest, what "specific numbers" would the OP have to use to prove that Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory is entirely a vehicle for product placement? For instance the movie was initially the thought of a little girl telling her director father that he and a friend should make a movie about a really cool book. The "product placement" came further into the cycle. It was a byproduct not the origination of it thereby disputing it "essentially" being a product placement.

I don't disagree with the assertion that product placement was what funded production I just disagree with the assertion that the single "essential" reason for its existence was product placement.

and honestly, metafilter isn't a newspaper and it's awesome that people want it to be like one sometimes

If people are allowed to consistently get on their soapbox and present viewpoint as fact the whole system breaks down. Some of us don't want to watch the world burn just so we have the freedom to yell "I THINK THIS THING IS BAD" on the front page of metafilter.com.
posted by Talez at 10:14 AM on August 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Sara C.: "I would have left it out because directors have nothing to do with product-placement. If the guy had produced the movie, sure.

Or maybe if he was the legendary Quaker exec who somehow tied together Roald Dahl, Gene Wilder, and whoever wrote that trippy-ass music all as to be a commercial for an overarching family of food products? Sure, that is some talent right there.
"


From the Wikipedia article, which is quoted in the obit, (and summarizes nicely the creation of the movie if you're familiar with the behind-the-scenes story as presented on DVDs and books on the matter):

The idea for adapting the book into a film came about when director Mel Stuart's 10-year-old daughter read the book and asked her father to make a film out of it, with "Uncle Dave" (producer David L. Wolper) producing it. Stuart showed the book to Wolper, who happened to be in the midst of talks with the Quaker Oats Company regarding a vehicle to introduce a new candy bar from their Chicago-based Breaker Confections subsidiary (since renamed the Willy Wonka Candy Company and sold to Nestlé). Wolper convinced the company, who had no previous experience in the film industry, to buy the rights to the book and finance the picture for the purpose of promoting a new Quaker Oats Wonka Bar.


So, in short, Stuart and Wolper pretty much were the legendary duo who tied all of that together. Stuart was interested in making the movie; he was VERY interested in making it with Quaker Oats money.

I guess the difference is that I know this and I don't think this made him a bad person. Again, I think your opinion on whether or not this fact is editorializing is your own baggage, not Stuart's supposed shame.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 10:20 AM on August 10, 2012 [5 favorites]


I wholeheartedly agree with batmonkey's comment, above; it was a new thing I hadn't known about that movie, and kind of cool.
posted by Greg Nog at 10:21 AM on August 10, 2012


If you can't say it without a qualifier as an unequivocal piece of information it's not really a fact now is it?

I mean, it's a post on a website, we're not in court, we're not writing an encyclopedia. Sometimes a person uses the word "essentially" in a more colloquial sense.

On preview:

For instance the movie was initially the thought of a little girl telling her director father that he and a friend should make a movie about a really cool book. The "product placement" came further into the cycle. It was a byproduct not the origination of it thereby disputing it "essentially" being a product placement.

I don't disagree with the assertion that product placement was what funded production I just disagree with the assertion that the single "essential" reason for its existence was product placement.


...This is kind of a really weird hair to split.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 10:22 AM on August 10, 2012


Talez: " Just out of interest, what "specific numbers" would the OP have to use to prove that Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory is entirely a vehicle for product placement? For instance the movie was initially the thought of a little girl telling her director father that he and a friend should make a movie about a really cool book. The "product placement" came further into the cycle. It was a byproduct not the origination of it thereby disputing it "essentially" being a product placement."

Quaker Oats bought the rights to the book the movie was based on (Roald Dahl's Charlie & the Chocolate Factory) and then pretty much financed the whole movie. A subsidiary company they owned produced the candy bar seen in the film and was renamed The Willy Wonka Company to coincide with the release of the movie. There was a documentary produced about it that I saw years ago.

I'm pretty sure "entirely a vehicle for product placement" is an accurate description.
posted by zarq at 10:22 AM on August 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


*sigh* Shoulda previewed. Thanks, MCMikeNamara! :D
posted by zarq at 10:24 AM on August 10, 2012


Well, yes, all directors are interested in making their movie with any money they can get.

But directors aren't typically responsible for financing a movie, and have virtually zero input on any sort of "product placement" arrangement.

This is a somewhat unique situation, since Stuart had a longtime producing partner, and this particular project was a labor of love of sorts. So he was a little more involved than usual.

But still, directors by and large do not secure the financing for their films. It's a weird thing to remember Stuart for, or to associate with him specifically.
posted by Sara C. at 10:25 AM on August 10, 2012 [4 favorites]


A post that derails itself -- I like it!

Saves everyone else the trouble.
posted by tilde at 10:25 AM on August 10, 2012


"Goldman Sachs gets away with it"

This in an FPP is fine?
posted by Talez at 10:35 AM on August 10, 2012


Interesting factoid, but generally against editorializing.

Now I want chocolate.
posted by arcticseal at 10:38 AM on August 10, 2012


I read it as "No one gives a fuck about some oaty chocolate bar, but real art lasts forever. Let's commemorate the passing of someone who did their very best with what they were given, and earned themselves a tiny bit of immortality by creating something awesome." If people editorialize like that about me when I die, I will rest in peace.
posted by crackingdes at 10:38 AM on August 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


I think including the oatmeal bit was also (perhaps unintentionally) inserting some, "Your favorite movie sucks!"

I'm in a fairly uncharitable mood today (see: Rakoff) and I'm really having trouble interpreting the Quaker thing this way. It just comes off like an interesting, true thing about the movie.
posted by mintcake! at 10:42 AM on August 10, 2012


It was a really interesting part of the Willy Wonka movie that I honestly didn't know, and wouldn't have found out if it weren't included in the wording of the FPP. It could be editorializing, sure, but I honestly don't mind a bit of possibly biased facts if they help to illuminate a story.
posted by xingcat at 10:43 AM on August 10, 2012


Wasn't intended as snark. I think it's fascinating and maybe a little ironic that one of the more beloved children's films of the 1970s (with an enduring appeal to adults, as well) was not only a) essentially bought and paid for as a candy commercial but also b) pulled off by a director whose previous accomplishments were largely in political documentary.

I met Mel Stuart a few years ago (and heard him tell the Quaker Oats story, which blew my mind) and found him to be remarkably open, approachable, and good-natured, and his death makes me sad. I thought that words like "versatile" and "committed" made my feelings about him clear -- in fact, I was going out of my way to try and avoid editorializing in the FPP by making my personal affection for his work any more explicit!

I'm not sure why anyone would infer that I meant to characterize the involvement of Quaker Oats as "evil" because I think of it more as a genius business move on Wolper's part, but based on the reaction here I suppose I should have left it out.
posted by Joey Bagels at 10:46 AM on August 10, 2012 [12 favorites]


WHAT DO YOU MEAN BY THAT ?! ?
posted by mazola at 10:48 AM on August 10, 2012


If you can't say it without a qualifier as an unequivocal piece of information it's not really a fact now is it?

Fact or not: In northern climates, usually snow falls by Christmas.
posted by octobersurprise at 11:19 AM on August 10, 2012 [3 favorites]



If people are allowed to consistently get on their soapbox and present viewpoint as fact the whole system breaks down. Some of us don't want to watch the world burn just so we have the freedom to yell "I THINK THIS THING IS BAD" on the front page of metafilter.com.



And we also have the "freedom" to point out that inserting a small sideline fact into a FPP is not the worst of editorializing (if it really rises to editorializing in the first place which I am not convinced), and to say geeze calm down a bit eh? You seem pretty invested in this bit of fluff.


WATCH THE WORLD BURN NOW!!!!!

posted by edgeways at 11:22 AM on August 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Don't open a door and then expect no one to go through it.
posted by tommasz at 11:48 AM on August 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


It seems an unusual focus.... especially as it's a movie not remembered for any identifiable Quaker Oats product and more for it's star's great performance and it's FUCKING TERRIFYING riverboat sequence.
posted by Artw at 12:41 PM on August 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


"Goldman Sachs gets away with it"

This in an FPP is fine?


Have they dropped dead?

/fingers crossed.
posted by Artw at 12:45 PM on August 10, 2012


It seems an unusual focus.... especially as it's a movie not remembered for any identifiable Quaker Oats product and more for it's star's great performance and it's FUCKING TERRIFYING riverboat sequence.

That's honestly what struck me as interesting-in-a-good-way about the mention. The film is such a cult classic, such a bizarre little gem of a thing, that the contrast with the overt commercial angle is very neat as a huh! sort of thing for me.
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:47 PM on August 10, 2012


The Quaker Oats Man stares at me with his evil grandfatherly smile. He knows that I loathe oatmeal but that I'll be back for the Oatmeal Scotchies.

And so another innocent life gets ensnared by one of the tentacles of the Hydra known as Big Oatmeal.
posted by double block and bleed at 1:24 PM on August 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Some of you need jobs.
posted by Burhanistan at 1:37 PM on August 10, 2012


Leave Apple out of this.
posted by mintcake! at 1:40 PM on August 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


I love oatmeal, but Irish steelcut oatmeal is much better than the Quaker man oatmeal. McCann's ftw!
posted by winna at 2:00 PM on August 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


"Essentially" is a weasel word now? What about "ostensibly"?

That's another one.
posted by John Cohen at 2:10 PM on August 10, 2012


Maybe because I'm recovering from minor surgery and am befuddled by pain meds, but I thought that the financing for one film wasn't the most important aspect of a creative artist's career. Maybe because I work in documentary and had worked for him, and had seen him just a year ago, for Syfy's Hollywood Treasure series--I wish a more thoughtful FPP obit had been done, rather than post some factoid.
posted by Ideefixe at 2:14 PM on August 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


"I stand with batmonkey!"

Yeah, me too.

(You have my sword/axe/amusing rubber chicken on a strong piece of elastic, etc)
posted by Catch at 2:19 PM on August 10, 2012


Oh, oatmeal scotchies. That's what I should do with those butterscotch chips!
posted by maryr at 2:34 PM on August 10, 2012


"Essentially" is a weasel word now? What about "ostensibly"?

Ostensibly, yes, but essentially, no.
posted by smoke at 3:36 PM on August 10, 2012 [4 favorites]


Puts blueberries into oatmeal voila Oatmeal Blue. Eats every bit, thus destroying all evidence. Call out of Quaker ends.
posted by Cranberry at 5:04 PM on August 10, 2012


I did just put cranberries into oatmeal cookies...
posted by maryr at 6:10 PM on August 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


The oats thing was the most fascinating part of that dead person post.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 6:30 PM on August 10, 2012


Generally speaking, Ideefixe, I think MetaFilter obituaries could be better than they are. People rush, partly out of sincere desire to address the passing in a timely fashion and partly, sometimes, out of selfish desire to be the person who posts this particular FPP. Obituaries should be thoughtful and informative. As a rule, it's something MetaFilter could do better.

But on the scale that we do in fact have, I think this was a pretty good one.
posted by cribcage at 9:21 PM on August 10, 2012


Mel Stuart essentially touched me around what is ostensibly my special area.

Not actually.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 9:42 PM on August 10, 2012


Yeah it just struck me as an interesting bit of trivia.

I was going to say that I didn't think interesting bits of trivia were appropriate in death announcements, but I've thought it through and I think we should actually go the other direction with it.

In short, we need "Pop-Up Eulogy"
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 10:00 PM on August 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


I actually didn't know that Willy Wonka was funded and conceived by Quaker Oats. So that wasn't editorialising for me. It was just a piece of information I didn't know.
posted by MuffinMan at 1:21 AM on August 11, 2012


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