Anatomy of a Column

Again, another shameless plug for my growing body of work over at the Deseret News, where you can read all my columns online here. The volume of my writing over there has diminished somewhat my contributions here, which is something I’m trying to remedy. But I digress.

My latest column is an indictment of “The Bachelorette,” which was written Wednesday morning, and then published online later that afternoon. It appeared in print last Friday.

The published piece is slightly different from the piece I submitted, and it’s always interesting to me to see what an editor feels necessary to change. The sentence “Never before has garbage been presented with so much artistry” originally read “Never before has dreck been presented with so much artistry.” I think “dreck” is a funnier and more descriptive word than “garbage,” but it apparently violated some kind of taboo that I don’t quite understand. Less mysterious is their rejection of my description of “The Bachelorette” as “televised prostitution.” A bit too provocative for their tastes, I suppose, although I still think it’s lamentably accurate.

I often find myself confused by what they will or won’t publish. When I submitted a version of “The Miracle of the Christmas Poo,” I was sure they wouldn’t touch it. They did. Although the changes they made in that one were really strange. In talking about my song, I originally wrote “I can safely say it’s the best song about ‘Christmas’ and ‘Poo’ ever recorded.” That was changed to read “I can safely say it’s one of the best songs I’ve ever recorded.” Who safely says things like that? Not me. The new sentence bears absolutely no resemblance to the old one, and it completely shifts the meaning, and not in a good way. But I was so thrilled that they published it that I didn’t care much.

And, to their credit, they published my opus on Shatner’s Toupee without altering a word.

Still, we have minor squabbles which I usually lose. I can read the edited versions before they’re published, and on very rare occasions, I’ll push back. In my column on religion on television, for example, I described the wretched series “The Book of Daniel” as “what ‘Touched by an Angel’ would have looked like in Bizarro World.” They changed “Bizarro World” to “Bizarre-O-World,” not knowing that Bizarro World was the planet where Superman’s precise opposite lives. I pointed out that Bizarro World was an actual reference to a thing, not something I made up. So they changed it back. But in the same column, I made the hyperbolic claim that Star Wars had spawned 9,876,538,002 copycats, give or take. They added the disclaimer that this was an “unscientific estimate.” Well, of course it’s an “unscientific estimate.” It’s called a “joke.” And the stupid disclaimer stepped all over it.

But all that is neither here nor there. What I’m going to share with you is a first draft to a column I never submitted, but I got sidetracked in giving you the inside scoop on how my column sausage is made. I was initially going to tell you about what I wrote in my column on “The Bachelorette,” which I wrote in a hurry as I realized my deadline was approaching and I still didn’t have any ideas. I had hated “The Bachelorette” for quite some time, and when my daughter decided to watch it on Tuesday night, I reluctantly joined her in order to procure some column fodder. But I wasn’t happy with what I produced.

It was sort of an angry screed with some attempts at biting humor sporadically inserted into the mix. I was OK with it until I let Mrs. Cornell take a look at it. “It’s not funny,” she said simply.

“So you don’t like it?” I asked.

“Oh, it’s OK, I guess. Just not your best effort.”

“I have to turn it in tomorrow morning,” I said. “It’s all I’ve got.”

“Well, sleep on it, then,” she said. “Make some changes when you get up.”

That was great advice. I used a few choice nuggets from the original, but I changed the thrust of the whole thing. What ended up getting published is far lighter than what I had originally envisioned, and I think it works better than the self-righteous approach.

Judge for yourself – just for the sake of posterity, I am posting the inferior original below. I had intended to to do this to save me having to write a whole blog post from scratch, but this intro is already longer than the column itself, so I’ve kinda defeated my whole purpose.

Still, here it is. Behold Stallion’s wrath!


Hey, kids! Are you lookin’ for love in all the wrong places? Well, if you’ve seen “The Princess Bride,” then you know that true love is something that doesn’t happen every day. And if you’ve seen ABC’s “The Bachelorette,” you know it only happens on national television as dozens of perfectly coiffed male models compete for your hand and try and pretend the million-dollar dowry that goes with it isn’t really important. If I’ve learned anything from “The Batchelorette,” it’s that love only comes to those who are really, really good-looking. Take Desiree, the current Barbie-like brunette whose job it is to thin a herd of suitors by crushing one of their hearts per week, on average. She sure talks a good game about how essential it is to be open, kind, and honest, but always remember that she’s not talking about open, kind, honest ugly people. There was one guy competing for her affections who didn’t look like he’d had the requisite surgeries and steroid injections, so he wasn’t invited to the hilltop mansion to make a rap video with all the other beefcakes, who all kept insisting they were “there for the right reasons,” and the million bucks never got mentioned as a reason at all, even a wrong one. You’d think somebody would have brought that up. But no, the “right reasons” provided the incessant theme of this past episode, where the guys repeatedly insisted that, yes, they have the right reasons, and one guy got mad at another guy who, apparently, didn’t have the right reasons, but the wrongness of the other guy’s reasons was never catalogued with any specificity. Apparently, a reason’s rightness is something inexplicable, something callow, something that sounds like it could have been read from a fortune cookie. See, one guy talked about how important it was to have an open heart. He was speaking figuratively, as there weren’t any cardiologists on hand. Another guy talked about how he didn’t want to be a clown. Nobody broke out any makeup or bulbous red noses, so I think he’s in the clear. They all had hardscrabble stories of tough childhoods and single fatherhoods and things that tore at Barbie’s heartstrings long enough to get her to make slurping noises as they chewed each other’s faces off. And all of them professed their undying love for this vapid girl with whom most of them had spent about fifteen minutes, tops, yet it was their goal to build a life of meaning and passion with someone they barely knew, but don’t mention money, because, obviously, becoming an instant millionaire can confuse the rightness of a guy’s reasons faster than a closed heart in clown makeup. A couple of guys got to spend all day with her on elaborate dates that included rented Bentley convertibles and/or private concerts with rock stars, who were obviously performing in the middle of the street for the right reasons – i.e. they were getting paid. I could be quite the Don Juan, too, if network executives were willing to fork out six figures for my weekly date night. Of course, I only date one woman at a time, which used to be how most people did it, but according to this show, it’s better to cheat on all prospective boyfriends with their two dozen roommates. In a more chivalrous era, the rule was “don’t kiss and tell.” Now it’s “don’t kiss and tell until the camera crew is set up.” “The Batchelorette” is an odious, morally repugnant bit of bile that teaches all the wrong lessons, regardless of how right its reasons are. This isn’t love; it’s televised prostitution. That’s the rightest reason I can think of to change the channel the next time it comes on.


OOOOH! I’m going to “change the channel!” Blah, blah, blah.

Or maybe you like this version better. I like the whole “closed heart in clown makeup” motif, anyway.

I be done now.

It's Not 1984
Theological Vapidity

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