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"You think I've sold out?
Dead right I've sold out!
I just keep waiting for the right offer
Comfortable quarters, regular rations
24-hour Five Star room service
And if I'm honest, I like the lady
I can't help being touched by her folly
I'm treading water, taking the money
Watching her sun set... Well, I'm a writer!"
from The Musical
of the same name
Any portrayal of Hollywood in TV or film is going to feature a lot of jokes at the expense of the writers of the Show Within a Show
, or writers in general.
Note that this doesn't apply to the product (which may or may not
be any good); merely the people writing it, who will be portrayed as butt monkeys
and subject to a lot of Executive Meddling
This partly stems from a perception that in Show Business
, writers really are
frequently at the bottom of the creative totem pole; they might write the words on the page, but the executives will tell them what to leave in or take out before the work even gets to the production phase
, the director (often, in the world of film, considered the "auteur" ultimately responsible for everything) will freely re-write, rework or drop material when filming, the actors will ad-lib or creatively reinterpret the lines, and so forth. This, naturally, tends to produce both self-deprecating
bitter resentment on part of said writers, which tends to consequently crop up in their work. Not to mention the age-old stereotype of the struggling novelist alone in a dark room
trying to overcome their writer's block if they're lucky.
A subtrope of this, somewhat frequent in literature especially, pokes fun at actors, artists or, yes, writers — basically anybody whose primary means of support comes from the "production" of creative expression rather than a truly tangible, practical product. The effect can be anywhere from genuinely humorous, satirical or simply a light-hearted jab to full-blown anvilicious
, especially if one stops to think of how on Earth the author got rich and famous in the first place, or indeed the very medium and method said anvilicious message is sent across.
Sort of a reverse version of This Loser Is You
. Compare Biting-the-Hand Humor
and Who Writes This Crap?!
A form of Self-Deprecation
, obviously — the writers wrote that writer-bashing script, of course. (As it so happens, Most Writers Are Writers
.) That also makes it Creator Career Self Deprecation
. Harpo Does Something Funny
is what happens when writers concede that part of the script is best served when left in the hands of actors or artists.
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Anime and Manga
- In the anime version of Excel♥Saga Excel is given the mission of killing the creator of the manga the show is based on. While sneaking up on him he cheerfully sings to himself "La la la, manga artists are the scum of the Earth".
- In the first episode, no less. The living Reset Button gave Excel quite a lecture afterward. Which didn't stop her from doing it again.
- Shigure in Fruits Basket. His poor editor is the real Butt Monkey, though.
- Sana's mother in Kodomo no Omocha
Eastern European Animation
- In Film Film Film, the writer gets several writer's blocks and then his writings are edited so much that these are unrecognizable compared to his original intentions. Later he attempts to commit suicide but is ultimately saved by the film's positive reception.
- Played with in Adaptation. Yes, there are a lot of meta elements and oddities, but none of those make the on-screen Charlie Kaufman any less pathetic.
- In Bowfinger, the writer is at the very bottom of the lead actress' campaign to sleep her way to the top. It's an old Hollywood joke: "There was an actress who was so dumb, she slept with the writer."
- In Shadow of the Vampire, the vampire Max Schrek eats the cinematographer for Nosferatu. The director yells at him ("We needed him!"), demanding that Schrek not eat the rest of the crew. Schrek then muses, "I don't think we need the writer..."
- In the remake of King Kong, Jack Driscoll is quartered in a cage on the ship to Skull Island. Although this is at least partly because he was tricked into the voyage by the director and they didn't have any other accommodation for him.
- In Shakespeare in Love, William Shakespeare (of all people) gets this treatment. He starts giving the actors a rousing speech on how great his new play Romeo and Ethel the Pirate's Daughter will be, when somebody asks the theatre owner who he is. The owner replies, "Nobody. Just the writer."
- This is actually historically accurate; at the time writers simply were not famous, even if the sovereign liked their plays.
- In 2012, the lead character is depicted as a total loser living in a house filled with thousands of copies of an unsold novel. His wife left him and his kids hate him, but he is completely vindicated after the End of World partly thanks to his book being the last novel on Earth, and partly because his ex's new husband got himself killed trying to save his family.
- In Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Harmony ignores a writer who says his work was all fiction, because, "What did he know? He was just a writer."
- In Barton Fink, the main character is an arrogant, self-righteous writer, who is very far removed from the "common man" he supposedly admires.
- Also, the movie's not subtle about the lack of respect writers get in the business.
Fink: Where am I supposed to find another writer?
Geisler: This is Hollywood! Throw a rock and you'll hit one. And do me a favor, Fink. Throw it hard.
- Twice Upon a Time features a sympathetic version. Synonamess Botch treats his head nightmare writer, Scuzzbopper, like garbage, constantly belittling him. At one point, he introduces him with "That's Scuzzbopper. He's nobody, he's a writer." On top of all that, Botch drives poor Scuzzy to attempted suicide (and later a Heel-Face Turn) by throwing out the manuscript for the "great A-Murk-ian novel" he was writing.
- Christian in Moulin Rouge! is hopelessly naive and excessively romantic — the perfect sap for the worldly Satine's hustle, except that she harbors a softer side of her own. Since the whole film is an extended flashback written by Christian himself, the audience can see him despising and pitying his younger self's innocence.
- The first book of Gorsky and Butch starts with a SWAT team arresting the authors (most of them getting re-drawn into ducks in the process). It turns out the comic lacks sense and the heroes spend the rest of the comic looking for it.
- In Preacher there's a one-off joke about Amy's ex-boyfriend, a writer, who wrote a horror novel called Razorville based on what she told him about the puberty and sexuality of girls. She hates it so much that she dumps him, and advises Tulip never to date a writer, because Writers Suck. And yes, that phrase actually IS included.
- Example from Metal Men: Douglas, Robot Hunter (actually a brain-damaged TV star) muses about writers: over-weight, bearded, foul-smelling men (and one really cute girl with glasses) locked away in a cramped little room, writing overblown dialogue and preposterous storylines.
- In his Black Widowers mysteries, Isaac Asimov loves to have the character Emmanuel Rubin insult him, mocking Asimov's conceit. One of the stories also had a mention of Lester Del Rey, and Rubin says, "Never heard of him." Rubin was based on Del Rey.
- In the George and Azazel stories, George spends much of his time running down the (unnamed) narrator's profession. The narrator is a writer (and in the introduction to the anthology, Asimov admits that the unnamed author is indeed himself).
- Don Quixote: Gines de Pasamonte: An ungrateful galley slave whom Don Quixote frees. Gines is a cynical bandit, thief, swindler and picaresque writer. Also, he's a Master of Disguise
- In The Dark Tower, the characters meet Stephen King himself. The man is portrayed as a lazy, drunken jerk. Subverted in that the Stephen King writing the current novel is older, and has gotten over his alcohol and drug problems, though he's still portrayed as dangerously lazy to the main characters, who need him to keep writing so they can save the multiverse. Much Mind Screw ensues.
- P. G. Wodehouse never quite ventured into "writers suck" territory, but he made several jokes at their expense, mostly references as to how loony all writers are.
- In one instance he noted that poets were the most carefree, happy-go-lucky fellows alive... in contrast to their writings, which were invariably somber or morose.
- In The Lost Fleet series, Captain Desjani remarked once that she considered becoming a literary agent rather than a Fleet officer ... but "taking that job would have meant I had to work with writers, and you know what they're like."
- The major sub-plot of Dan Simmon's Drood is seeing just how much of a jackass Charles Dickens can be to the people around him.
- In The Godfather an author of a best-selling novel visits Hollywood, expecting VIP treatment. He is promptly humiliated.
- In The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Pierre Gringoire is a total failure as a writer, and also weak and cowardly (though still sympathetic.)
- British statesman Lord Chesterfield wrote in Letters to His Son: "I do not find that God has made you a poet; and I am very glad that he has not". Of course, he had not exactly planned to publish these letters.
- In a certain way, this: "What can be more adorned than Cicero's Philosophical Works? What more than Plato's? It is their eloquence only that has preserved and transmitted them down to us through so many centuries; for the philosophy of them is wretched, and the reasoning part miserable." (letter 200)
Live Action TV
- Averted awesomely in Friends. In the sitcom, Joey is making a lot of money in his acting job in the soap opera Days Of Our Lives - until he makes the mistake of giving an interview in which he says he writes all of his own lines. Needless to say, the real writers get pissed, and they kill off Joey's character in the Show Within The Show, and Joey loses his brand new apartment, all his expensive furniture, and is forced to move back in with Chandler.
- Up to Eleven in Private Practice, which once featured a writer who beat her child when she was in pain or had trouble writing. Further, before this was proven, Sam tries to defend the lady and get this reply from Cooper: "Why, because she's a writer? There's a group of historically stable people!"
- CSI: Crime Scene Investigation Classic, in its Hollywood Sitcom episode ("Two and a Half Deaths") featured this.
- An episode of Supernatural features the set of a Hollywood horror movie being plagued by ghosts, and features this trope. The cause of the hauntings was the writer of the movie, who was really ticked off at the producer who tinkered with his script. No, really.
- Another episode has them meet a man who has written trashy romance novel versions of all the episodes. When it's not attacking Fangirls the author is apologizing for the poor writing of tome of the novel/episodes.
- In the Boy Meets World "Hollywood Episode", Eric finds himself on a set of what is clearly supposed to be Boy Meets World, and the writers are shown as small children.
- The writers working under head writer Liz Lemon in 30 Rock seem to mostly be lazy, childish goof-offs (with the possible exception of Toofer). And Liz herself is a "socially retarded" neurotic mess.
- In the short-lived series Action, the writer of the movie being made is portrayed as a pathetic and wimpy.
- In "Yes, Virginia, There Is A Hercules", one of the many Something Completely Different episodes of Hercules: The Legendary Journeys based on the idea that Hercules is currently living in modern LA under the name Kevin Sorbo, the writers were portrayed as twitchy losers who were expected to sleep in the studio. For added Self-Deprecation, they were actually named after the writers of the episode; Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci.
- On iCarly, the writers of the show that ripped off iCarly were portrayed very negatively.
- The Monkees once showed Mickey going backstage to ask the writers of the show (portrayed as a group of ancient, bearded asian men) to solve the problem the band was facing. He subsequently throws out the new script, complaining, "We pay those guys too much."
- Averted in Castle; Richard Castle is charming, charismatic, in control and a pretty cool guy, all things considered.
- JAG: In season 4’s "War Stories", Admiral Chegwidden while on leave gets persuaded by a Hollywood producer to act as technical advisor on the movie “Fields of Gold” which is a navy-themed action adventure with a court-martial. Chegwidden tells the producer that he'd like to talk to the writer while we see that he's attached quite a few post-it notes to the script.
- An old joke about a Brainless Beauty who decides to sleep her way to the top in order to become a starlet... and fails, because she chooses a writer to sleep with.
- In Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines, Deb of Night and one of her guests viciously trash another guest, who dared fancying himself a writer. Another amateur writer is the target of a side quest, which involves his screenplay (on which he worked all his life) destroyed and his "muse" either killed or chased out of town.
- Team Fortress 2: The blogpost detailing how the "Meet the Sandvich" video came about explains that their draft was the script of Predator with the script of Road House in the middle. When this was rejected, the entire video was improvised by the voice actors, and the only lines added by the writers were stolen from those two films and The Simpsons. In another post, the writers had apparently gone missing, though it been a week before anyone noticed.
Event Organizer: Finally, all our grant recipients in one room! Allow me to introduce you to one another! This is Arthur, the hypertext poet... Ruby is a physicist who does innovative work with lasers... and Mike is a cartoonist.
Artie and Ruby back away from Mike
Ruby: Um, no offense.
Mike: 'Sokay. I get it all the time.
- Futurama, at an awards show:
Bender: "They're giving out the minor technical awards. I think they're up to writing."
- There were a few stabs at the writing team in The Simpsons episode where Bart and Lisa wrote episodes for Itchy and Scratchy with Grandpa's name on them.
Roger Myers, Jr.: Alright, leeches! Listen up! I've brought in a new writer and he's got something you can't get with your fancy college degrees: life experience.
Writer: Actually, I wrote my thesis on life experience and I found tha-
RMJ: SHUT UP!
- In another episode, a writer suggests that the viewers aren't morons and gets fired.
- From the Poochie episode:
Roger Myers: The rest of you start writers thinking up a name for this funky dog; I dunno, something along the line of say... Poochie, only more proactive. [Leaves]
Writer: So, Poochie okay with everyone?
- The commentaries mention that the looks of the writers in that scene are all based on the show's actual writing staff.
- Earlier episodes enjoyed making fun of the fact most of the staff were Harvard Alums.
- In an episode of Pinky and the Brain taking place in the mid-forties, Brain takes Pinky to the radio station, and teaches Pinky of the several Chekhov's Guns they will be using in the episode. When Pinky asks "And who are those guys chained to a wall nobody cares about?", Brain answers "Nobody important, just the writers".
- In Sheep in the Big City, a recurring character is the show's writer, who happens to be an obese bald man in his underwear, who is most commonly shown in an asylum on a tire swing.
- The South Park spoof of Family Guy, where the jokes are written by manatees moving balls labeled with random words around in their tanks to create the cut-aways.
- An entire episode of Sealab 2021 was based around the show's actual creators and the show's characters filming an episode. Both groups were portrayed as being ... special.
- Seth Green, Matthew Senreich and the other creators/writers often appear in Robot Chicken, often being horribly abusive and/or abused. A Running Gag is for [adult swim] Vice President Kieth Crofford to come on the show at the end of a season and cancel it for sucking.
- A Real Life example from John Kricfalusi, who makes it a no secret that he hates writers (script writers, at least) working in animation, which is why his shows didn't use scripts and went straight to storyboards.