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Film / Shattered Glass

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Shattered Glass is a 2003 film written and directed by Billy Ray.

It's about the rise and fall of Stephen Glass, a writer at The New Republic magazine who spent years making up fictitious stories for the magazine before he was finally exposed. Hayden Christensen stars as Glass, and Peter Sarsgaard stars as Glass's last editor, Charles Lane.

ChloŽ Sevigny and Melanie Lynskey are Caitlin and Amy, two (fictional) reporter comrades of Glass at TNR. Hank Azaria plays Michael Kelly, Glass's first editor at TNR, Steve Zahn plays Adam Penenberg, the reporter for Forbes who exposed Glass, and Rosario Dawson has a small role as another Forbes reporter.

Not to be confused with Transformers: Shattered Glass. For those who are curious, the article that the movie was based on can be found here.

Shattered Tropes:

  • Ambiguously Bi: Stephen tells a story to Caitlin and Amy about how "a dinner with this guy from the Post" turned into the guy "slipping his tongue down my throat." He's pulled away from the conversation before he can finish, so we don't actually know if it's true or if he was just fabricating it/pandering to the girls (he was worried that he was putting out "gay vibes"). On the flip-side, there's also a strongly suggested mutual attraction between Stephen and Caitlin, though neither of them ever acts on it.note 
  • Arc Words: Stephen constantly says that he has talked to his sources "a million times." It gets to the point where when he says "I've spoken to them a million times," it's a red flag that he's lying. Another frequent clue that he's lying is when he says that a questioned detail is "in my notes" which often happen to be "at home".
  • Armor-Piercing Question: When Stephen tries to get sympathy out of Michael Kelly, the latter shuts him up with this question.
    "Steve, I have to ask you something. Um... did you ever cook a piece when I was your boss? Did you ever lie to me? The Young Conservatives piece... the mini-bottles? Was that true?"
  • Benevolent Boss: Michael Kelly, Glass's first editor. This throws off the audience's expectations when Glass clashes with his second boss, Hero Antagonist Chuck Lane. It's also heavily implied that Glass exploits Kelly's loyalty and trust in his reporters to get away with a lot of his fake stories.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: The very first scene features a voice-over from Glass discussing how, in a work environment filled with egotistical jerks, a humble and self-effacing guy who takes the time to get to know people can get pretty far because people like and support him. It soon becomes clear, however, that Glass is merely putting on an act of being a humble and self-effacing guy in order to manipulate people and make his frauds easier to accept.
  • Blunt "Yes":
    Caitlin: Is that what you want, Amy? To have smoke blown up your ass by a bunch of editors?
    Amy: Yes, yes it is.
  • Book Ends: The scene with Glass at the Monica Lewinsky memorabilia convention.
  • Call-Back: During Stephen's lecture to the journalism class, he notes that most stories' sources have a paper trail that a good fact-checker can track down; he cites a policy piece on ethanol subsidies as an example. What was the story Amy Brand was working on, the "boring" story that she wishes were as entertaining as Stephen's pieces? A policy piece on ethanol subsidies. Stephen's stories are all done in a way that an old-school news magazine like The New Republic will have trouble fact-checking them.
  • Catchphrase: Glass attempts to defuse all potential tension with Puppy-Dog Eyes and "are you mad at me?"
  • Compliment Fishing: Every time Glass pitches one of his exciting stories, he inevitably ends with him mumbling something along the lines of "I know, it's terrible, I'm probably not gonna do anything with it." People think he's just being modest, but it becomes clear that he's actually doing this.
  • Composite Character: Glass's editors Lane and Michael Kelly were real people, as is TNR owner Martin Peretz, and Adam Penenberg and Kambiz Foroohar at Forbes. However, his fellow journalists at The New Republic are all composites, as is Rosario Dawson's character at Forbes Digital Tool. (The Real Life Penenberg said that he definitely would have remembered working with someone as gorgeous as Dawson).
  • Confess to a Lesser Crime: Glass frequently resorts to this when he can't hide his crimes.
    • For example, he confesses to doctoring his notes, but he says it was to hide his negligence in fact-checking, not for making up literally everything in his article.
    • Earlier, after criticism of "Spring Breakdown," he comes into Kelly's office self-flagellating over assuming that the mini-fridge full of tiny bottles of alcohol in a hotel room was a minibar. His actual error was, when fabricating the story, assuming that the hotel had minibars.
  • Consummate Liar: Glass's web of fraud is quite intricate and plausible, and he goes to the extent of faking business cards, websites and email addresses to cover up his frauds. Curiously, however, when he's actually challenged in person when someone pulls the thread on one of his stories, he actually becomes something of a Bad Liar. His thread, while intricate and long, also collapses entirely when someone scratches the surface enough times.
  • "Could Have Avoided This!" Plot: The audience sees Michael Kelly nearly unravel Stephen's Young Republicans stories but doesn't push farther after his first and only question is corroborated by the hotel. At the end of the movie a secretary points out Stephen's deception would have been a lot harder to pull off had The New Republic published photos in the magazines.
  • Crocodile Tears: Glass's last ditch attempt to get Lane to drive him to the airport after he's been found out, implying suicidal thoughts. After so many lies and equivocations, however, Lane clearly doesn't buy it for a second; he audibly mutters "Oh, Jesus," in disgust when Glass starts, and although he tells Glass that he can sit for a moment and collect himself if he genuinely does feels like he might hurt himself, he does so in a cold, stone-faced fashion that clearly suggests what he really thinks about Glass's claims.
    Glass: Chuck, will you come with me? Because I'm afraid I might do something. [Is ignored] Didn't you hear what I said?
    Lane: Yeah, I did. It's a hell of a story.
  • Daydream Surprise: Throughout the movie, we see snippets of the various stories Glass has researched and submitted, such as the Monica Lewinsky convention, the Young Republican Wacky Fratboy Hijinx Party and, of course, Hack Heaven. All of which, as we learn the extent of his fakery, are heavily implied to be just his imagination. The high school class Glass addresses as a Framing Device turns out to be one of these, as it's revealed that he's just daydreaming while in a meeting to determine precisely the extent of his fraud.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Pennenberg, who takes delight in unraveling the New Republic's story after being chided for not getting there first.
    Penenberg: There is one thing in this story that checks out; there does appear to be a state in the Union named Nevada.
  • Description Cut: After the phone conference with the Forbes Digital reporters, we see Glass with a bunch of his colleagues complaining about how Lane refused to stand up for him and is determined to throw him to the wolves. This is contrasted immediately after with a scene of Lane calling the Forbes Digital editor and asking him to go easy on Glass if possible, thus demonstrating that while Lane isn't unquestioningly supportive of Glass, he isn't out to get him either. Glass, on the other hand, is clearly trying to sabotage and undermine Lane with the rest of the staff to protect himself.
  • Desperately Craves Affection: Glass feeds off the praise of his co-workers and it's this that pushes him to start faking stories.
  • Dramatization: The movie is based off a Vanity Fair article about the real fall-from-grace of Stephen Glass.
  • Enlightened Self-Interest: Glass's gentle, humble personality is carefully crafted to win favor from his co-workers and editors, so they will give him the benefit of the doubt in case his lies are ever exposed. Falls apart completely with Chuck Lane, who points out no matter of personal fondness can change the fact he has made a complete mockery of the entire journalistic profession.
  • Establishing Character Moment: Chuck's first real scene with Glass has him listening to his latest story politely, but not with as much fascination as Glass' other colleagues. It's a sign that he isn't as easily taken in by Glass' narrative abilities, which makes him the only person capable of discovering the truth of Glass' fraud.
  • "Eureka!" Moment: An offhand comment causes Lane to realize the truth about "George Sims", the alleged president of Jukt Micronics who called Lane from Palo Alto to complain about Glass's story. As it turns out, Glass's brother lives in Palo Alto. Once Lane finds out, he realizes that Glass wasn't just duped by hoaxsters, he was lying about every single thing in the story and even enlisting his brother in the cover-up.
  • Foregone Conclusion: Glass's fabrications will be exposed, and he will lose his job at the New Republic.
  • Foreshadowing: There's an early scene where Stephen's story about the Young Republicans has a hole, but he's able to cover his tracks and Michael doesn't press further once one of Glass's corrections is corroborated by the hotel where the story took place.
    • In an early scene, a coworker walks in on Steve while he's apparently working late, and Steve is noticeably more agitated than he usually is. On repeat viewings, you can see on his computer that he's actually working on setting up the fake website.
  • Framing Device: Glass tells his story to a journalism class that turns out to be a figment of his imagination.
  • Here We Go Again!: Glass's Imagine Spot at the end is almost exactly the same as the one that opened the film, with him walking through the (fictional) Monica Lewinsky convention while delivering what we now know to be a rather self-serving monologue about what a great reporter he is in voice over. The only difference is that the monologue opening the film was about what a nice guy he is, and the monologue that closes it is about how he makes sure to get all the details exact. Apparently he's intending to start the film all over again, until Chuck interrupts his train of thought.
  • Hero Antagonist: Charles Lane, who winds up unravelling Glass's story and career.
  • Hero with Bad Publicity: In contrast to the well-liked Glass, Chuck Lane is rather distant, formal, and a bit of a stuffed-shirt, viewed as more of a distrusted interloper after getting the job of a previously more popular editor. Deconstructing this is essentially the crux of Lane's angry rant to Caitlin when she confronts him over firing Glass, saying that while everyone might hate him they all allowed Glass to drag the magazine's name through the mud purely because they liked him.
    Chuck: He handed us fiction after fiction and we printed them all as fact. Just because... we found him entertaining. It's indefensible. Don't you know that?
  • Historical Beauty Update: The real Stephen Glass was rather plain and average looking, a far cry from the handsome Pretty Boy Hayden Christensen. For comparison.
  • Historical Hero Upgrade:
    • In the movie, Michael Kelly is portrayed as gentle, soft-spoken man who sticks up for his reporters, including Stephen Glass. While the "sticks up for his reporters and Glass" part is certainly true to life, as the article the movie is based on notes the real Kelly could be a lot more aggressive. It's stated that he responded to at least two individuals who challenged the veracity of Glass's articles with very combative letters full of personal attacks. While this may appear to be a case of Never Speak Ill of the Dead because Kelly was killed while reporting on the Iraq War before the movie's release, he was still alive when it was completed and this depiction was more likely intended to appease him after he threatened to sue the filmmakers.
    • To an extent, Martin Peretz. In the movie he's a hands on type of boss who can be petty to the staff and has a vicious temper but genuinely wants what's best for the magazine and applauds with everyone over Chuck Lane discovering the truth about Glass. In real life, Martin Peretz blamed Lane just as much as Kelly for failing to catch Glass and held both of them responsible. Even worse, Lane was immediately fired after TNR published their apology and Lane actually found out about his being fired by a Washington Post reporter who was interviewing him in regards to the Glass scandal. Then there's the claim that Glass helped pass off some of his confabulations by designing them to appeal to Peretz's bigotry.
  • Hypocrite: One scene features Glass fact-checking an article for a more inexperienced colleague, and raking him over the coals for the numerous inaccuracies and shoddy journalism it contains.
  • Imagine Spot: Glass telling his story to a journalism class.
  • Implausible Deniability: Stephen's story is destroyed for good when the building where he claimed the hacking convention was held is found to be closed on Sundays, the day Stephen's piece took place. Also, the building definitely did not look like it could hold the amount of people Glass claimed attended the event. His response: "All I know is that I was here."
    Stephen: I don't know what you're talking about, OK? Those are all real people!
    Chuck: Look at me...and say that again.
    Stephen: (looks him in the eye) Those are all real people.
    • There are many other examples of this. Glass presents the business card of the hacker's agent and it was clearly just printed on a piece of cardboard. Jukt Micronics' website is an all-text AOL page. The restaurant he claims the hackers ate dinner at closes after lunch hours. Each time he retreats into other lies.
  • Intrepid Reporter: Adam Penenberg, who efficiently and methodically exposes the holes and fabrications in "Hack Heaven". Also Chuck Lane, ultimately, since he genuinely cares about the credibility and integrity of the magazine. Stephen Glass would very much like to be thought of as one of these, but he very much isn't.
  • Irony: Many of the reporters at the New Republic express a strongly-held (and slightly snobby) opposition to the idea of including photos in the magazine, citing their integrity as a news magazine over those publications which do provide them. At the end, however, a secretary bitterly notes that what Glass did would be a lot harder if he'd had to include photographs of the people involved in his stories; not providing photos has ended up damaging the magazine's integrity far more.
    • Becomes Harsher in Hindsight as there was a similar scandal involving plagiarism and fabrication in 2003 with Jayson Blair of the New York Times, a publication that DOES use photos.
    • Doesn't help that they haven't changed its looks since the 80's (aka the Reagan era).
    • Glass was, prior to becoming an editor-at-large for the New Republic, one of their main fact-checkers. A scene in the film shows him mercilessly cutting up a young reporter's story as full of holes...while he himself is making a lot of money from lying.
  • It's All About Me: Stephen rarely considers any angle on the situation outside of the ones that directly impact on him. He rants at length to Chuck about how attacked and hurt he feels by Chuck's suspicious and hostile treatment of him, and how Chuck, as his editor, should be coming to his defence... after Chuck has begun to uncover evidence that Stephen wasn't just taken in by a clever hoax but instead fabricated his entire story.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Chuck Lane is depicted as rather cold, distant and formal towards the people he works with, and is more instinctively suspicious of Glass than the previous editor was. He also turns out to be right that the issues with Glass go beyond just some dodgy fact-checking. This is lampshaded when Glass is trying the Wounded Gazelle Gambit on Michael Kelly; when Glass tries to claim that Lane is only trying to bring him down due to his loyalty to Kelly, Kelly calmly replies that even if that's the case Lane is still well within his rights, since even the little that Glass has admitted to is a fireable offence for a journalist.
  • Kubrick Stare: Lane shoots one at Glass after finding out that the building Glass claims the conference was at was closed that day.
    • Glass himself has one at the very end. One suspects this is the first and only time we see the real Stephen Glass, and it's pretty chilling.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Mere moments after Stephen has hypocritically raked a less experienced co-worker over the coals over sloppy fact-checking, he picks up his phone to discover he has a message from Adam Penenberg over some names and details from the "Hack Heaven" article that he's having trouble following up on...
  • Lecture as Exposition: The scenes where Glass is talking to the classroom help movie viewers understand how fact-checking works and how Glass got away with his fabrications. Specifically, Glass tells the students that for much of the fact-checking, the only source is the reporter's notes, which as the movie depicts, Glass was faking.
  • Manipulative Bastard: Very subtly; Glass tends to use his 'aw-shucks' humble act to make people feel sorry for him.
    "Are you mad at me?"
  • Match Cut: From Glass's face in the classroom to Glass's face at his last meeting with Chuck Lane.
  • Never My Fault: How Glass spins all his mistakes, claiming he was "duped" with the '"Hack Heaven" story. Even when all the holes are found in the story, Stephen tries to turn it around on Chuck for not "backing" him. He even does it in his final attempt at salvaging things when he admits his brother did pose as George Sims; notice how he's quick to claim he only did so because the Forbes reporters were breathing down his neck and Chuck was "so mad at me".
  • Off the Record: After "Hack Heaven" has been exposed as bogus but when Lane still thinks Glass is a victim of fraud, he uses this Stock Phrase when calling Forbes Digital and begging for mercy.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • Glass when he realizes he gave a fake phone number, supposedly for a law enforcement official in Nevada, with the wrong area code (one for South Dakota). The real Adam Penenberg has stated that Glass was able to wriggle through most of the questions Forbes asked him until they caught the bad area code. It threw Glass, much as depicted, and it was then that everyone involved knew that this was a serious problem.
    • And again when he learns that the building where the hacker conference purportedly took place was closed that day.
  • Older Hero Versus Younger Villain: Chuck is visibly older than Stephen. As noted below, in real life Glass was 24, and Lane was 36.
  • Old Media Playing Catch-Up: A theme of the film. The New Republic is a veritable old stalwart of print media, with a long and proud (and slightly snobby) tradition of being, among other things, "the in-flight magazine of Air Force One" and a distinguished reputation for accuracy and honesty. Forbes Digital Tool, the online magazine that exposes Glass's fraud with Hack Heaven, as a representative of the burgeoning online media environment, is the new kid on the block and is initially wary about taking on the New Republic. It soon becomes apparent, however, that the New Republic and its traditions are completely ill-equipped to cope with someone like Glass, particularly since one of the ways in which the threads on "Hack Heaven" get pulled is when the Forbes journalists... do a basic search for the company name through Yahoo. In Real Life, the whole episode actually was one of the key moments that established online media as a serious competitor to traditional print media rather than just a novelty.
  • Playing the Victim Card: Glass starts doing this towards the end, claiming to feel "attacked" by Chuck.
  • Precision F-Strike: "You work for the fuckin' New Republic", says Caitlin, trying to convince him not to leave the Republic for law school. Penenberg also gets one once he combs through Glass's article for the first time: "That New Republic article is a fucking sieve."
  • Pull the Thread:
    • The final hour is basically this. Glass's increasingly desperate efforts to protect himself almost make you feel sorry for him.
    • The Forbes journalists do a pretty good job of this as well. One example; after being given a phone number for George Simms, Penenberg tries calling it like everyone else only for it to go straight to answering machine. He then hits on the idea of getting someone else to call it simultaneously with him; while one call gets through to the machine again, the other call gets an engaged signal, strongly suggesting it's a single phone line rather than the multiple lines you would expect of a decent small business, never mind the major software company Jukt Micronics is supposed to be.
  • Reality Is Unrealistic: During the original screening, test audiences didn't believe that the New Republic journalists in the film could be in their twenties. Hence, a placecard was added in the beginning of the film indicating that the average age was 26. Glass, the youngest, was 24 when the scandal broke out in 1998.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: After hearing that Chuck has fired Stephen, Caitlin comes to him absolutely livid that he would do something to her friend. note  She tries to give Chuck one of these, except Chuck just turns it right back on her.
    Caitlin: That's what this is. Of course. I mean, what are you going to do, Chuck, pick us off, one by one? Everybody that was loyal to Mike, till you have a staff that belongs to you? Is that the kind of magazine you want to run?
    Chuck: [Finally snapping] Caitlin, when this thing blows, there isn't going to be a magazine anymore. If you want to make this about Mike, make it about Mike. I don't give a shit. You can resent me, you can hate me, but come Monday morning, we're all going to have to answer for what we let happen here. We're all going to have an apology to make! Jesus Christ! Don't you have any idea how much shit we're about to eat? Every competitor we ever took a shot at, they're going to pounce. And they should. Because we blew it, Caitlin. He handed us fiction after fiction and we printed them all as fact. Just because... we found him "entertaining." It's indefensible. Don't you know that?
  • Reasonable Authority Figure:
    • Michael Kelly, a Team Dad who sticks up his writers even against TNR owner Marty Peretz.
    • Kambiz Foroohar, the editor of Forbes Digital Tool. He initially chides Adam Pennenberg for not getting "Hack Heaven" before TNR, but once the truth starts to be unraveled, he stands in support of his writers. When it initially seems like Glass was simply fooled, Foorohar privately reassures Lane that while Forbes has to publish something, they aren't looking to ruin Glass' career in the process.
    • Despite what much of TNR's staff thinks, Chuck Lane is this, and he tries to give Glass the benefit of the doubt until the fraud becomes undeniable.
  • Saying Too Much: A subtle example; if you pay attention, Stephen has a tendency to go into a bit too much irrelevant and unnecessary detail at times about the people and events of his stories. For example, when he's giving Chuck Lane the phone number for the person who is purportedly George Simms, he claims that Simms is such a micromanaging Control Freak that he even insists on being the one to record the company's voicemail message. This is, of course, to help shield his lies by offering verisimilitude (in a "See what a nut this guy is? You literally couldn't make him up!" sense) and so that it doesn't seem unusual when, say, the guy who calls Chuck Lane up one night to yell at him about the "Hack Heaven" article sounds oddly like the same guy who recorded the company voicemail.
  • Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right!: Michael Kelly in a nutshell. The standard response of an outside attack on a publication's integrity is to deny everything and protect the author and the reputation of the publication. Chuck Lane, on the other hand, first of all feels no real loyalty to Glass, and second of all feels that the integrity of The New Republic is best served by issuing a mea culpa for any inaccuracies. When he discovers that Glass has systematically undermined the entire editorial process at TNR, potentially for years, he realizes that the only way to preserve the integrity of the magazine is to absolutely destroy Stephen Glass, something he does not relish. Although when it initially looks like Glass is a decent reporter who has simply been taken advantage of by a hoax, Lane does stick up for him and ask the Forbes Digital reporters to tread lightly if possible; it's only when it becomes irreversibly clear that Glass is a fraud, and that this isn't the first time this has occurred that he decides to throw Glass to the wolves.
  • Shout-Out: Glass's pitch of "Hack Heaven" involves his subject wiggling his hips in bravado while screaming "Show me the money!" One could argue that the film is exactly where Glass is pulling inspiration for his fabrication from (the film came out two years before the Glass incident).
  • Shown Their Work: His TNR coworkers might be composites but Glass's career and his fall are both rendered surprisingly accurately; no Very Loosely Based on a True Story here. Glass's rise and subsequent meteoric fall from grace are very well-documented.
    • Similarly, the film makes a strong case for the importance of reporters actually doing the work needed to be effective at their job. We never see Glass do the work needed to write his stories (aside from a few montage cuts that are clearly part of an Imagine Spot), but we get to see Adam Penenberg and the rest of the Forbes Digital Tool team running through basic fact-checking and confirmation call procedure when doing the research for a follow-up article. Their inability to find any corroborating evidence is what set in motion the downfall of Glass.
  • Shutting Up Now: Stephen tries to appeal to Michael in an effort to take the heat off himself, but Michael, knowing the kind of shit Stephen is in, quietly asks him if Glass ever cooked a piece for him while Mike was editor. Stephen doesn't respond.
    • The silence is even more poignant as at least half of Glass's pieces were cooked when Michael was editor.
  • Smug Snake: Glass initially comes off as a humble, self-effacing person, but the longer he keeps it up the more it becomes clear what a slimy, phony weasel he actually is. Note how subtly smug he is when his co-workers find themselves unable to compete with his exciting and quirky (and almost entirely fabricated) story pitches when presenting their comparatively duller (but real) ones. However, when his lies are exposed he loses the smugness really quickly. It's not long before he's begging for mercy.
  • Somebody Doesn't Love Raymond: Even before he becomes editor and the "Hack Heaven" controversy rears its ugly head, Chuck Lane seems to be the only person in the office who doesn't think Stephen Glass is the greatest guy ever. Though it's played with, since it gradually becomes clear that Chuck is in the right and that people really shouldn't like Stephen as much as they do.
  • Spotting the Thread: The Forbes journalists and Chuck Lane uncover dozens of threads undermining the factual basis of "Hack Heaven", but the last straw comes when a colleague casually mentions to Chuck that Glass's brother lives in Palo Alto, which inspires a "Eureka!" Moment that Glass got his brother to pose as the president of Jukt Micronics over the phone.
  • Strawman Political: Less in the film itself, more exploited by the subject of the film; it's hinted that many of Stephen Glass's fraudulent articles managed to slip through partially because they played to the political biases of his editors. The New Republic is a notably centre-left-leaning, "old media" stalwart, and among Glass's cooked stories were subject matter like sexually abusive Young Republicans, a right-wing political gathering selling tacky Monica Lewinsky merchandise, and the threat posed by arrogant young hackers.
    • The real Chuck Lane admitted to NPR that Glass indeed got away with some of his frauds because his fake stories played to stereotypes of right-wingers.
  • Stunned Silence:
    • During the Forbes interview, Stephen sends them the Jukt Micronics website, and the Forbes reporters take one look at it and gape in shock for a few seconds at how shoddy and obviously fake it is.
    • Later during that interview, Chuck pointedly interrupts Stephen's hemming and hawing and tells him to give the Forbes team the phone numbers they're asking for. Even though he says it quietly, everyone, the Forbes reporters included, reacts with stunned shock, as they realize Chuck is thoroughly done with Stephen's bullshit. "This guy's toast," Penenberg gravely observers immediately after.
    • Chuck, at his wit's end, suddenly bellows at Caitlin that he fired Stephen. She's shocked into silence, as is Chuck, caught off-guard by his own outburst.
  • Stylistic Suck: Averted. The hilariously crappy Jukt Micronics page (basically an amateur AOL webpage) Stephen Glass tried to pass off as the official site of a "major software corporation" is the actual page Glass created in real life. No Hollywood exaggeration of its ineptitude was needed.
    • Of particular note are the list of "mis-characterizations" that "Jukt" takes offense to: one of said issues is that Jukt Micronics apparently has little to no internet presence. It comes across as a comical "Trust us, we don't exist online, so no need to research us any further!" line that only a pathological liar like Glass would think worked.
    • Furthermore, the point is clearly made that even though this was the relatively early days of businesses adopting the Internet as a tool, even by those standards it was still bad; the Forbes Digital reporters — people who knew a little something about the Internet back then — openly express incredulity that this could the website of a corporation specialising in computer technology.
  • Suddenly Shouting: When Caitlin shows up at the offices to give Chuck a piece of her mind, she demands to know what Chuck did to prompt Stephen to call her at some ungodly hour of the evening weeping uncontrollably. Chuck — who by this point is well past his tolerance level for dealing with any shit connected to Stephen Glass — astonishes her by suddenly bellowing "I fired him, okay?!" in response. Even he seems a little stunned at his own outburst.
  • Technician vs. Performer: Stephen Glass is the performer to the rest of The New Republic's technicians; much is made about his quirky, entertaining pieces in contrast to everybody else's much duller policy analysis - of course Glass's stories don't have to deal with that pesky little problem of accuracy.
  • That Came Out Wrong: Andy, the Forbes Digital reporter played by Rosario Dawson, can often be seen sniffing around Penenberg to get a piece of the story, and after helping out at one point asks for a co-writer credit. Penenberg has no intention of sharing the glory, however, and after a brief argument Andy snaps that it's not fair that Penenberg takes all the credit for the story seeing as it basically fell into his lap (after their editor raked him over the coals for not catching the "Hack Heaven" story first) and he didn't really have to do anything... only to catch herself and realise not just how insulting this is, but that it's also not really going to put Penenberg in the mood to do her the favor of co-crediting her.
    Andy: ... That came out uglier than I intended.
  • Tranquil Fury: Chuck Lane spends a lot of the second half of the movie simmering in this state. Most notably, he spends most of his fact-checking expedition to the supposed location of the hacker conference with Stephen absolutely, quietly furious once it becomes clear that Glass has basically made the whole thing up.
  • Unreliable Narrator: Glass's opening narration isn't exactly accurate.
  • Villain Protagonist: Glass, obviously.
  • Villain with Good Publicity: Stephen Glass is well-liked by his colleagues and has (or at least is able to convincingly fake) a personality that inclines people to trust and protect him, thus making it harder for anyone to believe that he'd fake his stories. As with Hero with Bad Publicity, this is deconstructed by the end when Chuck, in his "The Reason You Suck" Speech to Caitlin, points out that it's indefensible that everyone would let Stephen get away with what he did "because we found him entertaining".
  • Wham Line:
    • "Building's closed on Sundays." This, from a security guard in the building where Glass purportedly attended the hacker conference central to "Hack Heaven", is clear proof that he wasn't just taken in by a clever fraud but made the whole story up.
    • Steve goes to Mike Kelly and starts buttering him up; one suspects Steve knows he won't last much longer at the New Republic and is trying to get another job. Kelly looks at Glass and says, calmly, "Listen, Steve, I've got to ask.... Did you ever cook a story when I was your editor? Did you ever lie to me?" Kelly may be sympathetic, but he's not blind. And now it's clear that Glass has been making stories up for quite a while.
    • Chuck learns that Steve "has a brother in Palo Alto." And with that, Chuck knows that everything Steve has told him is a lie, because it also just so happens to be where "George Simms" is apparently based and called him from.
  • "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: Glass went to law school and began a career as an authornote , Chuck Lane became a writer for the Washington Post, and Michael Kelly died in 2003 covering Operation Iraqi Freedom.
  • Wounded Gazelle Gambit: A variant; when his increasingly tenuous web of lies begins to unravel, Glass' response is basically to start whining and playing the victim.
    Glass: I didn't do anything wrong, Chuck!
    Lane: I really wish you'd stop saying that!
    • Just to give an idea on how often he uses this, Caitlin tells him to stop playing this card only 15 minutes into the film. There's an element of Irony here, however, as Caitlin is at this point unaware of Glass's true nature and actions and is, from her point of view, trying to boost his self-esteem by getting to stop what she views as him deprecating himself.