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Testing the Editors

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Sometimes, a writer doesn't want Protection from Editors. Perhaps they have enough self-awareness to realise that they are as capable of bad writing as anyone else. Or maybe they just see the value in their work being appraised by a fresh set of eyes. Either way, they view the editor's role as a valuable and worthwhile one. But how to be sure the editor is doing their job?

Put something in just for them to catch. It could be a plot hole, something that doesn't work, or that the editors won't let past. The point is that the writer has no intention of it being in the final product. They're just testing the editor.

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Compare Censor Decoy, for when the offending material is included to distract from something the writer actually wants to include. Also see Getting Crap Past the Radar for moments where editors fail the test and unwittingly allow more risque content through the publishing process.

Examples:

Comics

  • In the "Making Of" section to Of Ducks, Dimes and Destinies, Don Rosa writes that he deliberately includes things for his editor to catch to give him a laugh and make his job more interesting. Some of those things managed to slip through.
  • Power Girl's famous bust became bigger and bigger in comics because one of the artists that pencilled her slowly expanded her breast size to see if any of his editors noticed and called him out for it. It took them eight issues to notice, and by then it was too late to go back.
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  • As a joke, Dark Horse Comics writer Randy Stradley created a character called Soon Bayts in the Star Wars comic Jedi Council: Acts of War because he knew that editor Sue Rostoni had a habit of going through scripts and changing every Jedi character's name to "Master [Surname]". He was surprised that she missed that one.

Film

  • The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension contains a scene in which Reno and New Jersey, while traversing the Banzai compound, pass a piece of industrial equipment with a watermelon lodged in it. New Jersey asks "why is there a watermelon there?" to which Reno replies "I'll tell you later." (He never does.) This meaningless scene is an un-detected decoy that the writers and directors put in to check whether the frustrated executives, who had been trying in vain to steer the film away from the far-silly end of the Sliding Scale of Silliness vs. Seriousness, were still paying attention. When the scene raised no objections, the creators knew the censors had given up and they were free to be as goofy as they pleased.
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  • The original Good Will Hunting script pitched to studio executives included an out-of-nowhere homoerotic Sex Scene between two characters who were never identified as gay. When Harvey Weinstein questioned why it was there, Ben Affleck and Matt Damon answered:
    "That's the scene that we wrote to find out whether guys in your job actually read the script, because every studio executive we went to ... no one brought that scene up, or maybe people thought it was a mistake or maybe nobody read it themselves... You're the only guy that brought it up. You get the movie."

Literature

  • In Hop on Pop, Dr. Seuss included a line "When I read I am smart / I always cut whole words apart. / Con Stan Tin O Ple, Tim Buk Too / Con Tra Cep Tive, Kan Ga Roo." to make sure his publisher was actually reading the manuscript. (He was, and the line was changed, as Seuss planned.)

Music

  • A variant: Van Halen famously included a stipulation, buried halfway through their impressively long contract, requiring the band to be provided with a bowl of M&Ms, from which all the brown ones had been removed. This served as a quick way to determine whether the host had actually read the contract. Since the contract was mostly about technical issues to ensure Van Halen's epic concerts could be performed correctly, lack of M&Ms, or the presence of brown M&Ms, inevitably meant there were serious safety hazards.
  • Oasis' "D'You Know What I Mean" from Be Here Now has a long opening and an extended coda leading to a runtime of over 7 minutes, that Noel Gallagher later admitted that he expected requests to cut at least two minutes of the song. Given how high their clout was at the time, no one did so.


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