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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.

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.


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  • 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.
  • 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]". To his surprise, Rostoni didn't edit that particular comic, and the name made it to publication.

  • 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.
  • 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."

  • 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.)
  • Atlanta Nights was an elaborate hoax novel designed to test (and troll) PublishAmerica, a publishing company notorious for its conspicuously lax standards of quality and persistent denials that they were a vanity publisher, purporting themselves to have a very thorough screening process that only accepts the highest quality of work. The novel, written by almost forty different authors under the shared pen name "Travis Tea", was made to be an almost completely incomprehensible mess, with a narrative with absolutely zero consistent through-line (each chapter was written by one author, and the authors made a vested effort to not communicate with one another in order to make the story as disjointed as possible), chapters 4 and 17 being completely identical, having multiple chapter 12's while missing chapter 21, chapter 34 being written by an AI churning out total word salad, on top of the rest of the prose being laughably nonsensical. The transcript was submitted, and despite PublishAmerica's claims of professionalism, they took the bait and accepted it for publication — it wasn't until the authors publicly revealed their hoax a few months later that PublishAmerica redacted their offer.

    Live-Action TV 
  • After decades of being goaded for a definitive answer on whether the show was one giant pot reference, Marty Krofft did finally admit that H.R. Pufnstuf's title was a reference to reefer smoking, in an interview with The Times Union on 13 February 2004. However, the title was apparently born out of a childish sense of humour rather than an active interest in drug culture, as he was seeing if he could pass it by the NBC executives without being called out on it.

  • 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 the venue's inattention had resulted in serious safety issues.
  • 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.

    Western Animation 
  • In An Itch in Time, Bob Clampett intentionally wrote the gag where Elmer's dog drags his butt in pain across the floor, stopping for a moment to mug to the audience "Hey, I better cut this out, I may get to like it" to see if the censors would tell him to change it or remove it. They didn't.