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Assignment #12

In the beginning of the 2003 film Shattered Glass, directed by Billy Ray, you feel almost immediately drawn to the charismatic character of Stephen Glass (Hayden Christensen.) He is portrayed as intelligent, humorous, and from what the audience can see he is well-liked by almost all of his peers at The New Republic with perhaps the only exception being Chuck Lane (Peter Sarsgaard.) Though there is never any direct mention of Chuck’s dislike of his co-worker, it is repeatedly implied through responses and actions but could be attributed to nothing more than a general distrust. The rest of his co-workers seem to enjoy his company, his advice, and his charm which is more visibly notable in the conference room for his pitches of stories– especially the pitch of his piece “Hack Heaven.” If I had not known beforehand the character and accusations against Glass, I could say that it would be easy to want to hang out with him as he is presented in the first ten or fifteen minutes of the film.
The ethical dilemmas that Glass is faced with throughout the film are whether or not to continue the lies that he has woven. He often seems a bit unsure of what to admit is not truth and when. His choices to continue lying to try to cover his previous untruths only prove to bring him as well as his editors and co-workers more trouble in the end. I think that for the publication which Stephen Glass was writing for, his actions cannot be excused. Had it been an isolated instance of smaller proportions that he had readily admitted to, I could see him possibly remaining with the publication. The amount of lies told, and then the direct lies to cover his tracks made his choices inexcusable, and appropriate actions were later taken against him, even by the very co-workers who had loved and respected him so much. The ethical dilemmas faced by Chuck Lane as Stephen’s editor were enormous as he was directly accountable for the articles published in the magazine. Chuck did what he could to help salvage Stephen’s career and image when he spoke with Forbe’s Digital’s editor directly. Unfortunately once Chuck discovered the extent of the web of deceit that Stephen had crafted, he had little choice but to let him go and hope that he could salvage the magazine’s image.
Stephen’s persuasiveness is presented many times throughout the film he uses rhetorical appeals with great ease. He interacts with his co-workers mostly by appealing to emotions by saying such things as “it’s probably nothing” and “it’s not very good, I probably won’t do it” by saying these things he seems greatly unsure of himself, making his lies all that much easier to believe. These things lead his co-workers to take his side, even after his story “Hack Heaven” is questioned. In the film in particular, Caitlin responds to Chuck firing Stephen in an angered way. Chuck responds by saying that it is Stephen’s own fault for what has happened, and tells her that he has fabricated more than just the story in question, and all of them being duped meant that they would all be held accountable, and would have to apologize accordingly.
Throughout the film there are scenes mixed in where Stephen is addressing a class at his former high school. These scenes turn out to be much like the scenes for the piece “Hack Heaven” which are merely fabrications of his imagination, or how he perceives things could have been. By this point in the film as an audience member I felt angry that I had been duped by someone who was so charming and seemingly so honest, no longer did I trust Stephen’s character.
After watching the interview with the real Stephen Glass, I can see the direct parallels that the film took to his character. He is charismatic, charming, and seemingly believable. I can also see him as someone who seems extremely apologetic. He still appeals to people’s emotions, and even in the brief points where former co-workers were presented they said that to this day they cannot find it in themselves to trust him, even if he has gone through five years of therapy. His journalistic nightmare still haunts him to this day, as even though he’s passed the New York bar exam, he has yet to be certified as a lawyer due to the questionable elements and fabrications of his past.
Hayden Christensen’s portrayal of Stephen Glass was actually not so dissimilar to his portrayal of Anakin Skywalker in Star Wars II and III. Both characters, though they had many differences had many similarities as well. Each one lied to cover up portions of their life that they wanted no one to know of while continuing to be generally well-liked and charming. In the scenes where Glass was visibly upset, angry, or crying, I had trouble distinguishing him from Skywalker. I could almost hear the words “Love won’t save you, Padmé! Only my new powers can do that!”

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