Attention Must Be Paid...Or Should It?: The Coens/NPR Factor

Sarah M/: It says hookers on the *official* FARGO website. Do the Coens have a production company office somewhere?

Skyvue: Oh Sarah...poor naive Sarah. Do you suppose that, even if the Coens sent us each a handwritten letter proclaiming that the young women in question were meant to be hookers, this debate would end? It wouldn't. There is, in all great art, that which is born of the un- and subconscious. So it can be argued that, regardless of the Coens' own misconceptions, those gals were not hookers.

SuZin: HA! I am THIS VERY MINUTE listening to Frances McDormand on NPR's "Fresh Air," and she just referred to her conversation with "Larissa," who played "well, Hooker Number One" in the movie. She referred to her as "the smaller of the two hookers." Is that enough for you all? For the record, she said that Minneapolis-born Larissa (a.k.a. Hooker Number One) explained the concept of "Minnesota nice" to her.

ian grey: Obviously, some here know nothing of the intense time-constaints of radio formats, even NPR. It's plainly obvious that the kindly Ms McDormand was simply helping out the shows producer with a bit of ID shorthand, hence, the term "hookers," as opposed the accurate, but time-consuming, "two kinda dense gals bored outta their skulls who figure Melrose Place isn't on tonight, these guys are ambulatory and have some booze."

The Lonesome Drifter: Stunned into an honorable silence, eh Brett?

Skyvue: Not at all. I'm just hesitant to repeat myself.

Sarah M/: So you're calling Frances McDormand a liar? Not very gentlemanly.

Skyvue: Nope, just misguided, perhaps misinformed. If you go back and read Suzin's post, you'll see that our Frances, um, hesitated before terming those friendly gals hookers. Seems to me she's as torn as the conference is, collectively. And besides, as I said above, the unconscious plays a vital role in the work of any great artist. So whatever she, or her husband or his brother, might think on a conscious level, their subconscious intentions came through loud and clear. It's a commonly told tale by any actor who ever played a bad guy that they <tm> thought of Iago (or Dracula or whomever) as a good guy. Actors often must dabble in denials to effectively carry out their duties. Clearly, Ms. McDormand's characterization required, for some unnameable reason, that she think of those two friendly gals as sex workers. As one who once trod the boards, I can tell you, there's no untangling an actor's thinking sometimes.

Erin a.k.a. EB: That's a strong NPR anecdote that SuZin wasted no time in redacting here for her hookerist pals. But here's my slut position on this, and on all other arguments having to do with the "Hooker" screen credit and/or casual appellation in everyday conversation by cast members or others connected to the film: Knowing Frances and Joel as I do (figuratively, and thru empirical data), I think if I were to sit down with them and explain the sluts position in its entirety, that they would give it serious consideration and not dismiss it out of hand. That is, if Joel didn't agree with me before I even started talking, and inform me that future prints were already slated to be changed, because he'd heard about the M/tv dispute and had taken a serious second look at his own work.

The Lonesome Drifter: So your calculated guess that they might not dismiss it out of hand forms the basis on which you claim that it is true? Wow.

Merp y Petit: Here's my problem with your position, Erin. At the beginning of the film, it states that to honor the wishes of the living, the names have been changed. But, in respect to the dead, everything else is told exactly how it happened. Therefore, they would feel very strongly about sticking with the truth. That they were hookers.

Berg Man of Alcatraz: Merp brings up a good point: The opening credits say it's a true story. came out later that it was NOT a true story. who argue that it says "hooker" in the credits are Just Plain Dum.

The Lonesome Drifter: I have never based my hookerism on the credits. In fact, it was my understanding (not buttressed by a strong memory of the credits on my one viewing, which is all the viewings the film deserves IMO) that the credits do NOT list them as hookers. But they were.

SuZin: For the record, they are listed as Hooker #1 and Hooker #2 in the credits. Of course, many have argued that this Just Doesn't Matter.

Skyvue: The anti-hookerists, noting that the Coens, or whomever was responsible for the credits, played fast and loose elsewhere in those listings, tend to discount their importance. Edward, this debate, off and on, raged for a year before you had Frances's quote to fall back on. But not for a moment did you, or any other of the hookerists, hesitate to label as simpletons those of us who disagreed with your interpretation. I asked what made you so certain of your position before hearing her viewpoint on the matter. You finally answered and, as it turns out, the pre-McDormand-quote evidence was feeble indeed. As for Ms. McDormand's quote, I've addressed it over and over but one more time:
1. Actors often have a different inner life working than the one the playwright/screenwriter has in mind for them. I don't doubt that Ms. McDormand thought them hookers, if she says so, but that doesn't mean her husband and brother-in-law meant them to be.
2. On the other hand, it may be that she was told directly, by one or the other of the Coens, that the characters were hookers. For this I have no particular argument, except to say that my own work is often interpreted by readers quite differently than the way I meant it to be taken. What's to be done about this? Nothing, as I see it. The audience plays a role in any art, I think. Do I label my readers boobs and imbeciles for missing my meaning? Not at all.
In the famous painting, American Gothic, the pair pictured, as I'm guessing you're aware, were father and daughter. But if you were to ask around, I'm willing to bet that you'd find that a vast majority of folks think them a married couple. This misconception doesn't change the facts but in five hundred years, it may well be that no one remembers the truth. From that point on, whatever the artist intended, that couple will, in fact, be husband and wife and there's not a damn thing Grant Wood will be able to do about it. If this point is an important one to the Coens, they may well be kicking themselves for not being clearer. For clearly this debate has legs. If Echo is still around in a hundred years, it's possible our great-grandchildren will still be arguing this point.

Erin a.k.a. EB: McDormand said it as an offhand reference. The discussion was not, on NPR, about whether or not they were hookers. McD just used the language of the credits (and as Skyvue has pointed out, this terminology would have no bearing on the character McD the actress created. She's probably never even thought about it).

Walt "Clyde" Frijole: I don't think Frances McDormand slipped up. I think she was just using the names in the credits, the same way that she would call the dead guy in the field "The Dead Guy In The Field" if she were talking about him. Part of the non-hookerist camp is disbelieving the exactness in the credits, is thinking that certain points in the credits are sly little jokes. Frances McDormand calling her "Hooker #1" only proves that she read the credits, so bringing that interview into the argument is completely moot.