Broadcast News’ Alternate Ending
Broadcast News, 20th Century Fox, 1987
by Masha Tupitsyn
I like you as much as anyone can like someone who thinks they’re an asshole.
—Tom to Jane in Broadcast News.
There’s a whole feminist thesis in this admission. And I’m going to teach it in my Love (in film) class next semester. It wasn’t on the syllabus last year. Somehow I forgot to include it.
One of the great things about Broadcast News is the way it portrays a man vying for a woman’s respect. A man who knows he is inferior to the female lead’s talent, intellect and drive. A man who admits to his inferiority, but wants to be worthy. Jane never hides her superiority and never apologies for it. And this makes her endlessly loveable but “difficult” to love, in the way that all strong women (self-admitted feminists or not) are “difficult” to love (Ahmed’s feminist killjoy). Jane gives herself a few minutes a day to privately cry over this. She bawls her eyes out, then goes back to work, back to her life. It’s brilliant.
We never see this kind of set up. It’s always the other way around: Women desperately trying (or being forced to try) to prove their worth to men, onscreen and off, while men arbiter the worth of everyone else. One of the only other films that shows an exceptional woman’s plight in heterosexual love (though in a completely different, tragic way) is The Way We Were. And that film is devastating.
Is the fundamental difference between the two films a melancholic one? Both men (Tom and Hubble) are white, overrated, and overvalued by everyone. One man, a melancholic, knows it and is paralyzed by the knowledge (Hubble). The other (Tom), who is not a melancholic, is motivated by his shortcomings.
Broadcast News’ alternate ending (on the Criterion DVD) could have offered a non-melancholic resolution to this predictable male dissolution.
Because not being able to handle a strong, brilliant, courageous woman you claim to love is the equivalent of not being able to handle the world, not knowing how to live ethically. It makes a man profoundly mediocre.
But at least the alternate ending exists. Even if it’s not the one (the original ending is brilliant and important, but for a very different reason. The original ending is for Jane. The alternate ending demonstrates some kind of male reform, and therefore is potentially a love ending. If Tom can change, then maybe they can be together) we all ended up with as viewers, it’s out there. It was dreamed up. It was acted, which means it has the potential to be real. The Tom in the alternate ending is not exactly the man we see in the film. In other words, this is not the man Tom chooses to be in the end. This is not the man women get. So the reality is Jane, being who she is, has to make the ethical choice: if Tom cannot be the man he should be, Jane cannot be the woman she is. And Jane must be the woman she is.
Crossposted with Love Dog.