Quiz Show, 1994

Posted: January 24, 2011 in Uncategorized

This clip is one of the most important scenes in the movie, Quiz Show which was directed by Robert Redford. This scene is a classic example of one feeling an enormous amount of guilt. These “guilt scenes” are used quite often in today’s movies and shows. For Charles Van Doren, the guilt he felt was because he knew that he ultimately got the answers to the questions that the host would ask before the show from the producers so he really did not deserve the money he won. As Charles and his intellectual father Mark Van Doren were talking one-on-one, Mark said things such as, “It’s just amazing that you could make it look so easy”, referring to his success on the game show Twenty One. Mark also said that having a son is when a man is most happy. Once again, the discussion between the father and son is an example of typical conversation that appears on television today. Charles told his father that he was most happy as a child when he came home after school and had a slice of chocolate cake and a large glass of cold milk. At this time in his life, everything was simple and he did not have to deal with the problems that arose in his life after making his appearances on this game show.

The major theme in the film, Quiz Show is the lack of morals that existed with many different characters throughout the film. The primary concern in regards to one’s morality has to do with lying and cheating. The studio producers Dan Enright and Albert Freedman did not preserve the integrity of the show in order to increase the show’s ratings and earn more revenue. By watching the movie, the audience discovers that the producers would go over the questions that the host would ask on the upcoming shows with the contestants that the viewers are fond of. Enright and Freedman were essentially the catalysts of all the dishonest behavior that was happening. They would choose the contestants that give the show the highest possible ratings and would tell them that they could be superstars and win more money than they could imagine. At the same time, the network is producing more and more money by taking away the shows legitimacy. Of course the contestants are also to blame. Herbert Stempel, a resident of Queens, New York, was the main attraction on the show. After he lost his position as champion of Twenty One, Stempel admitted to an investigator named Dick Goodwin that the answers were given to him by the producers of the show. On top of that, he showed a great deal of pride that was not deserved by referring to himself as brilliant and the smartest man on the show. An instructor at Columbia University, Charles Van Doren was placed in the same situation and also cheated. He too did not demonstrate humility and showed signs of believing he deserved the money.

  Dan Enright and Albert Freedman

 Charles Van Doren

A minor theme in the movie has to do with a fear of anti-Semitism. Herbert Stempel believes that there is a Jewish conspiracy on the game Quiz Show. He strongly believes that after a Jewish person wins ten or fifteen games in a row, he or she suddenly loses to the handsome and charming non-Jew. His fear of anti-Semitism is evident in both his claims and his actions that continue throughout the movie as Stempel attempts to justify his loss to Charles Van Doren. After his rating plateaued, Stempel was ousted from the show. The producer even said, “Why would you want to be an annoying Jewish guy with a sidewall haircut.” Although this was intended to be humorous, during time the show was running, anti-Semitism was an ongoing problem. The producers then asked Herb to lose for the cause of education and found Charles’ appearance and very nature (professor) fits the role model protégé much better. As Herb says in the film, the Jew loses to the gentile. He even told this to Goodwin and Goodwin researched his theory and found it to be true. In the past, the Jewish contestants did in fact lose to the gentiles.

 Herb Stempel

 Dick Goodwin


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