12 June 2005

Scott Raab is a Fucking Hack

The late Dr. Hunter S. Thompson has a lot to answer for. By personifying and popularizing the concept of gonzo journalism, he inadvertently gave license to innumerable no-talent "writers" to submit glorified diary entries instead of actual reporting.

There's nothing more irritating than to read a magazine article that is ostensibly about one thing, only to find out it's about the writer instead. Case in point: the June 2005 edition of Esquire. "3 Star Wars Movies & All I Got Was This Lousy T-Shirt: The Ewan McGregor Story, by Scott Raab" trumpets the cover copy. The reader assumes that somewhere within the periodical will be a feature about actor Ewan McGregor. And there is, but just barely. The problem is, to get to the bits about McGregor sprinkled throughout the article, the reader has to wade through a bunch of painfully self-aware horseshit perpetuated by the piece's author, Scott Raab.

The article, titled "Me and Obi-Wan at the Zoo" (there's your first clue -- he mentions himself in the fucking title and it's grammatically incorrect, to boot), begins with Raab describing, in the first person, naturally, how he's spent weeks prepping for the interview with McGregor and how hard it's been to track him down. "I've got a bad feeling about this," is Raab's opening sentence. You're not the only one, Scott. "I see the son of a bitch on Leno, pitching Robots on his way to Tatooine or wherever the fuck," Raab writes, portraying himself as a hard-boiled, blue collar working stiff just trying to make a living interviewing these sissy boy movie stars. Raab is one hardcore motherfucker, bitches!

Why does Raab feel the need to insert himself into the story? Does he feel that his presence in the piece gives it versimilitude? The only thing his masturbatory nonsense does is make the reader think, "Hey, Mr. Dipshit Fuckwad Writer Asshole, I wanna read about Obi-Wan Kenobi, not your sorry ass, so can it."

It gets better. In the second paragraph, Raab is making phone calls to Yoda. That's right, Yoda, a fictional character with the voice of Miss Piggy, played by a puppet. Chatting with a fictional character is not only an unoriginal and totally hackneyed device, but in Raab's ham fists – complete with a charmless take on Yoda’s garbled syntax, of course -- it's also utterly devoid of humor. Naturally, this device is sprinkled throughout the article, so as to remind the reader that the writer couldn't be bothered to be original, or in the very least, competent.

Eventually, Raab catches up with McGregor for a photo shoot, and then again at the London Zoo. Raab dutifully reports that he feels feverish, he's brought a tuna sandwich and that he is wearing new pants that are too big and keep falling down. But trooper that he is, Raab manages to talk to McGregor for a bit before he grows faint. Things become a blur as McGregor helps his pal Raab into a cab and sends him back to his hotel. Raab chats with Yoda some more, a couple of lame quotes from McGregor, and we're done.

Now, nobody ever said that writing a puff piece on a movie star should be handled in the exact same tone and style as one would use when covering the UN for the Washington Post, but Jesus. Does Raab actually think he's, like, clever and shit? That he's a witty scribe? That readers are thinking, "Enough about this McGregor character -- what did Scott have for lunch?" At best, he comes off as smarmy and lazy; at worst, a solipsistic asshole. Raab is certainly not the only freelance hack who thinks that every assignment is ultimately about himself -- try reading an issue of Entertainment Weekly -- but he's one of the most persistent, egregious offenders. One wonders what his editors must think when he submits his latest potboiler. "Gee, I'm so glad we paid him thousands of dollars, flew him all over the world and gave him that cushy expense account so he could write about his fucking pants."

Note to Scott Raab: No one gives two shits about you or your tuna sandwich. Seriously. How about the next time you get a plum assignment from a national magazine, just for shits and giggles, you actually do some real work and write about something besides yourself? Instead of phoning it in? Think you could pull that off, Dr. Pulitzer? After all, you should be stockpiling all your literary pretentions for your crappy novel.

3 comments:

Skip James said...

His highpoint was "Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail" but my favorite book by him is "The Great Shark Hunt."

Unlike his last few self-mythologizing collections of ramblings, it includes numerous excellent examples of his early articles. Fine work.

Vitamin J said...

Well, yeah. I have no problems with Thomspson. It's the little twerps who think that they're more interesting than the topics about which they write. Hunter S. frequently was; Scott Raab most certainly isn't.

Anonymous said...

Wow, three years late, but I remember reading (or trying to) that horrible piece by Raab, throwing the magazine across the room, and cancelling my subscription to Esquire. Scott Raab is a solipsistic fuck and he and Chuckles Klosterman and their ilk represent everything that is wrong with my generation.

- Boris