Everyone wants a talking dog for an agent, right? It’s part two of Moving Pictures.
Victor does his fight scene, but the girl in his movie is busy doing another film that was supposed to be wrapped (but it exploded so they had to do the whole thing over). They break to prepare for the balrog scene, and Victor meets their actress, who is complaining about the whole system. They start filming a scene and Victor hears whispering out of nowhere that compels him to kiss her, even though that action is not part of the script. Dibbler insists this is just what the film needs and that it should be longer, and full of fights and romance. Victor apologizes to his scene partner, a woman named Theda Withel, but who goes by Ginger. Victor decides they’re going to go get some lunch, even if it’s not something actors are usually permitted during a shoot. They go to the commissary, where there are all sorts eating together. Victor asks if anyone else has felt weird the way he just did, but everyone insists that’s just what Holy Wood does to people. (The dwarfs mentions bursting into a song on their click that goes “hiho”.)
Victor and Ginger are fired after finishing their click because they took a long lunch. Victor goes to sleep on the beach and everyone has vivid dreams, except Dibbler, who heads back to Ankh-Morpork at night to get posters and things made. He and Colon and Nobby see a fellow splash around in a downpour, dancing and singing. Later, he swings by to talk to the owner (Bezam Planter) of one of the moving pictures pits with Detritus on hand, and tells him that they’re going to show this new click, Sword of Passione, and that he should start showing it soon because a lot of people were going to want to see it. Victor wakes on the beach and comes across the body of Deccan. He buries the man and takes up his Boke of the Film, which contains pages of almost identical entries on his work as Keeper of the Door, and the entries of all the Keepers previous. He goes to the commissary to eat and finds Ginger working there—she doesn’t want to speak to him on account of getting her fired. In Ankh-Morpork, Bezam has to account for a full house because Dibbler’s posters have worked and everyone wants to see Sword of Passione. He tells Dibbler to make more pictures with those two actors because everyone is enamored of them. Dibbler remembers what happened before he left and rushes off.
Victor is trying to earn money holding people’s horses in the meantime, but can’t quite get the hang of it. Rock finds him and takes him to a troll bar for a drink. They hear Ruby sing an old troll song, and Rock asks if Victor thinks he should get a stonemason to take half an inch off his nose. Victor heads into an alley and strikes up a conversation with Gaspode the Wonder Dog (trying his best not to freak out over the talking dog part), as Dibbler goes looking for him and Ginger around Holy Wood. Gaspode explains to Victor that he couldn’t talk until very recently, and also knows the sort of pull Victor is feeling to this place; he’s been having strange dreams and seeing in color for the first time. Gaspode takes Victor up Holy Wood Hill to meet all the animals who are suddenly talking. Most of them came from far away, but the rabbit lived close by, so Victor asks about Deccan, but the rabbit doesn’t know anything specific. Victor is thinking that maybe the Librarian at the university could translate some of the code in Deccan’s book when Ginger comes up the hill.
Dibbler soon follows, and says he wants them back, but tries to offer them less money. A negotiation takes place, and Dibbler ends up taking both Victor and Ginger back at five times their original salary; they’re both confused about who did the actual negotiating (it was Gaspode, and he insists on getting an agent’s fee). Back at the Unseen University, a vase made by a wizard named Riktor—he used to create devices that measured things—is sitting in Ridcully’s office being carefully observed. The next day in Holy Wood, the filming begins for a film called Shadowe of the Dessert, and Dibbler is throwing around words like “exotic” and “foreign” and generally acting like a twerp, as Gaspode puts it. They go to begin shooting and Victor feels like he enters a dream state—when he comes out of it, he learns the scene has been shot and he took a chunk out of Morry’s arm while sword-fighting. He takes Ginger aside to talk about what’s happening to them, and they both ask Gaspode what he knows. He admits to a sort of dog sense that lets him know people are where they’re supposed to be, and that both Victor and Ginger are exactly where they’re meant to be right now. Over in Klatch, two stock dealers try to convince themselves that it’s feasible to deliver 1000 elephants to Holy Wood.
Well, at a point in time where a lot of Hollywood is still undergoing a reckoning for the rampant abuse underpinning all the glamour, it’s extremely clarifying to have Ginger just up and say that when you complain, the people in charge threaten to replace you. It’s true of many occupations, but acting is one of the worst for it. A good part of the reason why these systems run unchecked is because people are terrified of losing their jobs, and with good reason. And that’s how you get Harvey Weinstein, and everyone knows it’s happening, and no one feels like they can do a thing about it.
The bits at the Unseen University are entertaining, but I’m actually pretty surprised that they’re not more frequent? They’re clearly less important to the plot at present, but I keep expecting more wizard shenanigans, so I’m remembering things wrong. Maybe Ridcully just really stuck in my head the first time because he’s such an entertaining guy, so I am over-recalling him. That and everyone thinking about the various ways Riktor liked to measure things, which is endlessly bemusing and also a great odd attribute in general.
Also, as a weird aside, I’ve seen and read my fair share of stories where a character can’t find a place to stay the night and ends up sleeping on the beach. And… I guess if it’s warm enough you could get away with it, but that sounds so flipping uncomfortable to me because beaches at night are usually pretty cold. (And I’d spend the whole night worried about getting crawled on by beach spiders, but that might just be a me thing.)
While giving his first go at a side job, it’s pointed out to Victor that people want more out of a horse-holder than he’s providing—they want some banter and stories, and it dawns on him that the job is also a performance. This particular realization actually hits harder for me than pretty much anything else in this section because people miss this about a large portion of jobs in the world: So many of them demand a level of performance that we don’t give any credit for. Even without the dismal state of the U.S. minimum wage, you’ll always hear things like “Why should I tip the bartender? All they have to do is pour drinks.” Which, first of all, tip your bartenders a lot, you have no idea what they suffer through on a daily basis, but second of all, being a bartender is half performance and it’s exhausting. People want you to listen, but they also want you to talk, but they also want you to remember, but they also want you alert and interesting, and sorry, I’ve already lost the thread of what you were saying remembering three separate drink orders and the ingredients to two cocktails and who just handed me money for change…
Tip generously all the time, but especially if that person said two coherent words to you. It’s all a performance, and performing takes so much energy. Smiling is a performance. Laughing at the right time is a performance. Being helpful and chipper regardless of how you feel is a performance. Everyone who has ever worked customer service deserves an Oscar for Best Acting and comparable pay.
(By the way, I once got let go from a bartending job after I made a fuss over being sexually harassed by a customer… who management continued to allow at the bar after promising he was banned from the premises. They didn’t fire me, just stopped putting me on the schedule. Because if you complain, there’s always someone else to take you place. See? It’s not just tinsel town.)
The contradictions of Hollywood are well laid out here; the fact that it encourages all sorts of people to work together in harmony who would normally never share space; the way everyone is concerned with only their own advancement in the system and no one else’s; the expectation to change to fit that system. Rock’s question about whether he should get his nose done, and the way everyone changes their names, and Dibbler using words like “exotic” when he’s just being racist, they’re all examples of how the system encourages conformity while using what’s “foreign” to make money. They need camels and elephants, Dibbler is lying about where Ginger came from, but Rock is still worried that his nose is too “stereotypically” troll. Even Samuel Goldwyn, the man Silverfish is based on, changed his name for show business, and he was co-owner of one of the biggest studios of the era.
But where’s it all going? We haven’t arrived at that yet. The Boke of the Film will have to tell us.
Asides and little thoughts:
- There’s the bit where Gaffer thinks that he could move the box around by nailing the imps’ feet to the floor, which reminds me so much of that bit in Scrooged when Frank Cross suggests stapling antlers to the heads of mice in their Christmas Carol show.
- Silverfish says “you’ll never work in this town again,” one of the many Hollywood-isms supposedly coined by Samuel Goldwyn.
- Gotta love that little Singing in the Rain shout-out. And Gaspode dreaming of being some sort of Lassie-type actor.
- There’s a bit where Victor encounters a troll that he believes must be female because “She looked slightly like the statues cavemen used to carve of fertility goddesses thousands of years ago, but mostly like a foothill.” And I made a face when I read that because there was scholarship in the ‘90s that suggested that these sort of statues were not created by men at all, but rather by women looking down at their own bodies, explaining the proportions and the fact that these statues often lacked faces. Obviously, there are other (and more recent) interpretations of these statues as well, but this particular description tweaked me, mostly due to the assumed male artist—women have always been artists, and the assumption that men would be the primary purveyors of fertility statues is… a real microcosm of all the problems with how we talk about art.
- Ruby’s subtitled song is a convoluted troll-is version of “Falling In Love,” with the first song being a parody of “Frankie and Johnny.”
- All the talking animals have traits that are liable to remind you of various cartoon counterparts, from the Tom and Jerry rivalry between the cat and mouse, to the Donald Duck-esque incomprehensibility of the duck.
The moments that change your life are the ones that happen suddenly, like the one where you die.
When Mrs. Whitlow was in the grip of acute class consciousness she could create aitches where nature never intended them to be.
A bowl of primal soup was plonked down in front of him.
Ruby blew him a kiss. Detritus blushed the color of fresh-cut garnet.
He gave Gaspode a long, slow stare, which was like challenging a centipede to an arse-kicking contest. Gaspode could outstare a mirror.
“You’ve got a navel in your diamond,” he hazarded.
There was a long drawn-out moment. Gaspode employed it to urinate noisily against a tent peg.
Next week we read up to “It looked far more like Ankh-Morpork than Ankh-Morpork ever had.”