Joan Micklin Silver Clark Whelton - Essay

Clark Whelton

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Although Between the Lines is loaded down with silly dialogue, a poorly developed plot line, and fatuous characters who deserve everything negative that happens to them, the film some-how ends up as a convincing demonstration of why "underground" publications can't—or won't—defend themselves against overground money. Silver shows amateur journalists in a state of mutually destructive hostility. The moral is clear: People who are too disorganized to handle personal problems and hangups haven't got a prayer against a highly organized invader armed with dollars….

Between the Lines never really deals with the complex relations between management and labor in the world of underground journalism, although it does point out that the "outsider" qualities which attract writers to underground papers almost guarantee that they will be unable to organize against a takeover attempt by the straight press. The Mainline succumbs with hardly a whimper. The editor, who early in the film roughs up a puny advertising manager in a dispute over space, cravenly caves in to the first order of the new owner and fires a "troublemaking" writer. No one seems very upset by any of this. Not even the writer. A receptionist resigns, but Between the Lines seems to imply that underground journalists don't care who owns the press.

But of course they do.

Clark Whelton, "Getting Bought: Notes from Overground" (reprinted by permission of The Village Voice and the author; copyright © The Village Voice, Inc., 1977), in The Village Voice, Vol. XXII, No. 18, May 2, 1977, p. 51.