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How to avoid being (mis-)typecast

You know the kind of person who spends entire movies pointing out anachronistic period detail or other "goofs"? Gems such as, "that kind of hat wasn't produced until the 1930's" or "pah! no hacker would ever use a microsoft ergonomic keyboard!" Of course you do. In fact, if you'd been sat next to me during Die Another Day, you would have heard me muttering all the way through the "fencing" scenes.

Well, anyway, do I have a site for you. Mark Simonson's Son of Typecasting is a page dedicated to pointing out anachronistic font usage in movies and TV shows. The most recent post details font misuse in the Scorcese epic Gangs of New York, which, despite being set exclusively in the 1860's, features a number of twentieth-century typefaces:

Here we see Bernhard Antique (1937) with two overly-distressed-looking 19th century wood types. Notice the straight apostrophe in the bottom line. Straight apostrophes and quote marks did not exist in typefaces until the advent of digital type in the 1980s. It’s a computer thing, not a typographic thing... This one is set in URW Egyptienne (1950s) and ITC Benguiat (1977). Benguiat is a particularly poor choice since it is based on the Art Nouveau style of around 1900.
URW Egyptienne! The fools!

Seriously, though, I'm actually really quite taken by Mr. Simonson's webpage. I'm always impressed when someone is able to display such complete mastery of their chosen field, and I suspect I'd be extremely hard pressed to come up with an area in which I was able to expound at such length and with such obvious authority. (For the 15-year-old me it would be Soviet and NATO military aircraft, which I was all over like a cheap suit for a while there... but that was some time ago now.)

So do check it out, and its predecessor, Typecasting, which is more of the glorious same.

Oh - and props to him for his praise of Wes Anderson's Futura obsession in The Royal Tenenbaums, which was indeed a joy to behold.

[Link via]

Posted by chris at October 12, 2005 01:46 PM | Permalink


Sad is the word you are looking for to describe these people, Chris; sad.

I realise the answer to the question 'but, who cares?' is obviously 'they do', however they are still very, very sad.

Posted by: tokyobogue at October 13, 2005 10:56 AM

I don't know, I rather admire that kind of eye for detail. And the author himself admits that "Anachronistic typography in movies is certainly not one of the world's pressing problems" so it's not as if he's completely blind to the fact that some people might be less than captivated by the misuse of ITC Galliard (1978) in a movie set in 1973.

More power to him, says I.

Posted by: chris at October 13, 2005 08:01 PM


Posted by: tokyobogue at October 13, 2005 09:09 PM

Everyone needs something to take that seriously.

It's just if you can name every person that played for Man United in the years 1974-1984 you're considered a fan but if you can name every actor ever to star in a movie with Kevin Bacon, from 1978's 'Animal House' right up to Where the Truth Lies you're called sad.

Personally any time anyone in the movies mentions Genetics I seize up internally because I know the stench of pseudo-scientific bullshit is about to assail my nostrils.

Star Trek had the right idea.

Its not often you'll see that sentence anywhere near me but the writers would set up a situation, say the Enterprise was in a force field made out of tapioca and write *insert techie stuff here* for the solution. They'd then pass it off to their room of trained science gibbons who would come up with an explanation that wouldn't have all the geeks rising up in protest.

Well, rising up in protest and then sitting back down on the couch, breathing heavily.

Posted by: Rob at October 14, 2005 01:09 AM

Admit it, Rob, you are the Oracle of Bacon in human form.

Posted by: chris at October 14, 2005 02:00 AM

In general, in Star Trek, you would get a very "techie" explanation, followed by a layman's analogy. Thus:
"We need to supercharge our dilithium drives and vent them all at once towards the sides of the tapioca field, thus causing a magnetic flux of such magnitude it may realign the ionic composition of the containment force... kind of like puncturing a balloon from the inside"

Posted by: Daniel at October 22, 2005 09:22 AM

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