Thursday, March 10, 2016

The Problem with Rotten Sources

I've recently made a habit out of watching poorly made horror films and figuring out how I can apply something from the subpar plots, weak dialogue, and brief moments of morality to my own writing.

Naturally, The Exorcism of Molly Hartley was a solid film to add to my toolbox.

Heralded by several reviewers as “the sequel nobody asked for,” The Exorcism of Molly Hartley is situated nearly six years in the future of its predecessor (The Haunting of Molly Hartley). As you could easily guess, both films follow the life of a young woman named Molly who, with parents involved with the occult, has faced strange, frightening, and even dangerous encounters with the supposed supernatural since her eighteenth birthday. Six or more years of that stuff and you'd be making this face, too:

I guess this is when I should tell you:
  1. The Exorcism of Molly Hartley is unrated, and for good reason. Check out the content advisory guide before watching and always make smart decisions when choosing to view a film.

  2. I might be giving away a few spoilers (okay, I’m giving away most of the plot, but the film is so poorly made that it might not affect your film experience anyway).
To make a long and unnecessary story short, Molly Hartley is dealing with some serious demons and she needs a higher authority to help her clean out that soul house. She has been checked into an asylum after some hiccups and coincidentally, a fallen priest named John Barrow has, too.

Molly’s doctor, Laurie, barters with John—if he can fix Molly up, she’ll sign his release papers. John is naturally interested, so he is given permission to meet with a chaplain and figure out what he needs to do to help Molly out.

This is where I should mention that John’s intentions are good, like most of our intentions are when we approach a piece of writing. He isn’t looking for trouble, and he certainly isn’t looking to be a hero. He just wants a slice of redemption, just like we want that beautiful “A” grade.  

John listens to the chaplain and, word-for-word, does exactly what he tells him. It’s no surprise (or maybe it is?) that he “saves” Molly, earns his freedom, and feels good about a job well-done.

Unfortunately, the story doesn’t end here.

Things start getting weird at the asylum, and before anyone can piece together what is happening, we find out that the chaplain isn’t necessary a chaplain—he’s a dirty member of the dark side. Everything the chaplain has been telling John hasn’t been to save Molly, but instead to prepare her for the chaplain’s creepy dark side ritual. He’s a no-good, rotten source that has now spoiled all of John’s hard work. John is devastated. Molly is devastated. I was devastated. I’m sure you’re a bit devastated, too.

But isn’t that how it is with sources?

Too often, we rely on rotten sources as the foundation of our knowledge. Weird websites without accreditation or legitimate authors, interviews with people who have nothing to do with the topic, Prezi pages where high school students have put together a list of “symbols” for the book we need to write a five-page paper on, and the list goes on.

While these sources might not seem like much of a horror story, consider this: What happens when the professor goes to sign your release papers (AKA assigns a grade to your essay) and realizes that everything you have written has been tainted by incorrect information and misguided material?

At the end of the film, everyone realized that John had been duped, but he still had to spend the rest of his energy trying to fix everything had he had done wrong.  If he would have spent a little more time researching his sources the first time around, the movie could have ended nearly forty-five minutes sooner and John, Laurie, and Molly would have all been better off.

The quality of our sources define the quality of our words. Instead of skimming through Google search and clicking on dead-end links meant to fool you, throw those rotten sources out of the window and check out some stronger, more reliable sources.

Search Booth Library’s collection of in-house and interlibrary loan sources here.

Search Booth Library’s database collections here.

Use the more academic-friendly version of Google here.

For more information of finding credible sources, check out the University of Illinois's guide here.

Check out Booth Library's user-friendly research guide here.

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