Why don’t authors spend as much time researching foreign policy as they do science? Andy Weir got some of the science wrong in The Martian, but just small details. Then he got ALL of the foreign policy so laughably wrong it discredits the rest of the book. He might as well have written that a team of brown and black poor people left a Muslim abandoned on an island, and Donald Trump selflessly contributed all his money to the rescue effort, swimming out himself to bring the guy to America, where the whole team was made citizens.
If you read that, you wouldn’t care how good the Muslim guy’s science and problem solving was, or how funny his quips are – you wouldn’t be able to take the story seriously, nor would you think the overall problem had been resolved in any realistic way.
I don’t mean to bag on Weir, who is a friend of a friend (but who isn’t?)…he’s just following in the footsteps of so many other creatives. Authors and filmmakers strive to get the science and technology and military aspects right. They don’t always achieve it, but they try. Police and medical and legal procedural aspects are sometimes researched and generally only abused when the author/filmmaker needs a lazy way to create or resolve conflict. But whenever diplomacy and foreign affairs are included in a story, it’s clear that not one shred of research has been done, and not one bit of verisimilitude is desired. Why?
Theory #1: No one’s bothered about it before, and no one complains, so why expend the effort?
Theory #2: “I watch the news so I already know everything about this stuff.”
Theory #3: It’s really complex, and not at all sexy. I mean, they don’t even use guns!
Theory #4: “All the people who work for international agreements have to be as dumb, fucked-up, and selfish as Congress, right? I’ll just write them like Congress.”
Theory #5: All of the above.
Foreign affairs practitioners, be they the diplomats and military and espionage professionals ofthe JSOC and the JTTF (as character-assassinated by Marvel’s Captain America: Civil War), Foreign Service Officers (even if you assume that a guy wouldn’t know he was fucking a dude, to give Cronenberg’s M. Butterfly its premise, no FSO is going to exclaim “I got promoted to Third Secretary!”), or the magical science and technology liaisons of the world’s space programs in The Martian, are the Rodney Dangerfields of fiction. They get no respect.
The work, and the world they work in is incredibly complex, and by failing to show the same respect for the profession that they show to the military, our media tells the public that it’s OK to be uninformed or misinformed, and OK to disregard foreign affairs. Then you get Obama (at best), who had to learn it on the job and never really undid the mess left by Bush, or you get Trump (I’m not going to say “at worst,” because while Trump’s presence as the GOP nominee is unimaginably bad, it can always get worse), who can sell the idea of a wall along the US-Mexico border, paid for by Mexico as a possible thing.
Please. Don’t include the foreign affairs career in your work if you aren’t going to treat it with the same respect you’d show any other element.
ETA: A friend reminded me that this is one of the two reasons I quit watching Black Mirror (the other was the gaspingly atrocious misogyny): the unrealistic depictions of politicians and leaders in service of the plot. For the story to happen that way, the creators replaced the experts with characters who had the professional expertise of a rutabaga.