July 15, 2008

The real problem with Wikipedia ...

... is not its reliability, which isn't bad. Instead, in its obsession with being trustworthy, it is determined to lack style, to wage a relentless war against insight and panache. In other words, it's boring.

Obviously, Wikipedia doesn't pay writers, so it typically gets what it pays for in terms of quality writing. Worse is its institutional focused on exterminating whatever bits of good prose get into Wikipedia in the first place. For example, a few years ago I was researching the long-running Mike Judge animated sit-com King of the Hill. In the middle of Wikipedia's informative but ho-hum posting was a 900 word essay on the social themes of the show that stood out for its grace, wit, and acumen. About halfway through it, I realized this part had undoubtedly been written by Kevin Michael Grace, The Ambler.

Tonight, I checked back to see how badly the self-appointed editors had sucked the life out of Kevin's essay, only to find it was completely gone. Typical.

In contrast, for the last week I've been reading my 1971 Encyclopedia Britannica's enormous article on "World Wars." Individual sections are written by authors identified only by their initials, such as "B.H.L.H." The corporate style is fairly terse and stodgy; still, it's an exciting read, in part because of the creativity of authors. For example, B.H.L.H. commented on the British forces' capture of Jerusalem from the Ottoman Turks in late 1917, after starting in Egypt a long year before:
"As a moral success the feat was valuable, but from the strategic point of view it seemed a long way round to the goal. If Turkey be pictured as a bent old man, the British, after missing their blow at his head (Istanbul) and omitting to strike at his heart (Alexandretta), had now resigned themselves to swallowing him from the feet upward, like a python dragging its endless length across the desert."

B.H.L.H. is of course Capt. Basil H. Liddell Hart (1895-1970), one of the best known and most controversial of military historians and innovators, who contributed to the development of tank warfare. In its clunking style, Wikipedia explains:
"He was Military Correspondent of the Daily Telegraph from 1925-1935, and The Times, 1935-1939. Later he began publishing military histories and biographies of great commanders who, he thought, were great because they illustrated the principles of good strategy. Among these were Scipio Africanus Major, William Tecumseh Sherman and T. E. Lawrence."

I especially like the "great commanders who, he thought, were great" part. I would bet that one man can't write that badly himself -- he needs editors looking over his shoulder to stick in the "he thought" part to keep it all neutral and reliable.

Is B.H.L.H. a completely reliable guide to events in which he played a minor role and later played a major role in interpreting? Of course not. Still, his writing is interesting and memorable, unlike Wikipedia's.

In case you are wondering, I have no first hand experience with writing or editing anything for Wikipedia. My closest experience is watching my 12-year-old son write half of one long Wikipedia article.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

24 comments:

Garland said...

An example: the Wiki pages for two shows I've been watching, The Wire and Firefly, are, as of this writing, great. They have some pretty detailed synopses, which are useful for watching a show as complex as the Wire.

But there's a suggestion on the Wire episodes page to merge the individual pages onto the overall episodes page, which sounds to me like it means cutting them down. On the first Firefly episode page there is a note complaining that there is too much plot summary.

Well, I don't see who is being hurt by a few hundred words of plot summary. It's not like space is an issue in it? It doesn't take long to scroll past the few paragraphs of synopsis, and that's mainly why anyone would be at those particular pages anyway. And again, the synopsis is helpful when watching a lot of complicated shows at irregular intervals. Or for that matter understanding what just happened when some character was mumbling or using jargon or argot. (...or the writer blew it and the scene isn't clear.)

And anyway their campaign against interesting writing doesn't even succeed in purging it of bias. It's plenty biased, mainly as the entries get more political. It's impossible not to be biased if only from the information and links that are chosen or not chosen.

Anyway, try as they might, it seems that Wikipedia will always be a place where the entry for like Cobra Commander is many thousands of words long and the entry for like Raskolnikov is a few hundred. So they shouldn't take themselves so seriously.

headache said...

Wiki is great for a quick intro into Math, Science and Engineering topics, i.e. in order to get a feel of what's going on. But you cannot use it as reference because any serious Prof. would get irate. I have not bothered consulting it on hot topics such as liberalism, AA, WWII etc. because obviously by virtue of being such a public media it is going to be heavily influenced by the PC police and thus both boring and meaningless. For that kind of stuff I rather come visit iSteve.

Anonymous said...

An interesting example of the Wikipedia mentality is to be found in the entry about The Big Sleep.

It's stated in a trivia note that not even Chandler knew how one of the characters - Owen Taylor - died. In the "Talk" page some guy who'd actually bothered to read the book pointed out that what happened to Taylor is in fact explained in the novel. He was then slammed for doing "original research."

Anonymous said...

Steve-

Pick up a copy of John Mearsheimer's book on Liddell Hart and then tell me what you think of him.

Wikipedia has been an interesting social science experiment. They've abandoned almost all of their initial quasi-anarchistic ideals, cliques conspire to slant articles a a certain way, anonymous authorship is now instantly suspect and usually grounds for deletion in and of itself..I could go on.

I made a few edits to the page on Hugh Latimer, noting that he'd presided over a few burnings of Catholics: the article had been excessively laudatory beforehand, in my opinion. Despite citing sources, my additions were deleted because of my IP address-the editor who removed it claimed I'd defaced other articles before. Since this was the first time I'd edited a Wikipedia article, this wasn't true, but I was using a ip address handed out by Comcast, so my guess is it was handed out to someone else in the past. At any rate, it kind of annoyed me that they didn't even bother to check references.

The really funny thing is that I put the same information in another article, about John Forrest, who was burned by Latimer, and it's still there.

Planetary Archon Mouse

Ian Lewis said...

The problem with Wikipedia is that it did not go fully with Hayeks Libertarian Free-Market: NO PRICING.

Users can not picka specific version of, say, the entry on Da Vinci and say that they prefer that one over all others, including more recent ones.

Pricing would make entries on political issues very interesting. Just think of the two very different, yet highly priced, entries you would find on Ronald Reagan.

Noumenon said...

You can go back and look at the old versions of wikipedia pages, if you know approximately what time Ambler's essay was in the article.

To me it sounds like some fanboy thing that didn't belong.

Michael said...

Long ago I read up a little about the history of encyclopedias... Very interesting. Originally they were much more quirky and personal than they are today. We think of 'em today as NECESSARILY aspiring to be objective, definitive, etc. That's supposedly just part of what it is. But that wasn't always the case. Early ones were understood to have personality. And an individual might write one, so it would be anything but "objective" -- it would have an actual point of view (and maybe even some style). I have no idea when the mania for objective and boring reference works took over, or why. Any hunches from anyone?

JohnB said...

I think you are missing the point. When I first heard of Wikipedia I was convinced that it would never work, that it would be trashed by vandals and filled with garbage. Given that, I have been absolutely astonished at how successful and useful it has turned out to be. (This is yet another illustration of my lack of a truly deep understanding of the Internet, the sort that might have allowed me to make a billion dollars off of it).

The thing is, the usefulness of Wikipedia is a direct result of its absolute focus on trustworthiness, which is given priority over everything else. I think Wikipedia is absolutely right in this! I have edited Wikipedia articles (including some with political content), I have followed discussions and bitter arguments over content between people with strong partisan opinions, and I don't seen any way around it. The top priority has to be to enforce the Neutral Point of View, otherwise things will just fall apart. Wikipedia is doing a rather good job in this regard, and as far as I am concerned the issue of style is such a distant second that it is barely on the radar.

(BTW, whatever else you might say about Wikipedia, the articles are *not* PC. Take a look at the Race and Intelligence article for example).

Half Sigma said...

Editing Wikipedia is one of the things the protagonist in the Weird Al Yankovic parody song White & Nerdy does.

Bodkin Adams said...

Steve, admit that the reason you're upset is that Wikipedia have revealed that your middle name is Ernest. I'm assuming it's true.

Bill said...

Here's an article on Wikipedia's bureaucratic culture:

Writing Wikipedia for Seattle

Udolpho said...

Wikipedia is the most dreadful monument to nerd excess I know of. It's long since been overrun with aspies--angry, friendless nerds whose sole reason to get out of bed in the morning is to grind all wit and insight out of their watchlisted articles and to engage in petty turf wars over reversions. It's too late to fix--the aspies are in charge and they'll devote insane amounts of time to getting their way.

If you've ever read a nerd argument in the old days of Usenet, you know what you're in for: lots of passive-aggressive, semi-autistic hostility and a sort of crunching syntax of words and phrases fit together like Lego blocks. Graceless and lacking perspective.

A symptom of the aspie problem is the broad use of Wikipedia as a pop culture trivia sink. Aspies of course love trivia and going into mind-numbing detail about everything, so you get extensive synopses of whatever television series they watch, comic books they read, Japanese cartoons they jerk off to, etc. Lists of Star Trek characters? Aspies KNOW this belongs in a general purpose encyclopedia.

Of course one does every now and then run into a patch of decent writing, that's how you know you've found one of zillions of copy-pasted passages. Plagiarism is rife in the people's encyclopedia as nerds treadmill through articles like they are playing World of Warcraft in order to eventually level up into a quasi-official position of authority.

It's a parasitic drain on professionally written encyclopedias (which it cribs from constantly). It's a social experiment gone awry. It can't be fixed. Wikipedia really should be wiped off the face of the Internet.

Udolpho said...

Wikipedia is the most dreadful monument to nerd excess I know of. It's long since been overrun with aspies--angry, friendless nerds whose sole reason to get out of bed in the morning is to grind all wit and insight out of their watchlisted articles and to engage in petty turf wars over reversions. It's too late to fix--the aspies are in charge and they'll devote insane amounts of time to getting their way.

If you've ever read a nerd argument in the old days of Usenet, you know what you're in for: lots of passive-aggressive, semi-autistic hostility and a sort of crunching syntax of words and phrases fit together like Lego blocks. Graceless and lacking perspective.

A symptom of the aspie problem is the broad use of Wikipedia as a pop culture trivia sink. Aspies of course love trivia and going into mind-numbing detail about everything, so you get extensive synopses of whatever television series they watch, comic books they read, Japanese cartoons they jerk off to, etc. Lists of Star Trek characters? Aspies KNOW this belongs in a general purpose encyclopedia.

Of course one does every now and then run into a patch of decent writing, that's how you know you've found one of zillions of copy-pasted passages. Plagiarism is rife in the people's encyclopedia as nerds treadmill through articles like they are playing World of Warcraft in order to eventually level up into a quasi-official position of authority.

It's a parasitic drain on professionally written encyclopedias (which it cribs from constantly). It's a social experiment gone awry. It can't be fixed. Wikipedia really should be wiped off the face of the Internet.

Dog of Justice said...

But you cannot use it as reference because any serious Prof. would get irate.

One of my statistics professors encourages us to use Wikipedia as a reference. Of course, this is just when taking his classes, I wouldn't cite Wikipedia in a paper!

James Kabala said...

If one clicks on the history page, one can read old versions of any Wikipedia page. The "Themes and Analysis" section has changed so many times that one cannot know for sure,which version, if any, was written by Grace.

This version of "Themes and Analysis"from August 2006 - http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=King_of_the_Hill&diff=72703441&oldid=72557951 - seems the most detailed and best-written, and therefore the most likely to be the version Steve saw, but it does not seem to be the work of a single writer, as portions of it can be found in earlier versions. This version, whether written by Grace or someone else, seems to have lasted with only minor modifications (chiefly adding more subheadings) until it was deleted on January 2, 2008. An enterprising soul can always cut and paste it back in.

" Anyway, try as they might, it seems that Wikipedia will always be a place where the entry for like Cobra Commander is many thousands of words long and the entry for like Raskolnikov is a few hundred. So they shouldn't take themselves so seriously."

Very true. At least Raskolnikov has an entry, more than many great characters from literature can say.

Tom said...

Ah, if only it had been

"great commanders who, he thought[citation needed], were great"

Φ said...

Where can we get a copy of the Ambler's expunged article on "King of the Hill"?

Dutch Boy said...

American Renaissance just had an unflattering article about Wikipedia and its PC stance about anything to do with race. Objectivity goes out the window when it comes to anything un-PC.

Anonymous said...

When I was in school, you couldn't use **any** encyclopedia as a source for research. They were strictly for getting a quick overview. Encyclopedias are tertiary, or worse, sources; anyone who would cite one as a source (distinct from referring to one for additional reading) isn't worth reading.

Anonymous said...

Steve - yet again you've proved yourself! The turgid wiki style is something I think I had noticed at some subliminal level and youve made me notice it at a conscious level.

I think its one of your talents 'giving a name' to things many of us kind of notice, a vague itch, a nagging doubt and you put into words.

Noumenon said...

James Kabala, thanks for searching out that link to Ambler's revision. It didn't really need to be removed, I think.

Style is unnecessary, Wikipedia fascinates with facts. I don't like Steve's 1911 example at all because all that style means the objectivity of the piece is totally questionable. I'd rather read astonishing-but-true facts, presented dryly, than some guy so taken with his snake metaphor that he's leaving out stuff that doesn't fit.

Wikipedia informs me that Boomhauer's voice was inspired by an angry Beavis and Butt-head viewer who left an answering machine message for Mike Judge. Who needs style when you have stuff like that.

HughRistik said...

As someone who has written and researched Wikipedia articles, I can confirm what johnb says:

The thing is, the usefulness of Wikipedia is a direct result of its absolute focus on trustworthiness, which is given priority over everything else. I think Wikipedia is absolutely right in this! I have edited Wikipedia articles (including some with political content), I have followed discussions and bitter arguments over content between people with strong partisan opinions, and I don't seen any way around it. The top priority has to be to enforce the Neutral Point of View, otherwise things will just fall apart. Wikipedia is doing a rather good job in this regard, and as far as I am concerned the issue of style is such a distant second that it is barely on the radar.

The various policies do dry up the language of Wikipedia, but on average, they do improve the accuracy and objectivity of articles; without them, bias would reign.

Udolpho said...

Another example of great writing in Wikipedia:

Help us improve Wikipedia by supporting it financially.

List of characters from The Facts of Life
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

This is a list of characters from the NBC sitcom The Facts of Life.
Contents
[hide]

* 1 Edna Garrett
* 2 Natalie Green
* 3 Jo Polniaczek
* 4 Tootie Ramsey
* 5 Blair Warner
* 6 Beverly Ann Stickle

[edit] Edna Garrett

Edna Ann Garrett (better known to television viewers as Mrs. Garrett or Mrs. G) was played by actress Charlotte Rae from 1978 to 1986.

Edna Garrett was the youngest child in a large family, born and raised on a farm near Appleton, Wisconsin. Her exact age was never disclosed during the series, but on several occasions, it was hinted or implied that she was somewhere in her fifties. On Diff'rent Strokes, she was the housekeeper to the Drummond family in New York City. In 1979, she took a job as den mother at the Eastland Academy in Peekskill, New York (Kimberly Drummond attended Eastland). Over the years, Mrs. Garrett's role on The Facts of Life changed. At first she was merely a live-in supervisor for the girls of Eastland; in the second season she became their in-house dietitian who managed the school's cafeteria.

Mrs. Garrett was married and divorced; one early episode showed Mr. Garrett coming to town to woo her and reconcile, but he was unsuccessful because Edna felt that his gambling problem would always be an obstacle. She had two sons, a singer/songwriter/carpenter named Alex and an accountant named Raymond. Raymond helped her raise funds and secure commercial space so she could open her own gourmet food shop, Edna's Edibles, in the fall of 1983. The girls, who had previously lived with Mrs. Garrett at Eastland, and worked with her in the kitchen to pay off various restitution-related expenses (see below), moved into an apartment above "Edna's Edibles" and continued to work for Mrs. Garrett in the shop (this time on the payroll). In the fall of 1985, Edna's Edibles was extensively damaged by fire; it was rebuilt as a gift shop called "Over Our Heads." Since the insurance on Edna's Edibles had lapsed by the time of the fire, the girls contributed their insurance claim checks to help rebuild, effectively making Mrs. Garrett and the girls equal partners in the business.

Edna Garrett was a mentor to the girls at Eastland, functioning in loco parentis. At times the girls would take her for granted, and forget that Edna herself had problems. Many times Edna would lash out at the girls when they got careless with her. In one episode, she actually fires them from "Edna's Edibles, when their irresponsible behavior ends up costing her $500 in fines after a dismal health inspection. She hires them back the next day when the girls promise her that they will be more responsible at their jobs. She also fires George, when he falls behind on his work constructing "Over Our Heads," but they later make up. Mrs. Garrett is a Democrat. She is also against censorship, such as book banning.

Mrs. Garrett re-married in 1986. She and her new husband, Bruce Gaines (Robert Mandan), rejoined the Peace Corps to work in eastern Africa. (Charlotte Rae did not want to continue with the series). Edna was replaced by her sister, Beverly Ann Stickle (Cloris Leachman). However, in the reunion movie that aired in 2001, Mrs. Garrett reunited with the three girls (Blair, Natalie, and Tootie) at a hotel owned by Blair and which was run by her son Raymond. It was also revealed that Mrs. Garrett and Tootie were widows.

[edit] Natalie Green

Natalie Green was played by Mindy Cohn. Natalie's best friend on the program was Tootie, as they were close in age. Natalie's age throughout the series was approximately 12 to 21.

Natalie's most defining physical attribute was that she was overweight. However, Natalie had a healthy self-image and was once quoted as saying, "Who wants to be a skinny pencil? I'd rather be a happy Magic Marker!"

Natalie was Jewish and her faith was featured in several episodes. In one she celebrated Hanukkah while the others celebrated Christmas. Her heritage was highlighted when Dr. Green, her father, died unexpectedly; Natalie's bottled-up grief was a continuing storyline for several episodes.

Even though she did not fit the mold of a traditional beauty, Natalie was involved in many storylines regarding sex. In an early episode, she dated a boy who spread a rumor that Natalie was easy. In another episode, whilst coming home from a costume party she was nearly the victim of a sexual assault. Toward the end of the series, she became the first of the girls to have sex when she slept with her boyfriend Snake on their one-year anniversary.

Natalie was a budding writer and wrote for the Eastland School newspaper. She graduated Eastland in 1985. However, she doesn't go to college immediately and takes a year off to travel across the country on a bus. Her family and friends were initially dismayed, because she turned down an admission offer from Princeton University to go "Greyhound." After a year, Natalie decides to attend Langley College, and became a reporter for the local newspaper in Peekskill. She went to New York City towards the end of the series and decided to stay and pursue her writing career. On the episode in which Natalie visits the SOHO loft she will eventually call home, her future roommates include Richard Grieco and David Spade. (The episode, which aired in 1988, was originally set up for Mindy Cohn to transition into a spinoff series, but the plans never materialized).

Natalie was the only one of the girls who was adopted. In one episode, Blair successfully tracked down Natalie's birth mother, but Natalie — who realized that her adoptive parents were her true parents, even though they weren't biologically related to her — refused to answer the phone and hear the results of the search, instead inviting her friends to taste the cake "my mother made." However, thanks in part to an argument with her adopted mother during a 1982 episode, the subject arose once again, and it would be her adopted mother who would finally reveal to Natalie who her biological mother was. Natalie tracked her down and met her, but as before, she still considered her adopted mother, the mother who had raised her, her true mother, even after sharing with her the meeting she had with her biological mother.

[edit] Jo Polniaczek

Joanna Marie "Jo" Polniaczek was played by Nancy McKeon. Jo was first introduced in 1980, arriving at the Eastland Academy on her motorcycle. Her age throughout the series was roughly 15 to 23.

She almost immediately formed a dislike for Blair Warner; Jo found Blair stuck-up, and Blair found Jo classless and manly. In a memorable introduction, Blair introduced herself to Jo, to which Jo replied, "Charmed; I'm Gloria Vanderbilt."

Jo convinced the gang to steal the school van and use fake IDs to buy drinks at a bar. The van was wrecked and the girls were forced to work in the Eastland cafeteria to make up the repair costs. The girls were also placed on house probation and were forced to live in a room adjoining Mrs. Garrett's for a year; when the punishment expired, all four girls found other living arrangements, but were responsible for cleaning and painting their former room. While painting, their friendship began to rekindle, culminating into an all-out paint fight, which severely damaged the hardwood floor, requiring expensive repairs. The girls, once again close friends, decided to move back in together and continued to work in the kitchen to pay off the bill for the damaged floor.

Blair's attitude toward Jo worsened when Blair's boyfriend asked Jo to a country club dance. However, Blair stood up for Jo when her would-be love interest tried to assault and humiliate her on the ninth green. When asked why Blair stood up for Jo, Blair stated, "At least when I insult her, I know what I'm talking about!" Another problem for Jo came when she shoplifted a blouse for Mrs. Garrett's birthday; Mrs. Garrett was subsequently arrested when she went to exchange the blouse for the smaller size, not knowing the garment was stolen.

Early on, Jo's sailor boyfriend, Eddie Brennan (actor Clark Brandon), came to Eastland and convinced her to marry him. They planned to elope to West Virginia, where the marriage age was lower, but Mrs. Garrett and Blair tracked her down at a nearby motel to stop her. Jo had by that point already begun to change her mind when she realized just how difficult teenage marriage would be. Jo returned to Peekskill without Eddie. Eddie visited again the following season, but things had changed between them. They were moving in different directions, and keeping the long distance relationship going was proving to be very difficult, so they decided to see other people for the time being. Eddie returned late in the fifth season, now an officer in the Marines, but Tootie discovers he had a brief marriage to a girl in Italy.

Many of Jo's stories revolved around her tomboyish ways. Jo got into verbal spars with girls who didn't think she was "feminine enough," and boys (including some of her boyfriends) were threatened by her mechanical aptitude, which she displayed by getting a job at a local garage.

In the later seasons, Jo's tomboyish image softened considerably, and was rarely raised as an issue again. Her relationship with Blair became more friendly as time went on (Jo would even refer to Blair as her best friend by the last season), although the two still argued, traded wisecracks and made fun of each other from time to time. In one flashback-heavy episode, Jo relayed her latest ongoing spat with Blair to a computer, which analyzed the data and concluded that Jo should stop being friends with Blair. At the end of the episode, Jo quietly threw the computer's printout away. In the last season, Jo married Rick Bonner, a concert musician, and she asked Blair to be her maid of honor.

Jo did not appear at the reunion TV special because it was stated that she was now a police officer and was working; however, her husband and daughter did attend.

[edit] Tootie Ramsey

Dorothy "Tootie" Ramsey was played by Kim Fields. Fields portrayed Tootie from the ages of 11 to 20 (approximately).

Tootie was the youngest of the main characters and the only African American girl. She and her family hailed from Washington, D.C. She attended Eastland Academy for most of the show's run. Tootie's most-remembered attributes were her penchant for rollerskates (at first used by Facts of Life producers to mask Fields' short stature), her gossipy nature, and her braces. In real life, Kim Fields had to wear braces for three years, finally having them removed in 1984. A lot of Tootie's gossip got her and her friends in trouble, and she was noted for her catch phrase, "We are in trou-ble!"

Tootie was involved in many very special storylines. For example, Tootie befriended a boy named Fred who insisted that she only associate with black people, in an attempt to realize "her true roots." In another episode, Tootie was chosen by a photographer to model for newspaper advertisements but was instead lured into a borderline kiddie porn operation and was saved by Mrs. Garrett at the last minute. During a trip to New York City, Tootie was almost strong-armed into prostitution before Mrs. Garrett found her and took her home. In another episode, she struggled with the race issue again when her best friend Natalie dated a relative of hers and Tootie intervened, causing conflict between Natalie and herself.

Tootie helped Mrs. Garrett with her bakery, Edna's Edibles, after school and then worked full-time at the gift shop Over Our Heads after she graduated from high school in 1986.

In the 2001 television movie The Facts of Life Reunion, Tootie, who had married longtime boyfriend Jeff with whom she'd had a daughter, was now widowed, and had become a successful talk show host under her legal first name, and asked people not to call her "Tootie" anymore.

[edit] Blair Warner

Blair Warner was played by Lisa Whelchel. Her age throughout the series was roughly 14 to 23 (an episode in the 1985-1986 season centered around her 21st birthday).

At the beginning of the series in 1979, Blair was played as very rebellious. She was seen smoking cigarettes, drinking beer, and had many boyfriends and was looking to lose her virginity, unlike a lot of the other girls she shared a house with. When the show was retooled in 1980, all instances of Blair's rebellion were either dropped or given to the new character of Jo Polniaczek and she was rewritten as an unashamedly spoiled "Daddy's Girl," whose business alone could have kept Bloomingdale's and Neiman Marcus afloat.

Blair was very vain and believed that she was perfect in every way. To her credit, Blair got good grades, won school awards, was crowned Harvest Queen for three years running, and even convinced a boy to move from Switzerland to attend school near her (when asked about it, Blair dryly remarked, "I've done it before.") Blair's delusions of grandeur were usually played for laughs when Natalie, Tootie or Jo would make sarcastic remarks about her "beauty", "perfect" personal or her "naturally blond hair". Blair felt she was more important than other, "regular" people because she was the heiress to her father's multi-million dollar business, Warner Textile Mills. Any crisis at Eastland would usually prompt a suggested solution from Blair, preceded by her catch phrase: "I just had another one of my brilliant ideas!" She eventually developed a more down-to-earth attitude, especially after she suffered a car accident after falling asleep at the wheel that left her slightly scarred and spoiled her "perfect beauty".

Blair's parents (played by soap opera actors Nicolas Coster and Marj Dusay) were divorced in 1973, and although she didn't usually show it, Blair wished that she had a nuclear family like all of her friends. Later in the series, her mother remarried (for the fourth time) and gave birth to a baby girl (Bailey). Blair had misgivings about her mother's pregnancy but fell in love with baby Bailey as soon as she laid eyes on her.

Another secret Blair kept from her friends was that her cousin Geri had cerebral palsy. She was not embarrassed by her cousin, but rather jealous of her, since Blair was used to being the center of attention. Mrs. Garrett told Blair not to lash out against Geri because of her jealousy, and Blair joined Geri, a successful comedian, onstage at an impromptu comedy show Geri threw at the Eastland Academy.

Blair attended Eastland, and upon graduating in 1983, attended nearby Langley College. She worked with Mrs. Garrett at Edna's Edibles and, later, Over Our Heads. In the final episode of the series, Blair purchases a financially troubled Eastland Academy and turns it into a co-educational school.

Blair's chief foil was Jo. The two made no secret about their dislike for one another – Jo found Blair spoiled and snobbish, while Blair thought Jo was classless and crude. However, more than once Blair stuck up for and stood by Jo in her time of need (and vice versa), and eventually the two developed a much friendlier relationship.

[edit] Beverly Ann Stickle

Beverly Ann Stickle was played by Cloris Leachman.

Beverly Ann was first seen in the fall of 1986, after Mrs. Garrett married and moved to Africa to serve in the Peace Corps. In reality, actress Charlotte Rae's contract had expired and she did not want to continue with the series. At the time, The Facts of Life was still lucrative for NBC, and NBC president Brandon Tartikoff chose to renew — but only with a new mother figure at the helm.

Beverly Ann, Mrs. Garrett's divorced sister, moved in with the girls as Mrs. Garrett wanted someone to keep an eye on them as she had. She became the property owner for Mrs. Garrett's house and the malt shop, Over Our Heads. Beverly Ann's role expanded from confidante to mother when she decided to legally adopt Over Our Heads worker Andy (Mackenzie Astin), who was being shuffled from foster home to foster home.

Shortly after Beverly Ann's debut, the ratings for the series declined heavily. Although The Facts of Life was an aging series, some fans choose to place blame at Cloris Leachman for the show's demise. Viewers at jumptheshark.com name Beverly Ann's presence as the #1 reason that The Facts of Life jumped the shark.
Retrieved from "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_characters_from_The_Facts_of_Life"
Categories: Lists of television characters | Diff'rent Strokes characters
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TCO said...

In contrast, check out the writing in Wikitruth:

http://www.wikitruth.info/index.php?title=Wikitruth:Introduction

which is incisive and fun.