The queen’s duck

Have you ever had a boss who just had to contribute to your project in order to prove their worth? There’s an easy way to counteract that: add a duck.

schmuck-by-nature [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
There’s a story that an old video game about battling chess pieces was plagued with managerial interference. A digital artist, when animating the queen chess piece, deliberately added a pet duck. That duck was a decoy, designed to give the manager something to do. The time came for the artist’s boss to review the work. Sure enough, the boss signed off on all the art except for the duck. The artist had conveniently prepared a duckless version, and things moved forward smoothly for all concerned.

I believe that this is known as “managing up.”

Now, the Battle Chess story may be only a story, but there are actual real-life examples out there. In particular, in film censorship. The 1969 Soviet comedy The Diamond Arm gets away with many things that would have been impossible for other films made in the era of Soviet censorship: prostitution, an intoxicated hero, and disreputable customs officers.

How did the director manage this? He added a nuclear blast to the end of the film, and insisted that it was integral to the whole movie. “Cut anything except this!” he cried. The censors insisted that, nevertheless, it must go… but in exchange, they would spare the rest of the film.

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