#ThinkpieceThursday – Genre Is Meaningless

Thinkpiece Thursday

I am a screenwriting heretic.  I don’t believe in many of the so-called foundational tenets of screenwriting.  For example, I don’t believe genre is a helpful term for writers.

Genre is mostly style, tone, and setting.  It’s a marketing tool.  It’s designed to help people scanning Netflix or Hulu for something to watch that fits their mood.

The Silence of the Lambs, on a streaming service, could be found under keywords: detective, crime, serial killer (sub-genre), mystery, thriller, or even coming of age (it’s about a young woman who is assigned her first professional job).  How is that mix helpful to a writer?

A detective story sometimes involves a murder, but not always. A thriller often involves a crime, but not always. A serial killer story sometimes involves a mystery, but not always.

This is very hazy ambiguous stuff when great writing is always about specificity.  What to do instead?

Apocalypse Now and Chinatown would never be located on the same “genre” shelf, but they both have the same emotional structure.  To me, emotional structure is key.

Both of these films feature a protagonist trying to find the truth about one simple thing (AN: where is Colonel Kurtz? CT: Who killed Hollis Mulwray?).

Over the course of the film, the protagonist finds out the truth about a much larger thing (N: The moral quagmire that was the war in Vietnam. CT: The corruption in City of Los Angeles water system.).

And in the end, the protagonist finds out the truth about himself (AN: Captain Willard could easily become Colonel Kurtz and, in fact, Kurtz’s followers want him to do just that. Willard looks into his own heart of darkness. CT: Jake Gittes lost two women he loved because he refused to ask for help.).

In Chinatown, we know Gittes has a strong relationship with the press because he threatens the bureaucrat with exposure in the press.  He could expose Noah Cross publically.  His ex-partner is a decent cop.  Gittes admits as much to Cross.  But Gittes doesn’t go to his partner for help in exposing Cross.

In each alternative, Evelyn Mulwray probably would never speak to or see Gittes again for revealing their monstrous family secret, but she wouldn’t be dead and her daughter/sister wouldn’t be in the hands of Cross.

Emotionally, Apocalypse Now and Chinatown have the same structure.  This is a specific emotional pattern that I think is much more useful than undefined notions of genre.

 

 

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#TypesTuesday – Rick & Morty: Excitement and Imagination

Types Tuesday

by Guest Contributor Oscar Harding

Much like the Netflix show Bojack Horseman, the animated sci-fi comedy Rick and Morty is one of the funniest, most intelligent and most original shows on television. Despite the jokes and the out-there concepts, the show works because at its heart are genius scientist Rick, a Power of Excitement character, and his grandson Morty, a Power of Imagination character.

Morty has greatness thrust upon him more often than not because of he is forced into an adventure by his reckless Grandfather. This show is an excellent example of how different character types can support each other. Morty is a Power of Imagination character and paired with Rick because Rick is Power of Excitement. Rick is a constant, forever seeking adventure with or without Morty by his side. But Morty, more often than not, would have no need to save the day if Rick hadn’t put him in that position. He is just seeking a normal life as an earthbound teenager with no aliens or high concepts. He is reluctant about pretty much everything, and Rick exploits that to his own benefit constantly.

Rick

Power of Excitement characters can never settle, and as the smartest man in the universe with access and understanding of infinite dimensions, all that drives the suicidal alcoholic Rick is exploring every part of his reality and others. There is even a citadel where every single alternate version of Rick have banded together, and they deem our version of Rick to be reckless and dangerous- he is the Power of Excitement agent of chaos character. Moments of personal or emotional revelation are few and far between, and they only ever come from the intervention of his family.

Rick is a nihilist who understands everything is meaningless, so rather than search for meaning he embraces having a good time, because he believes that’s all there is. Introspection is a waste of time for him. So he has both philosophical and scientific justification for his worldview, not just a stubborn belief. He knows the only sane way to act in a chaotic world is as a Power of Excitement character. This makes him a perfect foil for Morty.

Morty

Reluctant heroes are always Power of Imagination types. They are never willing, and not always responsible, for the quest on which they find themselves undertaking. Rick is directly or indirectly the cause of Morty’s epic quests, which his sister and parents get wrapped up in as well from time to time. Morty has a desire to maintain normality and balance and usually has to undo Rick’s mistakes.

Power of Imagination characters aim to restore harmony to that which has been disrupted, and this seems to be Morty’s constant struggle. Despite Rick seeing him as weak and stupid most of the time, Morty has been forced to grow up as the show has progressed, and is normally the one person who will protect his family from both the dangers of the universe and the dark truths that Rick exposes through his worldview.

The show would not work as well if Rick and Morty weren’t Power of Excitement and Imagination characters- the former is our catalyst for every episode’s events, and without the latter cleaning up Rick’s messes, then the universe would have ended a long time ago and there would be no show. They need each other. There are other combinations of character types that could make the show work, but it wouldn’t be quite as satisfying or as entertaining.

You can find more examples of Power of Excitement and Power of Imagination examples in the SHOP or in the Types Tuesday archive.

Here’s a taste of the madness you can expect from Rick and Morty, currently available to watch on Netflix UK:

If you’re looking for more examples of Power of Excitement or Power of Imagination characters, or any of the “Power Of…” types, 9 pinterest boards full of character examples are online. Check them out and let us know at ETBHelp@gmail.com if you have any other suggestions.

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#ThrowbackThursday- Aardman, Bristol and Me

Throwback Thursday

Something a little different this week…

People often ask me why I moved to the UK and why Bristol in particular.  I will leave the UK answer to my post on the difference between American and UK/European broadcasters.  The answer to the Bristol part is easy.

My good friend Paul Kewley, when newly appointed as a development executive at Aardman Studios, invited me to Bristol to do a series of workshops.  These visits to the city from the US resulted in several consulting assignments on Aardman projects.

I met Paul when I was in the Masters Program in Screenwriting at UCLA and he, a Brit, was a student in the USC Masters program in Producing.

He like a script of mine and we went out pitching a number of projects together.  Over the years we stayed in touch and when we were in a position to recommend each other we did! So thanks Paul for the introduction to Bristol and Aardman

Paul has since become Oscar-nominated as a producer of Shaun the Sheep.  One of Aardman’s iconic characters, first introduced in Nick Park’s Oscar-winning A Close Shave.

Always be kind to school chums as they may someday be in a position to offer you a job! And it’s a good idea to be kind and helpful anyway because that makes you a human being!

The lovely Nick Park, as a result of my work on Aardman projects, wrote one of the two letters I needed to apply for my Tier One Exceptional Talent visa. This allows me to work in the UK without restriction.

Nick is quite simply a genius, although a genuinely humble and shy one. The gentle affection with which he writes his characters, despite their loopy eccentricities shows a depth of understanding of the human condition.  Thanks, Nick for being one of the principle reasons I was allowed my lovely time in Bristol.

Barbara Machin, BAFTA-winning creator of Waking the Dead brought me on board as a consultant for long-running BBC medical series Casualty.  

I’ve since done work on both Casualty and companion show Holby City. The first show is about A & E (or the emergency room in US terms) and the second is set in the hospital.

 The shows were initially shot in Bristol and subsequently moved to Cardiff.  But it was another introduction to Bristol and Barbara was a principal cheerleader and hand-holder during my UK Visa application process.

So thank Barbara for encouraging not to give up my dream of living in the UK.  Initially, I thought for one year, but it’s been almost five and with a recent visa renewal, I am good to stay until 2021 and eligible to apply for “leave to remain” indefinitely. (like a US Green Card).

Wildseed, a talent incubator and production company started by Miles Bulloughs and Jesse Cleary, Aardman alumnus, hired me early on to help young animators improve their storytelling skills.  It was a Bristol vote of confidence shortly after I moved. And subsequently, Scandinavian and UK writers/directors and producers have come to Bristol to work with me.  And it’s very easy to fly anywhere from Bristol airport via Amsterdam or Brussels.

So the final answer is, I knew a lot of people in Bristol (a real social network and not just a virtual one), there were lots of clients here, and it is easy to travel anywhere in the world.  Not to mention Bristol is a wonderful friendly creative city! Voted Best Place to Live in Britain-  CLICK HERE

 

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#TypesTuesday – Doctor Who: 1 Character, 9 Types

Types Tuesday

by Guest Contributor Oscar Harding

There is no other character in all of film and television like The Doctor from Doctor Who.

Countless actors have delivered unique and differing interpretations of everyone from Hamlet on stage to The Joker on film, Blanche DuBois to Hannibal Lecter. Sometimes characters in TV series like Eastenders or Film franchises like The Avengers are recast.

But The Doctor changes appearance, and retains all past memories. Every actor who has played The Doctor is also playing everyone who has come before them.

It is a fascinating anomaly and means The Doctor has, at some point throughout the show’s 53-year history been every single one of the “Power Of…” character types.What is particularly interesting is that in some way, the defining characteristics of each incarnation are a direct result of how their predecessor died.

The logic of the Regeneration concept allows for this unique quirk no other fictional character is able to do. With the latest actor to play the role, Jodie Whittaker, recently being announced, and the current actor, Peter Capaldi, about to finish his time in the role, it seems like a good time to look at an incarnation of the Doctor who has embodied each of the 9 character types.

BE WARNED! Major spoilers follow for every era of Doctor Who.

Power of Love

The First Doctor (William Hartnell) was introduced as a grandfather who fled his home planet with his Granddaughter, Susan. Every dangerous adventure he undertakes is occupied by a need to protect Susan as much as he also wants to show her the Universe and broaden her horizons. Susan eventually decides to stay with a man she meets on one of their adventures, and though it is heartbreaking for The Doctor, he realizes that letting Susan stay is the safest option for her.

Every dangerous adventure he undertakes is propelled by a need to protect Susan as much as he also wants to show her the Universe and broaden her horizons. Susan eventually decides to stay with a man she meets on one of their adventures, and though it is heartbreaking for The Doctor, he realizes that letting Susan stay is the safest option for her.

He may be remembered as grumpy, but almost every action of this incarnation is motivated by love, even if it doesn’t initially seem like it. This Doctor, despite his appearance, is young and everything he does is for his companions. He isn’t the embittered, battlescarred Doctor we meet later on in the show’s history.

His iconic speech as he bids his Granddaughter farewell shows the love and admiration he has for her:

Power of Ambition

The Third Doctor (Jon Pertwee) is the result of his predecessor being forced to change appearance against his will, and he wakes up, without his transport, and exiled to earth. He ultimately wants to be accepted by the military taskforce who have hired him, and to return to him people and be accepted by them.

His flamboyant action-hero persona is a cover for a lonely man who just wants acceptance. A classic Power of Ambition character, but one who is justified in his behaviour. His predecessor was forced to regenerate and exiled by his own people. Of course the Third Doctor would be Power of Ambition- the way he was born wouldn’t allow him to be anything else.

In this video him with his typical Power of Ambition attitude towards others:

Power of Will

Just one look at the outfit of The Sixth Doctor (Colin Baker) tells you everything you need to know about him. His predecessor looked young and acted young. Full of wonder and naivety, he saw the best in people and sacrificed his life to save his companion. Born from selflessness, The Sixth Doctor is brash and rather jarring- he is hard to like until you really get to know him.

Like any Power of Will character, he has the capacity to be boorish and abrasive, which can be as much of a strength as it is a weakness. This particular personality becomes The Doctor’s downfall as he is put on Trial by his own people (again) and pays for it with his life. Power of Will characters believe it is better to burn out than to fade away, and as the below video demonstrates, The Sixth Doctor takes no prisoners and offers no apologies for being Power of Will:

Power of Reason

Having made so much noise in his previous form, The Seventh Doctor (Sylvester McCoy) learns from his most recent mistakes by opting for a more calculated, cerebral approach to saving the Universe. As time has gone on, fans and critics alike have praised this darkest of Doctors. Power of Reason characters see everything as a challenge or a puzzle to be solved, and The Seventh Doctor is a big fan of chess, playing everyone off against each other to save the day, be they friend or foe.

Acting the utter fool as a front, this incarnation was a master strategist, reveling in obstacles to overcome and not stopping often enough to think of those who were pushed aside in his quest to find resolution. Ultimately, this drive to outwit everyone would define the character for years to come, as the actions of The Seventh Doctor inadvertently caused The Time War- more on that shortly.

This video, showing The Doctor talking himself out of a gun being pointed in his face, is an excellent example of a Power of Reason character at work:

Power of Idealism

The Eighth Doctor (Paul McGann) cut a dashing, Byronic figure. A handsome romantic forever searching for adventure and that next high. He couldn’t be more of a Power of Idealism character, which makes his death all the more tragic. He regenerated from his cold, calculated predecessor on New Year’s Eve, 1999 and was immediately thrown into a race against time to save reality itself, without a moment to pause for breath. He had a love of the finest things in life, and was very much like the great Romantic poets like Shelley.

It was this lust for life which made him blind to the machinations going on in the Universe that resulted in The Time War, a devastating conflict that raged across every dimension. True to his Power of Idealism characteristics, he chose to ignore the conflict, except to play the hero and help those caught in the crossfire, though never interfering because that would involve difficult choices- being a warrior would be beneath him. Ever unique, he would “help where I can. I will not fight.” It was this refusal to try and stop the War that brought about his demise, as he tries to save just one person instead. Forced the regenerate, his end is perhaps the most heartbreaking of all the incarnations, as he tells those who would engineer his rebirth:

I don’t suppose there’s any need for a Doctor anymore. Make me a warrior.

You can watch the whole tragic ending in the video below:

Power of Imagination

Great men are forged in fire. It is the privilege of lesser men to light the flame.

The War Doctor (John Hurt) might be the most interesting incarnation of them all, and not just because he is the one we know the least about. Literally born out of necessity, he was conditioned for conflict and refused to take the name of “The Doctor” as he became a commander in The Time War. Everything we have seen and read of him, however, shows him to be reluctant- to fight, to kill, to forgive himself, even to accept that he is just as much “The Doctor” as everyone who came before and after him.

The War Doctor is every bit the reluctant hero, forced into existence and on an epic quest to end the greatest war in all of creation. Like any Power of Imagination character, greatness is thrust upon him, despite his protestations that he is the “Doctor No More”. There are incarnations that would take this quest on with swagger, many of them citing pacifism and choosing not to let anyone die because of their actions, but not The War Doctor. Forever doubting his is good and heroic, he is exactly like Frodo Baggins or Luke Skywalker, other classic examples of Power of Imagination characters. Exhausted by centuries of war, and having saved the day, this hero gets a happy ending as he regenerates, knowing he can proudly call himself The Doctor again.

The below video shows The War Doctor faced with his greatest decision, which could end the War but wipeout his home planet:

Power of Excitement

Power of Excitement characters are the life and soul of the party, and The Tenth Doctor (David Tennant) is relentlessly fun to be around, and a real ladies’ man. But he never dares to look back, or stops to think that he can’t always be the hero. When he reflects on heartbreak or lets down his facade of constant cheeriness and optimism, it is in the most dramatic fashion. Everything he does is with flair, and in pursuit of adventure, but more often than not it is at the cost of those whose paths he crosses. Despite being a hero, like a Power of Excitement character always is, The Tenth Doctor is an agent of chaos.

Ultimately, this thrillseeking incarnation is a deeply tragic character because he rarely stops to reflect on his actions until it is too late. He was born from a predecessor haunted by his actions in the Time War who found love in Billie Piper’s Rose Tyler. That love is amplified when he turned into the Tenth Doctor.

At the end of his life, sacrificing himself to save his friend Wilf (Bernard Cribbins), his regeneration is the most destructive and explosive because he held off the process for so long. His parting words were “I don’t want to go” and he seems to be the personification of Dylan Thomas’ quote “rage, rage against the dying of the light”.

The below video shows the reckless dark side of this archetypal Power of Excitement character at work, as he defies the very laws of time:

Power of Truth

The Eleventh Doctor (Matt Smith) came into existence after his predecessor, all alone, finally gave in and regenerated. He was literally given a baptism of fire, his TARDIS in flames and crashing towards Earth. After such a dramatic entrance, he is immediately faced with a multitude of mysteries he must solve, and even when he tries to ignore intrigue, this Doctor must turn detective for the good of those around him.

He finds a family after suffering so much loss as his previous incarnation, and the only way he can keep them safe is to pursue the conspiracies that seem to surround him. Ancient religious orders determined to kill him, a woman who claims to be his wife popping up all over his timelines, and cracks in the skin of the universe that threatens to consume everything. Facing similar challenges as his predecessor, Seventh Doctor, this incarnation has to be cunning, quickwitted, and always alert. The irony is it is this very characteristic is what brings about his end, which haunts him all the way at the start. His era gets very confusing, which seems appropriate for a quintessential Power of Truth character like The Eleventh Doctor.

The below video shows us what happens when a Power of Truth character is proved right, and he gets to the bottom of a mystery. It’s not pretty…

Power of Conscience

The Twelfth Doctor (Peter Capaldi) began his time in the role obsessed with the question “Am I a good man?”. By the end of his life, desperately trying to save a community of colonists from an army of Cybermen, and stranded with two incarnations his best friend and worst enemy, The Master, he gave a defining speech when confronting them as they fled the chaos, which can be viewed in the video below. It speaks volumes to his character, and is the most obvious evidence that he is a Power of Conscience character through and through.

He started out as a bitter man, his predecessor stranded on Trenzalore for hundreds of years, protecting the planet from swarms of enemies and ending it all from sheer exhaustion. But this incarnation’s face was familiar- in fact, it is the face of a man he saved many years before. It was a reminder to himself to do what is right, no matter the cost. He may have been harsh like the Sixth Doctor at times, but came to prove that despite his gruff exterior, he had a heart the size of The First Doctor. No other incarnation has beat himself up so much about doing the right thing, and never letting injustice occur. Power of Conscience characters think about nothing else, and The Twelfth Doctor is no exception. He thought less of adventure, and more about what it means to be The Doctor- a good man.

What’s Next?

We won’t get our first glimpse of The Thirteenth Doctor (Jodie Whittaker) until Christmas, and we won’t get to know her character until late next year, so it’s impossible to guess what type she will be. But if the conditions of her predecessor’s demise are anything to go by, she could very well be a Power of Love character. Only Time (and Space) will tell.

For more examples of all the character types, you can purchase the in-depth e-books at the ETB shop, or you can read more articles on all the “Power Of…” types including James Bond, Batman and Sherlock Holmes, every Tuesday.

And if you want to start an argument about guest contributor Oscar Harding’s analysis please post in the comments section!

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#TypesTuesday – Nathan For You and Power of Ambition

Types Tuesday

By Guest Contributor Oscar Harding

Chances are, most European readers will have no idea what Nathan For You is. In fact, many Americans might not know it despite being on the Comedy Central channel. It is one of US TV’s best-kept secrets and also one of the funniest shows in years.

It has just returned for its fourth and potentially final season, so now seems an excellent time to examine Nathan Fielder, perhaps the most quintessential Power of Ambition character currently on Television.

A very brief summary of the show- similar to reality shows like Kitchen Nightmares, self-professed small business guru Nathan Fielder provides… innovative solutions to struggling entrepreneurs in California. The show is produced in a similar fashion to its televisual peers, but the businesses and people are all real and unaware the show is a joke.

Canadian comedian Fielder plays the whole thing straight, forever deadpan as he suggests everything from a coffee shop turning into a legal parody of Starbucks, to a realtor claiming to specialise in haunted houses. Here is an example of his work- it really has to be seen to be believed:

The premise alone makes a very funny show, but it is the character of Nathan- a classic Power of Ambition type- that makes it something special. There is a subtle narrative arc weaved into the show, of Nathan desperately seeking friendship and romance where he can find it.

Sometimes the show completely abandons its premise as we see Nathan trying to overcome his shyness towards women, or searching for friends online. The line between reality and fiction is regularly blurred to an unrecognizable level.

Power of ambition characters seek approval from others. They also want to appear untouchable, and at the top of their game. Nathan introduces each episode by claiming “he graduated from one of Canada’s top business schools with really good grades”.

Nathan takes everything to the absolute extreme in order to impress the business owners he helps, to the point where sometimes he’s forgotten what he was doing was to help a business, and he carries on his ludicrous plans without them. I’ve never seen a character in television more desperate for love and appreciation except perhaps David Brent.

The show is an excellent satire, but crucially it serves as a vehicle for its main character, portrayed by an actor who never makes fun of the business owners he strives to gain respect from, instead making himself the butt of the joke. Every time, his drive to be liked propels him to go too far. He will break the law and create elaborate hoaxes to “help” small businesses. At the end of it all, he usually asks the business owners if they’d like to hang out with him now filming has wrapped. Their answer is always no.

If people want an example of a Power of Ambition character, I will always refer them to Nathan Fielder- to me, he is the epitome of Power of Ambition.

For more information on Power of Ambition characters and other examples click HERE.

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#MondayMusings – Scandi Noir & Casting

MONDAY MUSINGS

I don’t talk much about casting but it is a part of what I do.  One of my top casting tips is to watch auditions with the sound off.  Ask yourself what is the actor giving off- regardless of the words he or she is saying.  Casting is one of the times when I think the words get in the way. In one of my consulting jobs, I was called in to help figure out why an actor was floundering in his role.

He was a young pop star in the country involved.  He was cast in an extended recurring role.  He was meant to be a “bad boy”, rebel, slightly dangerous love interest for a popular young actress on the show.  They dressed him in ripped jeans, scuffed motorcycle boots, and a cool leather jacket– meant to emulate a young James Dean.  But he wasn’t connecting with the actress or the audience.

I asked the producers to cut together three scenes in which the actor was prominently featured. They could be from anywhere in story.  We watched the scenes with the sound off.  I asked the writers and produces what this actor was giving off.  They chose words like: eager, open, sweet, puppy-dog like.  There wasn’t a dangerous bone in his body.  We changed his Character Type and he became a great success.

Actors will tell you they can play anything.  And that is true.  But if they play a role outside their emotional zone they will bring craft, professionalism, and technical skill to the role.  But we will be able to see them acting.  No audience wants to see acting.  They want to see a character being him or herself.

Casting is one of the things that makes Scandi Noir so compulsively watchable.  The actors look like real people engaged in a professional, criminal, or ordinary pursuits. They have faces you might see on the street in an ordinary Scandanavia town. They don’t have “Hollywood teeth”.

When I was in South Africa I learned Black Sails was shot at Cape Town Studios. That series passed me when it aired,  I decided to catch up.  The pirates were very authentically dressed for the ragtag dangerous life they lived.  They had missing fingers and toes, lost legs, gouged out eyes, and cruel scars– but they all had perfectly even white teeth!

#ThinkpieceThursday – CBS’ Salvation: It’s Never About The Asteroid

Thinkpiece Thursday

Despite a massively talented writing team, Salvation on CBS was mostly a ratings disappointment and earned just 56% on Rotten Tomatoes.  It’s a summer popcorn series that didn’t quite connect.  Why?

As I see it, some of the problem is that it is populated by stereotypes.

Eccentric maverick tech billionaire, Darius Tanz (Santiago Cabrera)
College wunderkind, Liam Cole (Charlie Rowe)
Earnest young sci-fi writer, Jillian Hayes (Jacqueline Byers)
Government Deputy of Defense (with a sensitive side), Harris Edwards (Ian Anthony Dale)
Pentagon Press Secretary, torn between her establishment lover and the romantic billionaire,  Grace Burrows (Jennifer Finnigan)

What happens is:

College wunderkind calculates an asteroid is six months from striking the earth and destroying all life. Wunderkind contacts eccentric billionaire, who knows (is in love with) the Pentagon Press Secretary. Because they don’t want to cause public panic, they agree to keep this information secret within the government. Meanwhile, Deputy Secretary of Defense is already running the D.O.D.’s top-secret operation to deflect the asteroid. At the same time, eccentric billionaire is working with earnest young Sci-Fi writer, on a different approach to saving humanity.

What we care about are human relationships and how disaster, catastrophe, or dire threat reveals character. It’s never about the asteroid, the space aliens, the flood, the fire– it’s about how people show who they really are in meeting danger. We never see the inner conflict within the characters or their personal worldview shaping how they each

We never see the inner conflict within the characters or their personal worldview shaping how they each intereact with others and how they approach the problem of the approaching asteroid.

In Salvation, the characters never move much beyond stereotypes or agents to push the plot forward.  But we don’t care enough about the asteroid– we’ve seen it before.

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#TypesTuesday – Cersei Lannister and Power of Love

Types Tuesday

I thought this would a good time to review a past reader comment on Cersei Lannister.  The reader writes:

Reader: For me, the quote used in the previous article illustrating Cersei’s Power is evidence for her being Will instead of Love: “The more people you love, the weaker you are. You’ll do things for them that you know you shouldn’t do. You’ll act the fool to make them happy, to keep them safe. Love no one but your children, in that a mother has no choice.”

Reader: I don’t think that a Power of Love character would ever think of love as a weakness – love is what gives you power instead of threatening it; doing things for others is the essence of who you are and the basis for your power. But it makes total sense for a Power of Will character to see love as a weakness, as something to avoid if possible.

My answer:  A Power of Will character might see love as a weakness because love does make you vulnerable.  But a Power of Will character would never humiliate him or herself to make another happy or to keep them safe.  Think Tony Soprano. He is never laughed at nor does he play the fool for anyone.

My answer: Tony kills one of the people he loves most in the world, his nephew Christopher Molisanti.  During a car accident, Christopher is mumbling because he is high. Tony believes he can’t take a chance on Christopher blabbing private business so Tony kills him.

Their own survival is paramount to a Power of Will character. Cersei sees the survival of her children as paramount.  She says she is willing to abase herself for their happiness or safety.  That, in fact, does make her weak personally.

My answer: The final proof is Cersei’s getting pregnant just as she ascends the throne.  Given the Maesters and potions at her command it seems reasonable she could avoid pregnancy.  But she is triumphant in announcing it to Jamie.  The most joyous part of it all– She has secured the throne for their child.

If she was a female Power of Will character, she would want the throne for herself! AND She would not do anything that puts her physical condition into question.  She is a warrior queen, leading her army into “The Great War.” Pregnancy, in that patriarchal society, would put her leadership in question. There is a reason Queen Elizabeth I never married and never had children– She wanted power for herself and didn’t want to be subjected to control by anyone.

The Power of Love character is an iron fist in a velvet glove.  But that fist is wielded for others, not themselves.

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#TypesTuesday Heroes – Power of Imagination

Types Tuesday

Heroes, created by Tim Kring, tells the stories of ordinary people who discover that they have superhuman abilities. They are people you’d never notice twice, an overweight cop, a Japanese cubical worker, a small black kid.  The plot revolves around how they find each other and work together to prevent a catastrophic occurrence.  “Save the cheerleader.  Save the world.”

The series was extraordinary as the first network series to emulate the aesthetic style and storytelling structure of American comic books.  It used multi-episode story arcs that built upon a larger, more encompassing narrative.

I found Heroes extraordinary as the first series to feature all Power of Imagination main characters. Power of Imagination characters see or hear, or can access power that others can’t. Their reaction to this unique ability is affirming and all-embracing. They never doubt their vision, special insight, unique ability, or call from beyond.

These characters are launched on a quest when something in the wider world is disrupted, thrown out of balance, or is causing danger or deep divisions. They are reluctant heroes who are pushed into their roles by larger circumstances. Greatness is usually thrust upon them via a special message, personal intuition, vivid vision, or supernatural imperative that calls to them in some deeply powerful way.

In calling others to heed their vision, these characters naturally collect diverse individuals who share a common purpose despite significant outward differences and even conflicting agendas or opposing points of view. Their goal to keep the potentially divisive group together and to restore harmony and balance to the world.

The first season of Heroes was a ratings powerhouse for NBC.  The first season stuck to the Power of Imagination structure and theme. As the show moved further away from finding others and joining together on a grand quest to fighting villains, weaponized viruses, and switching identities the show, in subsequent seasons, spiraled downward in the ratings.  It was no longer the global phenomenon it was when it debuted.

Once you’ve established the emotional playing field for a show, you move off it at your peril.

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#ThinkpieceThursday – Coincidence Tanks Top of the Lake: China Girl

Thinkpiece Thursday

Despite strong performances all around, the sequel to Top of the Lake disappoints because of the ridiculous contrived coincidences powering its plot.

## SPOILER ALERT ##

Teenaged Mary, (Alice Englert) is the long lost daughter given up for adoption by Robin (Elizabeth Moss) the cop investigating the “China Girl” murder.  Mary just happens to be sexually and romantically involved with the killer, nicknamed “Puss” (David Dencik).

The brothel Puss helps run, where “China Girl” worked, is also an illegal surrogate “farm”.  It caters to Australians so desperate to have a baby they don’t really check the girls’ backgrounds.

The supervising cop on the investigation just happens to have used one of the brothel girls as a surrogate for the child his mistress wants to have.  He KNOWS his surrogate is a prostitute because he has frequented the place.

His mistress, Miranda (Gwendoline Christie) just happens to be Robin’s partner on the police force investigating the China Girl murder.

This is too much coincidence to sustain credibility.

When is coincidence a good thing?  K.M. Weiland describes it beautifully:

Coincidences to get characters into trouble are great; coincidences to get them out of it are cheating.

“At some point in almost every story, there is going to be something coincidental that kicks off the plot. What is it that first brings the protagonist and antagonist into opposition? Often, it’s a coincidence:

  • Roger Thornhill accidentally hailing the page boy who is looking for a government agent in Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest.
  • Harvey Cheyne falling into the ocean and being rescued by fisherman Manuel who just happened to be there in Rudyard Kipling’s Captains Courageous.
  • Katniss’s sister Prim just happening to be drawn as a tribute in her first eligible year in Suzanne Collins’s Hunger Games.

 

  • D’Artagnan just happening to insult Athos, Porthos, and Aramis on his first day in town in Alexandre Dumas’s The Three Musketeers.
  • Flik catching just the end of the circus bugs’ Robin Hood act and believing they’re really warriors in A Bug’s Life.

All of these things just happen. Although there are some causal dominoes leading the protagonists up to a few of these examples, there’s not enough cause in play here to let any of these moments avoid being coincidences.

And yet they still work. Why? Because they only make things harder–and more interesting–for the characters. You’ll also note these major coincidences are pretty much the only major unexplained coincidences in their stories. It’s not on Pixar’s list, but we could add to their above rule:

Only one major coincidence per story: early in the story.”

That’s a rule to live by.  For another of my blog posts on coincidence click HERE

 

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