Wednesday, October 12, 2011

How Not To Create Conflict

Drama derives from the decision-making process. More specifically drama derives from the conflict that must be resolved in the decision-making process. The greater the conflict, i.e. the more difficult the choice, the greater the drama. This isn't a difficult concept. Yet, so many films fail right at this point because they don’t grasp how to establish the legitimate competing interests that make the decision difficult. Let’s look at two recent SciFi films that failed in this regard.

The first film was on the SciFi Channel (yes, I refuse to acknowledge the lame name change) a couple weeks ago. In Morlocks (a rip off of the BBC show Primeval), Robert Picardo plays a Colonel who has been tasked with using a time travel machine to steal technology from the future to help American competitiveness. . . I guess Steve Job’s death was more serious than we thought.

Picardo sends a team a few years into the future, who learn both that humanity has been destroyed by evil creatures and that Picardo will create these evil creatures using DNA brought back from the future. Sounds like fixing this is a no-brainer, right? Just don’t breed the creatures and everything will go fine. Except, Picardo’s son is dying and that DNA could be used to treat his son. That’s the conflict. Oy.

We’re supposed to believe Picardo becomes so blinded by the possibility of saving his son that he’s willing to destroy the planet. But this isn’t a genuine conflict for two reasons. First, whether Picardo acts or not, his son will die. If Picardo does nothing, then his son dies of cancer. If Picardo breeds the creatures, then everyone including his son dies and gets eaten. That’s not a genuine conflict because both choices lead to the exact same result: a dead son. Will he have broccoli OR broccoli? Ooh, the suspense!

Secondly, the writers completely fail to grasp another critical aspect of creating a conflict: the choices need to be the only choices. Unless Picardo is entirely retarded, he will try to find some third alternative, e.g. destroying the DNA to change the future and then continuing with his mission. So the conflict here isn’t even between death by cancer or death by mauling, it’s between death v. death v. trying something else. That makes the whole set up false and robs this choice of any legitimacy.

The other film was called Doomsday (it’s since been renamed Annihilation Earth). This movie features Star Trek TNG’s Marina Sirtis doing one of the worst southern accents ever... it will make your ears bleed it's that bad. The basic premise was that some evil company built a series of reactors around the world using some new technology. The reactor in France blows up, goes all black holey and wipes out southern France. If the hero can’t solve what has caused this glitch, the other reactors will blow in a chain reaction and will destroy the planet.

To solve what happened, the hero must venture to southern France. As he goes, he comes across a dirty little French girl who has skinned her knee and lost her mommy. Here comes our conflict. He’s under a severe time limit, yet he and the other characters fight over whether they should stop and help the girl or continue with their mission. Baaaah!! This isn’t a legitimate choice because the two options are so ridiculously unbalanced that only an idiot would have any problem making this decision. His choices are either to comfort the girl until the planet explodes or to save the planet. How can there be any question? This is like debating if you should stop to buy a Band-Aid for a paper cut while you’re rushing to the hospital to get your massive heart attack treated.

This moment was meant to inject drama into what was otherwise nothing more than a travel scene. It was also supposed to give us the character’s bona fides as a caring hero. But what it really tells us is the filmmakers are clueless. They can’t distinguish true dilemmas from fake dilemmas and they have no idea how a hero would (or should) act at a key moment of crisis. The fact they chose this to create drama is pathetic.

I see these kinds of stupid choices strewn throughout films. Fake conflict is created by characters inexplicably being unwilling to speak the truth when asked despite there being no negative consequences to doing so, or inexplicably being unable to reschedule dates or meetings, or somehow thinking their only choices are fight or flee when they really have a plethora of options. If a decision doesn’t make sense, it’s not dramatic. And if there are better options out there, you need to explain why those can’t be chosen by the character. Moreover, you can’t simply set any two choices against each other, the choices you pick for your character to agonize over need to be the kinds of choices that would actually force some indecision.

So often we focus on how bad writers and bad directors use deus ex machina or happy coincidences as a way to solve their characters’ problems, but the real fault begins with the inability to construct legitimate conflicts in the first place. If your characters are facing legitimately difficult decisions, then you won’t need to rely on coincidence or divine intervention to solve your crises.

49 comments:

rlaWTX said...

I've noticed this happening more and more in smaller ways in TV shows. There is no reason that the person can't reschedule, or come back later, or do whatever himself, or go to the movies, or whatever... Instead the show turns on the fake forced choice. I'll admit that when my favorite shows toss 'em in, I tend to try to ignore them. But they are getting more noticeable...

(and since I am willing to give nearly anything the benefit of the doubt if they just keep my attention and give me my desired escapism, it's BAD when I notice!)

Ed said...

Interesting as always Andrew. I saw both films and I too thought the drama felt totally fake. I didn't analyze why, but I think you're right. The ones that bother me are average people who get sucked into a spy film with no real explanation except that they've been wrongly identified as the spy. If you simply finished your vacation and went home to Iowa, the bad guys would realize pretty quickly that you aren't really the enemy spy.

T-Rav said...

Trust these lemons to be on SciFi--excuse me, I mean Syfy.

AndrewPrice said...

rlaWTX, I'm seeing it everywhere as well these days. What's really amazing about this is that it's so easily avoidable -- often with just one line of dialog.

Take the example of the hero in France. If he didn't know he was under time pressure, then the issue goes away. It's that easy to fix. But they don't seem to care.

It's the same thing on television. It doesn't take much to find a reason why they can't reschedule, but they don't even try.

The problem with this is that once you present people with the fake choice scenario, everything that follows from it feels unreal.

AndrewPrice said...

Ed, That's one of the hardest to pull off. In North by Northwest, Hitchcock showed how to do it. Grant tried several things to prove he wasn't the spy and they all ended up backfiring and only convinced the bad guys he was the spy. But in most movies today, the hero almost automatically jumps up and says "the only way I can prove I'm not the spy is to take on the role of the spy to solve the mystery, then I can go to the police." What kind of idiocy is that? If you're really in danger, go to the police... go to the airport and book a flight home. It's that simple to get off the rollercoaster. And because of that, the whole premise of those films seems fake.

AndrewPrice said...

T-Rav, It's not just the SciFi channel, it's everywhere. These kinds of stupid, false decisions are creeping up everywhere. It's like all of Hollywood got lazy.

ScottDS said...

I'll admit this problem doesn't leap out at me as much as some others and like rlaWTX said, we're more forgiving when the film or TV show is actually good.

For some reason, I flashbacked to Mission to Mars which, despite some impressive visuals, is just a stupid movie. (Seriously, if you ever want to see bad acting from Gary Sinise and Don Cheadle, this is the one.) Anyway, at one point, there's an oxygen leak on the spaceship and Sinise refuses to put his helmet on. I'll admit it's been a while but I'm still not sure why he didn't put his helmet on! Other than to create some fake suspense, what does this accomplish? (Ennio Moriccone's droning score didn't help, either.)

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, It's jumping out at me more and more these days. I've been willing to ignore some level of stupidity in the past even though I despise plot holes. But these have usually been minor problems and were things that could be explained by saying "well, they were under stress and just made a bad decision."

But lately, these fake decisions have become much larger and more often becoming the key moment upon which stories rely. That's unforgivable.

So my point really is about the writing. These things are really easy to fix with just a slight change -- if they aren't, then your premise is probably bad. So anyone writing a story should think about this when they write and should make sure they don't include these kinds of problems needlessly include these kinds of plot holes.

AndrewPrice said...

P.S. I agree with your Mission to Mars point. It injected fake drama because it had no point and it wasn't something a normal character would do. That was a movie with a lot of potential to be really dramatic, but they squandered it constantly with stupid decisions, lucky coincidences, and just never quite deciding if they wanted a drama or a science fiction film.

Ed said...

Andrew, Nice mention of Hitch! That's my favorite Hitch and I couldn't agree more. In fact, the fact he can't convince people he's not the spy adds tension to the film rather than becoming a distraction.

LawHawkRFD said...

Andrew: You have more patience than I. I switched off both Syphie movies about fifteen minutes in. Not only could I not handle the scenery-chewing, but there they went again with that amateurish CGI.

AndrewPrice said...

Ed, I think that happens a lot. When you are careful in your setups, you end up injecting tension where there wasn't any before.

Using the North by Northwest example, think about how much less interesting the movie would have been if rather than try to get out of his mess, he simply said "I better pretend to be this spy so I can solve everything and get out of here." It would have been ridiculous.

Instead, you set up this whole series of events where he keeps trying to find a way out and everyone else keeps throwing him back in. It also leads to the next level of tension when it turns out that he's endangered the real spy with his behavior.

PLUS, as he's trying to find his way out, he's picking up the skills that later explain how he manages to escape from various situations -- something his character could not have done at the beginning of the film.

All of that is a direct result of Hitchcock making sure that his story is tight and the character's actions make sense.

That's the real lesson here: keep it real and so much good will flow from it. Use fake set ups and you get dull, disjointed, stupid stories.

AndrewPrice said...

Lawhawk, I won't kid you, they were hard to watch. SciFi really seems to have taken a step backward lately in its original movies -- bad effects, bad acting, bad direction, bad writing, bad everything. They're not even as enjoyable as they had been.

T-Rav said...

Andrew, it also seems to me that a lot of the problem is, the characters aren't well developed. Maybe if we were given time to understand and sympathize with the motives of these characters, their actions might seem a little less stupid. This leads me to believe it's more of a problem for movies than miniseries or TV shows.

I'll use an example from "Fringe," because I like to plug that show at every opportunity :-) During an episode in season 2, Agent Dunham (the lead character) is pursuing a soldier from an alternate universe, who is trying to destroy this world. She pins him down, but then he presents her with a choice--let him go, or he won't tell her how to save her partner, who's dying of a poison he administered. Keep in mind, if he escapes and succeeds in his plan, the entire world will eventually be destroyed, with everyone in it. But her partner matters to her, so she lets him go. (He doesn't succeed in the end; spoiler alert.) On the one hand, this was much better executed than your examples seem to have been; on the other, it worked so well because fans of the show watched these characters over the course of a year and got invested in them.

It's not a perfect parallel, but my main point is conflict happens more once you have time to start caring about the characters. It won't necessarily be done well, by any means, but having a longer period of buildup before introducing the conflict would give it a better chance of being effective.

I should probably revise this to make it halfway coherent, but oh well.

AndrewPrice said...

T-Rav, I think that's true.

I have been debating what makes drama and what makes horror most effective. What I'm coming to realize is that no matter what you are trying to achieve, the MOST important key (bar none) is whether the audience gets into the characters. If you can get people invested in your characters, then you can generate emotion -- and if you can't get them invested, then you will never get emotion.

Once people get invested, then they are more likely to forgive strange decisions or odd plot moments. But if you can't get them to invest, then these things really stand out and ruin a story.

I think mini-series or series do have an advantage in that regard because they have more time to build the characters. BUT I don't think that means it can't be done in films. I think the problem is that most films don't want to bother, so they create fake moments like the one mentioned above to give you a substitute.

For example, you'll see the hero stand up to a bully to help someone else, or you'll see them take a homeless guy to dinner or rescue a puppy or help the little French girl. Those are considered cheap and easy ways to make your characters suddenly likable. But it's so ham-fisted and cliche that you can't help but scoff at the idea. In other words, rather than internalizing that in the character's personality, we instead see it as "what we're supposed to believe" -- which is very different and leaves a very cynical taste in our mouths. Indeed, what those moments really tell us is that the writer/director has no idea how to build their characters and we should simply consider them all as cardboard.


(P.S. I love your spoiler alert -- after the spoiler info! LOL!)

DUQ said...

The one that makes me crazy is the guy who gets fired because some stranger does something for which the guy gets blamed. "Dinner for Schmucks" had this. At one point, the Schmuck shows up and ruins a business lunch by pretending to be the heroes friend. For reasons that make no sense, the hero goes along with this when all he really had to say was "who is this guy?" and the business partner wouldn't have held any of it against him.

It doesn't make any sense!!!!!

AndrewPrice said...

DUQ, I know the scene you're talking about and I agree. To me, that movie held together surprisingly well, except for that moment.

In any event, there is a lot of that in comedy. One of the big things in comedy is the scheduling of two dates/meetings at the same time. Then the character needs to try to get to both while excusing themselves. With rare exceptions, that just doesn't work. How hard is it to ask the girlfriend/boss/parent to meet you earlier or later or another day? "I can't do it that night because I need to fast for a physical the following morning... can we move it one night?" or better yet, "Shoot, I can't do that night, let's do the following night."

One film that did pull this off was Doctor Detroit and the reason was that the two events were things beyond the character's ability to control -- a ball and a fund raiser, and he had to be at both. But most films/shows aren't that careful and they just explain it away as "oh gee, the character is hapless." That sucks.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Excellent post, Andrew!
And a lot of food for thought in the comments too!

I reckon another factor that may...may be contributing to this "apply really idiotic ideas to a story even imbeciles will hate to movies and shows" trend may well be the increasing disconnect of those on the left from reality (and truth).

I mean, many of these stupid and irrational and unreasonable ideas sound like something a confused and misguided kid would say who has no experience with reality to draw from, let alone the knowledge and wisdom.

It's even more common with the
MSM and even Fox news (and "news" shows like Dateline and 60 Minutes) where they present false choices or only two choices, etc.

Many of their stories are often very shallowly researched, not objective, have lots of omissions, Partisan, propaganda, etc., and share the same idiotic la la land view that a lot of these moronic movies have.

One can easily see this among lots of politicians too, particularly democrats but not exclusively.

Everything, including films is better when reality is actually acknowledged. :^)

Tennessee Jed said...

first, let me say I was shocked to hear somebody besides myself use the term "make your ears bleed." You are quite something Mr.Price. :-) Good examples. In ethics, I always like to use the example of the mother hiding resistance members from Nazi's who has her baby with her. The baby starts to cry. The mother is left with a Hobson's choice. Does she kill the baby to save the others? (do the needs of the many outwigh the few?) And of course some of you may remember the short story "The Moment of Decision" by Stanley Ellin which came up a long time ago in a discussion we had at Commentarama.

Anyway, a very nice post!!

AndrewPrice said...

Ben, Thanks! I think there may be something to that. From what I've seen, there are very few people in Hollywood these days who actually came from other fields first. It seems that modern Hollywood has become an industry until itself and the people it employees rush out to Hollywood right out of school (high school or a little bit of college) with no real world experience and then they are charged with writing real world ideas.

Unfortunately, someone who has never held a real job or worked in an office or been in the military or frankly done anything other than attend school with their friends doesn't really have a clue how the rest of the world works. So maybe, while a dipstick college kid would think that people can't think their way around these stupid, obvious false choices or or would think that people are somehow incapable of doing simple things like telling their boss the truth or rescheduling a date.... that's not how the real world actually works.

So maybe the reason this problem seems to be getting worse is that Hollywood relies more on people without any real world experience than they used to in the past?

AndrewPrice said...

Ben, Let me add. I read an article a couple weeks back which I wanted to comment on, but just haven't yet. It was written by a guy who was whining that a movie for which he wrote the script failed. In the article, he gave this lengthy analogy to how being a script-writer is like being a campaign manager in a political campaign. He went through a detailed comparison of the two and made them sound very, very similar -- though I wasn't too sure his facts were right.

Then near the end, he suddenly admitted that he's never actually been involved with a political campaign, but that was how he imagined it was.

Huh?

So basically to explain why his film inexplicable failed, he used an analogy about something about which he really had no understanding. Can you see why his film failed?

But more to the point, this was a classic example of what we're talking about. This guy had no real world experience, yet he assumed that merely being able to imagine it was enough to create a set of facts against which he could compare his argument. That's pathetic. And I fear that's very common in Hollywood right now from what I've seen.

To understand the real world actually requires some experience in it.

AndrewPrice said...

Thanks Jed. I do get around phrase-wise! :)

That's a good example of what can be one heck of a conflict as it's a really horrible dilemma.

Unfortunately, too many modern movies fail at the set up phase by not making it clear the mother can't just leave or that there is no other way to silence the child. They just skip to the choice. That's where so many of these films go wrong now -- they skip explaining why these are the only two choices you have.

ScottDS said...

Andrew -

I think I know what article you're referring to and, to be fair, I think we've all used analogies without possessing the proper knowledge to use them. At least I have. :-)

SPOILERS

I'm trying to think of another example... ah, here we go. Executive Decision, one of my aforementioned guilty pleasures. Oliver Platt's character is along for the ride to supervise the stealth plane's docking to the 747... but they need to clip a circuit so the Open Hatch light doesn't blink on in the cockpit. Steven Seagal's character wants him to clip it and get up onto the plane; Platt says he can simply clip it and climb back down - there's no reason for him to board the plane. Seagal goes with his plan and ends up getting sucked out of the hatch. Of course, for plot reasons Platt needs to be on the plane and I never thought about it but when I watched the film again a few months ago, Seagal just comes off as an unreasonable ass.

Then again, this may be a case of two choices being presented and the character choosing the wrong one, as opposed to two false choices being presented.

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, It was a Conan article. And yes, to be fair, we all use analogies about things we've never done. In fact, that's the nature of the analogy usually. BUT, this guy went WAY beyond a simple analogy and he created his own reality using cliches.

Think of it this way. I might say, "being a blogger is like being a bomber pilot, with hours of boredom punctuated with seconds of terror." This is an appropriate analogy because (1) it's limited and makes a small point, i.e. it's distilled the bomber pilot experience, and (2) this is a rather famous description of what it's like to be a pilot, which has been repeated a million times by now and has never been refuted or discredited. So all I'm doing by using this is taking "the essence of bomber pilot" and using that to make a point.

That wasn't what he did. He instead described the supposed life of a campaign manager from an emotional perspective, describing how those people supposedly feel at each stage.

In the bomber example, this would be like describing the pilot's day and then trying to attribute emotions to how they feel throughout the day.... something which is not really known by non-pilots.

In other words, we have no idea what pilots think when they're sitting around watching television or while they're waiting for their planes to get fixed, etc. Thus, we should not be comparing bloggers to pilots at that level. As an analogy, we would be talking out of our asses if we did that.

And that's what he did.

Personally, I think this shows the guy's problem. I think it shows that he doesn't realize the difference between reality (based on reported experience) and fantasy (his guess about reality based on fiction). And I think that's probably why he failed -- because he wasn't able to create realistic characters because he was busy building characters based on cliches and his guess of how it would feel to be in the cliche.

AndrewPrice said...

I'm not following you on Executive Decision? I'm not sure I get the decision you're describing? It just sounds more like bad advice.

ScottDS said...

Yeah, my fault. In this case, it was simply bad advice. Platt wanted to do A and Seagal wanted to do B even though A was the obvious choice. They went with B and Seagal paid the price for it. Of course, this all had to happen for plot purposes but watching the movie now, Seagal just comes off as obstinate. (Who, him?) :-)

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, I've never heard Seagal described as obstinate! ;) (Actually, usually the word is "assh~le.")

If you want more good examples, think of how many times in horror films the characters split up for no reason whatsoever and then do searches of things like cabinets. Why do that?

Or think about the number of times in cop films the bad guy captures the cop's partner or girlfriend and says "you can capture me or you can save your ___, you have to decide! Mwoo ha ha." Uh, no. Bang. You're dead. Now I save my ___.

tryanmax said...

Thank you for bringing this up! I was beginning to think I was the only one. My two biggest irritations in films are prime examples of this.

1. Some disagreement, misunderstanding, or argument can be completely diffused by a simple bit of truthful dialogue that, for some reason, never gets spoken!

2. The ├╝bermensch hero who can kill a man with Nerf ball for some reason can't deliver a head-butt when his hands are tied behind his back, so he just keeps taking the beating.

I will say that when it comes to comedy, I can let weak conflict go a bit more so long as it sets up a worthwhile gag. Oftentimes, I find that comedy is better at creating conflict because it relies on a simpler mechanism: the shortcomings of the decision maker.

There is no reason why this device cannot be used outside of comedy, but in order to do so, it would require character development. Why does our hero make good decisions in most cases, but bad ones in certain situations? Unless explained, then he's an idiot who just gets lucky most of the time.

T-Rav said...

Andrew, that's interesting. The words I've heard used to describe Seagal were "accused felon."

Well, there wouldn't be much of a TV show left if the bad guy had managed to destroy the world, would there? Not really a spoiler, if you think about it. :-)

tryanmax said...

I have another theory why Hollywood writers are so bad at creating conflict and it sort of relates to a comment I left on Commentarama Proper regarding the Muppets.

Liberal writers have difficulty in this area because they don't really understand how conflict arises. Just like they don't know how Johnny and Mary came to have different numbers of cookies, they don't understand how most things fall out of equilibrium. All they seem to grasp is that things are out-of-balance right now. They know that drama arises from conflict, but they have no conception of what conflict arises from.

In part, I blame Lajos Egri. His rejection of exposition is almost universally embraced by writers today. It is no surprise to me that Egri was active in the early labor movement which then as now has close ties to Marxism. I have a developing theory on the Marxist concept of time (or lack thereof) and how that effects their philosophy. But that is for another time and place.

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, You are not alone! :)

Those are good examples. I'm amazed how many times an entire plot could be ground to a halt if the characters were actually truthful with each other. But instead, for no reason whatsoever, they continue to lie to each other long past the point any normal person would have realized they are lying. I'm particularly amazed when this involves a husband and wife, who presumably should have a somewhat truthful relationship? "Gee, honey, I didn't tell you there were assassins after us because I didn't want to worry you."

Again, if you can believably explain why they don't tell each other the truth, that's fine. But if you can't explain it, then the whole plot begins to fall apart.

I agree too about the hero. It's amazing how stupid some of these heroes must be since they wait until after they take a pounding before they decide to defend themselves.

And on that point, I'm also amazed how many times the villains seem to think they need to open the cell door for the imprisoned hero for no apparent reason or for something stupid like "I want you to push the button." Huh?

I agree with you about comedy. We do forgive comedy more because we're usually dealing with characters who aren't that bright to begin with and they are shown to be inept or incapable of making decisions, and that leads to their bad decision making. In other words, we accept it because we know the characters are morons or because the rules of that world aren't quite like ours.

But you need to be careful how far you push it and with which characters. When you have an idiot who is latched onto a supposedly competent character and that supposedly competent character just keeps taking the blame for the idiot's behavior when all they have to do is tell the truth, then the story breaks down.

AndrewPrice said...

T-Rav, I'm kidding, I just thought it was funny how you wrote it!

What do you mean accused felon? Steve's a hero who has saved us all from oil companies and oil companies and oil companies and he's made the world safe for angry Indians.

I've honestly tried to like him in his films, but just never could manage it.

tryanmax said...

Andrew, I agree wholeheartedly with your sentiments on pushing that too far in comedy. When it comes to competent characters taking the blame for the foolish partner, I think back to the classic comedy duos like Abbot and Costello or Laurel and Hardy. While conflict between the personalities was always handy for an insult gag, the real comic conflict was with some third character that didn't see the whole picture as the audience has.

In order to keep the misunderstanding afloat, timing was the key. The pranks and pratfalls had to occur just as the third party was turned away. By the time the third party turns back, the smart one was always holding the bag and made to look foolish. Adding insult to injury, the fool usually received praise for not being like his unfortunate cohort. And, of course, the fool accepts all praise in gullible innocence.

Of course, we the audience know that the ultimate joke is on the third party, usually some sort of authority figure, for not being as all-knowing and all-seeing as he supposes himself to be.

I know that was a gratuitous breakdown, but it's just to demonstrate how simple the formula really is that Hollywood writers cannot seem to adhere to.

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, Very deep! But you are definitely on to something. In my vast dealings with liberals I have found that few of them have ever bothered to learn the actual cause of anything. In its place, they insert "boogeymen" or cliches which are designed to remove any sense of personal responsibility from bad decisions.

Hence, if you are poor it's because some mysterious force took away your job. If you are a criminal, it's because you were forced to become one by circumstances. Etc.

If that is truly how you see the world and you must then write a story involving two people engaged in criminal conduct, you won't really have a clue how to handle it, will you? On the one hand, you are stuck assuming neither wants to be a criminal. Secondly, you must assume both are victims of circumstance or evil bosses, but are otherwise blameless. If you start with those assumption, how in the world do you generate legitimate conflict between these two characters with identical personalities, both of whom are victims of the world at large? It just isn't possible because every moment of decision needs to reflect their blamelessness. So what you're left with is a lot of outside forces pushing them to wherever the plot requires because they can't get there themselves.

Moreover, if you add a villain, how do you draw up a villain who fits in that world? The only type of villain that worldview accepts is the true sadist.

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, That's an excellent breakdown of how the comic routine is supposed to work.

What I'm seeing today is this kind of scenario:

Competent attorney thinks he's rid of the idiot. He goes to work where he has an angry boss. He finds the idiot at his desk calling his clients telling them obscene things because he thought this would "help out." The boss is furious.

The competent attorney should have the idiot arrested and tell the boss he's a stalker or something and ask why the boss allowed him to take over the attorney's desk in the first place.

Instead, the competent attorney says "oh that's my er... er... brother and he has a medical condition which er... er... [insert lie here]. So we need to be careful with him and you can't fire me."

Angry boss fires attorney. Then we get to endure the moping scenes where the attorney and the idiot go have a drink together and bond.

That is UTTER bullsh*t and anyone who writes a scene like that should be taken out and shot in the groin. But I'm seeing that or its equivalent over and over and over in films these days.

rlaWTX said...

"Uh, no. Bang. You're dead. Now I save my ___. "

Perfect!!!

AndrewPrice said...

rlaWTX, What can I say? I believe in results! :)

tryanmax said...

Oh, Andrew. The only purpose of results is to generate profit. And everyone knows those are evil. Unless they happen to be acquired by Marxist propagandists. Then the multiple ironies all cancel each other out.

tryanmax said...

...few [liberals] have ever bothered to learn the actual cause of anything. In its place, they insert "boogeymen" or cliches...

Could liberalism explain the popularity of horror films? It is the only genre which can legitimately call up boogeymen to advance the plot. And oftentimes a deus ex machina is required to set things right.

That said, I still think the best horror deals with actions and consequences as we understand them here, just under a set of supernatural rules.

tryanmax said...

BTW, not sleeping well tonight.

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, I actually think horror is distinctly non-liberal. Horror generally involves people being punished for their misdeeds. That's anti-liberal because it is premised directly on the idea of personal responsibility.

tryanmax said...

I dunno. I think there is a split in horror between that and people just being in the wrong place at the wrong time. But I will agree that the more popular horror movies do follow the comeuppance theme.

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, Most horror is premised on the idea of punishment for misdeeds. In fact, there's been a lot of academic articles written in particular about slasher flicks being metaphors for morality where the only characters to survive are the ones who aren't doing drugs or engaged in pre-marital sex. After I read that, I stared paying attention and they are indeed right, that the characters who die in horror movies are usually the ones who have somehow "sinned".

Even non-slasher films tend to follow this rule by punishing people who do things like commit sacrilege or play around with satanic ideas or witchcraft. It's rarely a purely innocent person who becomes the target. And the ones who survive are almost always the ones who fall into the "decent folk" category.

Moreover, once the story starts, it's again survival of the smartest. If you do something stupid, you die.

Those aren't liberal ideas. Liberals don't like to connect cause and effect because that implies that we can control our own lives.

Obviously, I'm not saying this is always the case, but it seems to be true most of the time.

tryanmax said...

Maybe I just expect too much.

AndrewPrice said...

I don't follow? You mean you think liberals accepts basic ideas like personal responsibility?

tryanmax said...

No, I just mean maybe I expect too much from a horror movie.

mycrofth4 said...

I lost interest in Enterprise during the episode with Brent Spiner as guest star. Earth is poised at the brink of war with the Klingon Empire and Archer's mission is to find the eugenic supermen to stop it. Only the vulcan babe gets kidnapped by Orion pirates, so Archer drops everything in order to save her.

Sky Captain also had the hero give the villain the key to destroying the world in order to save his girlfriend. I turned it off and have yet to see how it ends.

The most common false conflict is when the hero throws away his gun because the villain has a hostage, thereby turning himself into an additional hostage.

AndrewPrice said...

mycrofth4, Isn't that the truth! What's the point in throwing the gun away? As long as the hero has the gun, the worst the villain will do is continue the face off. Then you can wait for a mistake. But once you throw the gun away, the villain can do whatever they want. It's stupid. Real cops don't toss away their guns during hostage situations because they know this. And I think it's really bad writing if you're relying on that kind of conduct to make the story work!

Good example of Sky Captain and Enterprise. The whole thing just frustrates me that we're suddenly supposed to believe a competent hero will let the villain destroy the world/country/ship/etc. just to save the girlfriend. There are always better alternatives and it feels like the writer is reaching for some way to make the conflict more interesting.

United Citizens Council said...

Throwing away the gun is one of the dumbest ways to create a conflict. It is almost never done in any way that is realistic enough to make it work.

So the bad guy has a gun to your friend/lover/family member? How does dropping your gun make it any less likely they will get killed? Wouldn't it make it just as likely that BOTH of you get killed and you now no longer have even a chance of taking out the bad guy(s)?

And this sounded like it made sense to a writer, if we can call them that?

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