Monday, December 14, 2009

Writing about writing

Yes indeedy.

I was watching Elf yester-eve. I hadn't seen it before and I'm not a huge Will Ferrell fan - but as I mentioned in this post, I'm not the sort of person that feels the need to turn their emotions up to 11, when anything from 1 to 10 might be more appropriate.

Elf is okay, amusing and doesn't get overly sentimental despite being a family feel-good movie. I wouldn't be averse to seeing it again, but wouldn't go out of my way to see it.

But that's not the point. It's the important similarity between Elf and The Fugitive that I'm talking about here - actually Elf isn't a perfect example but it has elements that reminded me of the point.

Yes, but what is the point? I hear you scream.

The Protagonist and the Hero's Journey.

Everybody knows that the Hero goes on a journey and they change in the process.

Everybody knows.


Actually that isn't always true. (Please note, I am not turning my emotion up to 11 here, I said "it isn't always true" which means there are instances where it isn't true, and instances where it is true.)

Who's the protagonist in the Fugitive? Dr. Kimble, whose wife is killed by the one-armed man, or so he claims. What journey does Dr Kimble go on in The Fugitive? Um ... none. At the beginning he knows he's right and at the end he's exactly the same. The only journey is proving he is right, he doesn't change.

But, his pursuer, Tommy Lee Jones's character, he changes but he isn't the protagonist.

In Elf Buddy is the protagonist, no question, but the journey belongs to his father. He's the one that does the classic Aristotleian Dilemma-Crisis-Decision and Action-Resolution. And it's really obvious. (Buddy does have his own sub-plot which involves some change, but it's a sub-plot.)

What it means is: the Protagonist does not have change, they can be "Steadfast". But someone does have to change.

I'm not going to pretend I thought this up all by myself, however it's taken me a while to absorb this concept thoroughly and find other examples. It comes originally from Dramatica which I read up on for a while - it appealed to my computer programming background (which is why, I suspect, some people think it's too automated - but as usual that's not right, it's just another tool which you can choose to use or not use).

So that's today's take-away, or leave-behind depending on your viewpoint. And if you want to disagree, well, I don't mind, but have a good think about it first.

What's on the turntable? "Something to believe in" by Clannad from "Sirius"


Eleanor said...

Most action films have a protagonist who doesn't change.
John McClane is one of the many classic examples.

Interesting point about another character needing to change - although, again, this doesn't always happen ... e.g. Die Hard


Great post. More! More!

Adaddinsane said...

Hm, well we'll be watching all four Die Hards back to back on Boxing Day. (Last year it was all the Indiana Joneses, the two years before that we watched the entire extended LotR - set aside 12 hours.)

In DH4 his daughter changes, as does his geek sidekick.

In DH1, it's the desk-bound cop.

Eleanor said...

Okay. desk bound cop - forgot about his hands-on heroism at the end.

LotR - 12hours?
I can't be arsed to go check the DVD shelf, so I shall not try to raise you by another 4 hours.

Is Die Hard 2 on the box? Which channel? It's been so long since I've watched it ... all I remember is not liking it as much as the first, so I've put off buying it yet. (I have all the others) I like 4, even if my sister did grumble all the way through it.