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For Fun, We Pay to See Someone in Crisis. Discuss.

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    For Fun, We Pay to See Someone in Crisis. Discuss.

    I had a friend who loved the show Alias. For Halloween she dressed up as Sydney Bristow. I believe it was that at that time she and I had a conversation that went more or less like so.

    "You like Alias."
    "Yes."
    "You wish you were Sydney Bristow."
    "Yes. No, wait. Sydney's life sucks. Friends betray her. Bad guys are always trying to kill her." Etc.

    The same could be said of any hero, no?


    spies_alias_sydney2.jpg

    #2
    The internal conflict is from pain to joy (and vice versa for a roller coaster ride). The external is from the danger to safety.

    Of course, then you have a show like "Seinfeld" where "nothing happens". And it's only the most popular show of all time.

    BTW, I've been thinking about the "McGuffins" recently. Journey from danger to safety can surely be one. I never watched "Alias" but many TV shows do tend to have contrived conflicts.

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      #3
      Yes, we pay to see them in crisis, so we can experience catharsis when they get out of crisis. I challenge the idea that nothing happens on Seinfeld. There are no world ending conflicts on the show, it's just all tiny little micro conflicts that have no major consequences.
      "Money doesn't make films...You just do it and take the initiative." - Werner Herzog

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        #4
        Originally posted by Batutta View Post
        ... I challenge the idea that nothing happens on Seinfeld. There are no world ending conflicts on the show, it's just all tiny little micro conflicts that have no major consequences.
        The above alludes to Larry David's "Chinese Restaurant' script, when NBC's president Warren Littlefield famously uttered, "Why is this a show? This is a script about nothing". That line made it into the program itself during the later episodes.

        But, while "Seinfeld" episodes did indeed have a story arc, Larry refused to do a traditional dramatic story plot line, which was a must in the 1980's-90's TV sitcom genre. Even the "Simpsons" (the two shows had a majority of its writers represented by the UTA then) borrowed a premise with one ending - "What's the meaning of this?" - "There's no meaning. It's just a bunch of stuff that happened".

        As a side note, the absence of a "moral conclusion" that was prevalent on everything from "Murphy Brown" to "Family Ties" allowed the "Seinfeld" creative team to come up with some unique endings, which resembled a punchline to a joke rather than the finale of a classic story structure.

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          #5
          There's a very good 1953 French/Italian movie called "The Wages of Fear" that won a bunch of prizes and launched Clouzot's career (it was subsequently remade as "Sorcerer" by Friedkin in 1977). One of the most memorable scenes is when a bunch of street kids play in the dirt, the entertainment consisting of setting insects to fight against each other and watching the grim spectacle. This "kids and fighting insects" scene inspired Peckinpaw to do something similar in The Wild Bunch.

          That in minature, is the same instict that has had people, as entertainment, watch animals fight against each other in the Coliseum, or people fight each other as gladiators, or pay money to watch a boxing match or whatnot.

          In movies we do the same - set up situations where we can watch someone fight against whatever opponents or adversity. For that matter, field biologists are well familiar with that instinct - when there's a fight between two monkeys, often the other monkeys in the troop gather around to watch. We're not that different.

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            #6
            Originally posted by OldCorpse View Post
            There's a very good 1953 French/Italian movie called "The Wages of Fear" that won a bunch of prizes and launched Clouzot's career (it was subsequently remade as "Sorcerer" by Friedkin in 1977). One of the most memorable scenes is when a bunch of street kids play in the dirt, the entertainment consisting of setting insects to fight against each other and watching the grim spectacle. This "kids and fighting insects" scene inspired Peckinpaw to do something similar in The Wild Bunch.

            That in minature, is the same instict that has had people, as entertainment, watch animals fight against each other in the Coliseum, or people fight each other as gladiators, or pay money to watch a boxing match or whatnot.

            In movies we do the same - set up situations where we can watch someone fight against whatever opponents or adversity. For that matter, field biologists are well familiar with that instinct - when there's a fight between two monkeys, often the other monkeys in the troop gather around to watch. We're not that different.
            True, but I still think, even when watching opponents fight, it's the catharsis we get from seeing someone win that people really seek. I don't think it's driven by a grim desire to see people inflict pain on each other (well, maybe for some, but those people are psychopaths).
            "Money doesn't make films...You just do it and take the initiative." - Werner Herzog

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              #7
              I decided to open this thread after reading the origin of the word crisis. It basically means a point where you have to make a choice.

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                #8
                Originally posted by Batutta View Post
                True, but I still think, even when watching opponents fight, it's the catharsis we get from seeing someone win that people really seek. I don't think it's driven by a grim desire to see people inflict pain on each other (well, maybe for some, but those people are psychopaths).
                Sometimes, yes, no doubt, but I'm not sure what the breakdown is. When justice is done and the good guy prevails in a fight, perhaps we experience catharsis. But it's when the bad guy finally get his/her comeuppance, which is just as often - if not more often - the motivation... it's not so much that the good guy did it, but that the bad guy really got a taste of his own medicine - it's how revenge films work, a category that is super popular and that writers work very, very hard to make us want the bad guy to be really taken down to be really humiliated, PAYBACK is the name of the game, rather than THE GOOD GUY WON! More important: THE BAD GUY LOST! in such cases. We want to see the bad guy suffer, more than see the face of the victorious good guy - in those cases. So it can be both.

                But I'd argue often it's neither. How does it work when thousands would watch in a Roman Coliseum a bear fight against the lion. Do we care about the good guy and bad guy? Nope, we just watch the bloodsport. If you think that's ancient history, just go on youtube and see all the millions of hits on videos of animals fighting - or whole series of DVDs they'd sell of "animals fighting". Very popular. And how do you think gladiators worked? They wanted to see WHO won, not that the "good" guy defeats the "bad" guy - that dynamic is not there - they don't know as yet who will win, there is no "catharsis". When you go to a boxing match, the whole premise is that you can't know ahead of time who wins - otherwise why hold a match. And yet millions watch. That dynamic has been true for millenia.

                Rather than "psychopaths" - we should acknowledge human nature - we often just like to see a good fight and blood flow. For that matter, it can just be about the spectacle - as in many kung fu and such movies. Why do you think the sport of MMA is so popular - and that it has made a transition to being a genre in movies? Bloodsport, not catharsis. We'll pay for that.

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                  #9
                  Originally posted by combatentropy View Post
                  I decided to open this thread after reading the origin of the word crisis. It basically means a point where you have to make a choice.
                  ez7e7.jpg

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                    #10
                    It's not bloodlust. The twisted, degenerate thirst to see someone get hurt doesn't leave you with the feeling of being uplifted, like after you hear a good story.

                    Besides, I'm talking specifically about the suffering not of the villain but of the protagonist, the one you identify with. It doesn't make sense to root for and feel for someone you also want to cause pain to --- that would be masochism.

                    Another important facet is that, in the midst of suffering, the hero must be able to do something. Otherwise, you have the problem of the Passive Protagonist, which even Hollywood screenwriters still sometimes fall into. For example it's why in Sicario Emily Blunt's character is so unsatisfying. She suffers: things don't go her way. She even tries to do something about them. But she is always pushed to the side. The protagonist must not only find himself in a difficult situation. He must also (1) try to change things, and (2) in the end actually bring about change.
                    Last edited by combatentropy; 02-08-2017, 09:53 PM.

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                      #11
                      As a side note - on Thursday, I received a promo email for the Robert McKee screenwriting course. In that email, he described the positives from the "Hidden Figures" screenplay - real story, real characters.

                      And I am thinking, "Well, jeez, everyone thinks that they're writing "real stories" and "real characters". What other characters would you write?"

                      Which is what bothers me about these classes. One can easily say, "Writer A and Writer B are, in principle, following the same ideas and the same concepts ... but Writer A is just better. That's why he keeps working on major films and TV shows and why Writer B is posting on a forum".

                      It's like you can show any budding pitcher how to throw a curve but very few of them will ever become Bert Blyleven.

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                        #12
                        I can't recommend McKee enough. I'm rereading Story now and took his genre class on long-form TV..

                        Brilliant and I know my writing has gotten better since reading him.

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