Middle Child Press: Ankh Speaks: Plotline No-No's for the New Decade


Ankh Speaks: Plotline No-No's for the New Decade

Ladies and gents, 2010 has been over for some time now; the first decade of our new century is complete and we need to talk creative strategy for the next.

To say that our popular media - and even independent media, unfortunately - has become formulaic is a gross understatement.  We have an almost pathological lack of outside-the-box-thinking going on.  And when people genuinely make an effort to do something new, either one of two things always happens:

One - the audience realizes after the first third of the film or the first season of a show that they've been bamboozled and whatever diversity/creativity they were enjoying was strictly there for luring, not longetivity (Heroes comes to mind).

Two - the moment the audience recognizes the creators' daring and brilliance, the audience also realizes the show is going to be canceled ASAP, or the film will have several crappy sequels.

We've simply developed a sense for these things.

For me, there are some plot devices which I don't need to see, like, ever again.  You will no doubt recognize these as I go over them one by one.  Some of you may rather enjoy these, and to be honest, there was a time I did too.  However, there's a reason why good things must come to an end; sometimes, it's simply because they need to.

Feel free to add more as we go along.
No-No #1: The Love Triangle


This one's up first for a reason; I have seen this plot device everywhere in everything.  Once a great and classic source of drama, it's now become every writer's fallback plot device.  Sometimes, it feels as though writers are saying a romance can't be interesting unless infidelity (or at least the potential for infidelity) is involved.  This can range from harmless and boring when we don't care about the characters, to flat-out catastrophic when we do.  Take FlashForward for example.  Fans didn't really care about the  Mark/Olivia/Lloyd triangle; they were boring.  No one cared about Mark and Olivia, and while Jack Davenport was doing the best he could, it was hard to care about him too. But when Demetri Noh (Korean) stepped out on Zoey Andata (black) for Janis Hawk (a white lesbian)...it didn't go over so well.  It wasn't just racially flawed, but delusionally heterosexist as hell.

No-No #2: The "Alpha"

Whether it's Tomb Raider, Salt, The Fifth Element, Thor, the Terminator series, the Resident Evil series, Dances with Wolves, The Last Samurai - whatever - this notion that the entire fate of the world/country/universe rests on the shoulders of one, usually white, person or group of people, has got to go.  It has to go.  Let's be real, ladies, and gents; there's a reason crime thrillers tend to do better than these formulaic action flicks: 1) the stakes are more realistic (hostage situation, heist, etc.), so the audience isn't asked to suspend every last inch of their belief to get through the film, and 2) in problem-solving, no one person has all the pieces to a puzzle.  Even if they don't know it, various characters often each hold a key and thus each is needed for the resolution.  This gives a writer room to create a diverse group of characters with varying personalities and origins which, as a result, makes the story more interesting.

No-No #3: The Unnecessary Romance

Make no mistake...if Naomie Harris and Rain ever decide to do a Ninja Assassin sequel in which they get nekkid and sweaty, I'm all for it.  I'll even go see it 2-3 times in theaters.  There are some people who simply need to take their clothes off and get it on for the audience.

However...not every film needs sex/romance, and when it's shoved in, we can tell it's been shoved in, usually to remind the audience that heterosexual white people really, really, really love each other.  This is what tends to cause eye-rolling and groaning in the theaters.

Lack of romance, however, can sometimes do wonders for a film.  Remember The Boondock Saints?

No-No #4: Inexplicable Asexuality in Films with POC

For some reason, when at least one of two protagonists is a person of color, any white people in charge of production move to desexualize the character(s) of color.  This is usually noticeable in Blasian films, of course, but it happens with other combinations as well (WW/AM, WW/BM, gay couples of color/interracial gay couples, etc.).  While I'm no fan of the unnecessary romance, if one of the driving points from the get-go is romance between two characters, um...wouldn't it be more convincing if they kiss?  Have sex?  Whatever?

While our sexuality make may white folks "uncomfortable", white sexuality in film has gotten downright boring, predictable, and without anything remotely resembling fire or passion or emotion.  So if we have to sleep through their shit, then they need to sit down, shut up, and squirm through ours.

No-No #5: The Privileged Underdog

We see this one a lot from films in the white saturation genre.  You know you are privileged when writers have to manufacture a time and place where you were oppressed and then ensure your triumph in the end.  This shows a complete lack of understanding of what it means to be oppressed.  For white folks in particular, "slavery" means watching a bunch of white Roman chicks gets raped all day.  "Slavery" means having the skill, the cunning, the resources, and the opportunities to magically break free from a centuries-old institution.

Um...no, not really (just ask the Romans).

Here are some fun facts about enslavement:

  1. Nothing is on your terms.  You don't breed on your terms.  You don't eat, sleep, or take a shit on "your terms."  You don't even get to die on your terms.  99% of the time, if you lead a revolt, you will fail.  The ultimate mark of being a slave is to not get your way, to not triumph over evil, and to experience hell from the moment you're born in a stable 'til the day some bored oppressor decides to throw a rope around your neck for shits and giggles.
  2. When shit is not on your terms, when you have no rights, no protection, and no hope, you tend to have really low self-esteem, poor education, remedial verbal skills, and an overall shit-tastic outlook on life.  So you can forget all the grandiose speechifying about how it's unfair to be a Lycan, and forget about having the strength, strategic knowledge, and resources to wage an epic battle against a testosterone-fueled rock soundtrack.  It just doesn't happen like that.
  3. When you are a male slave, you are not banging your owner's daughter.  And I think it goes without saying that she is not love with you.  If you are a female slave, you are an unwilling bed-warmer.  You are being raped on a regular basis.  You are property; you are "less".  You are there to be used and nothing more.  You're not supposed to speak, or think, or feel anything.

No one in their right mind fantasizes about that.

No-No #6: Unnecessary White Characters/Racebending

Ever a watch a film with a cast of sixteen people and three or four overlapping, convoluted plotlines, and get the impression the folks in charge just wanted to cram as many white faces into the film as possible?  I mean, they're not interesting.  They don't serve any kind of purpose.  Half the time, they're not even all that attractive.  They're just there.

In the decade to come, HollyWTF will find that the quickest way to fuck up a film is to cast white folks who really don't need to be in it.  Especially when the characters are originally written to be Asian POC in general.

No-No #7: Fountain of Youth

Look...I used to be young, all right?  And I was a smart young'un, too - liked to read, got good grades, took the PSATs when I was in seventh grade.  Even so, you wouldn't have wanted me running shit.  If I'm on a starship, for example, my captain is not allowed to be younger than Moi.  If I've got gray hairs, he or she better have 'em too - I ain't takin' orders from no bitch 10-year-old.  Nor will I from the leader of my army, nor the doc who's cuttin' me open, nor the politician presiding over my country of residence.

Which brings to me another things: I'm a grown woman; I need a grown woman's eye candy.  Therefore, don't give me some 16-year-old pretty boy.  Show me his father instead; at least that man has a good 16 years of experience, bill-paying included.

This obsession with youth has got to go.  There's a reason why childhood and adolescence go by so fast; something tells me we weren't designed to stay dumb, impulsive, and selfish forever.  We're supposed to grow out of that.  Furthermore, when I look into the eyes of a male love interest, I want to see some years.  I want to see some gravity, some wearied maturity.  Looking into the eyes of a "man" and seeing innocence and cluelessness is not a turn-on; it is simply the harbinger of dissatisfaction.
So there you have it - my seven main pet peeves with story-telling.  What are yours?