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As always I will preface my rambling MUTOD by saying that I am a very lazy writer, and although you’ll probably understand my ramblings more than Tom’s. I (very very rarely) do my homework with these blog posts, so what you’re reading is my own opinion and not necessarily fact. Deal with it. And comment.
Being the avid gamer that I am, I’m stealing this line from the 2010 XBox hit, Alan Wake. I think this will help set the tone for what this MUTOD is all about:
“Steven King once wrote that nightmares exist outside of logic and there’s little fun to be had in explanations. They’re antithetical to the poetry of fear. In a horror story the victim keeps asking why, but there can be no explanation and there shouldn’t be one. The unanswered mystery is what stays with us the longest and is what we’ll remember in the end.”
“No explanation, and there shouldn’t be one?” Are you kidding me? I’ll admit I did enjoy the game thoroughly, but I’ll also admit that my heart wasn’t completely in it on my first play through. When it came to the mystery of why Bright Falls was a town full of fucking crazies shrouded in a dark presence, and why they’re chasing Alan Wake?
Well, my original theory was a hell of a lot better than what I got out of the game…
Before the game’s release, a series of live-action webisodes all centering around the town. Having watched those, I established a theory of my own as to the “what” of the entire game. This was the theory: this dark presence was mass-produced by souls hunted deer seeking vengeance.
Bear with me, as fucking insane as that sounds, the events all begin around the time of the town’s local Deerfest Festival, and it’s like this big hunting season, and people start going crazy, turning into this “darkness” that hunts the main character from level to level.
Obviously, the hopes for my theory (or any cohesion…or comprehension?) were kiboshed as the game opened with the main character quoting Stephen King’s bullshit line. Goddamn you Stephen King for giving authors and directors a way out of responsibility for explaining their conventions. I think King is allowed to get away with things like his own line because he works in a print medium*, which allows the readers to make up the story in their own mind and fill in the gaps as needed. What do the characters look like? What about the setting? You paint your own picture in your head, and your own story is unique.
But you can’t get away with this shit when you’re telling a story visually, painting the picture for us. A movie or a television show becomes a shared experience. You’re watching the same movie as Joe Schmo, and the audience does less work. The characters are cast, you see the details you would have fabricated in your own mind.
That’s why The Da Vinci Code jarred me — one because it won the award for the most clumsily delivered exposition, and two, Bezu Fache will always look like Alfred Molina in my mental rendition — though Jean Reno is definitely not a bad choice. (LEON!)
When your plot makes no sense, your questions remain unanswered (or dodged) for no reason, or the answer sounds like it was pulled from someone’s ass — that is terrible writing.
Obviously, the most guilty of these was LOST, a popular television show that ran from September 2004 to May 2010 and proposed more questions then it ever could have had time to answer. It didn’t feel so much like the writers were collaborating so much so as they were trying to fuck with each other, depending on whose episode followed theirs. I can imagine such an admission would go like this around a big wooden conference table:
Writer A: So you know Phil is writing ep 205, right?
Writer B: Great, I’ve been slaving away at 204, and I really hate Phil. I’m going to put a polar bear in this episode.
Writer A: How are you going to explain that one?
Writer B: That’s Phil’s problem now, isn’t it?
Writer A: So how did you explain the frozen donkey wheel in 204?
Writer B: Because the Island, that’s why.
After sticking with LOST’s pointless riddles and mysteries through to the end I’ve decided that any show from now on that uses a Mcguffin as all-purpose plot spackle makes it a goddamn lazy show.
Here’s a thought: Maybe plan your stupid shows out a little bit better? Make the writers work together to make sense of your entire goddamn plot and maybe the reason why things are the way they are. A little collaboration to connect the dots never hurt anyone, and something is always better than nothing. There needs to be a payoff if you’re going to ask us to watch your stupid show.
This week How I Met Your Mother finally revealed who the mother was, after eight goddamn seasons. I don’t even watch this show, but I can’t imagine those who do felt like this was the payoff they had deserved. Instead the writers were trying to milk the show for as long as they could hold out, because, hey, a paycheck is a paycheck.
If there is one thing the UK does right it is that they have short seasons, which means that their shows have a set end date, trimming the fat and leaving no room for pointless twists and open-ended bullshit. I just asked a bunch of Brits about Dr. Who over Skype, and they’re pretty content with how the show answers pretty much everything, (after 26 seasons), minus the doctor’s real name.
So why can’t we do this here in the US? Seriously, all you writers on shows currently, take up a whole cork wall:
- Invite your whole team and draw your season-long arc’s story web on it.
- Collaborate and make some fucking sense out of things.
I shouldn’t have to be hate-watching Revolution anymore before it goes in the same bucket with other Canceled Unanswerables, such as The Event, V, Heroes, Alcatraz, Flashforward, Awake, & Terra Nova.
Seriously, writers, start fucking trying and stop wasting my fucking time.