The End Of A Beginning, A Middle, And An End
Sure, I'm from the ol skool of writing, where what are now considered inconsequential factors such as plot, continuity, logic, and linearity were prized rather than rejected wholesale as they seem to be in what passes for modern drama for TV and movies. I've accepted it as a passing fad, much like Twittering or placing your entire life details on Facebook and then crying when your identity is stolen. Sure, it's stupid, but given the fact that the largest demographic group that purchases movie tickets is tweens, what do you expect? Give them some blood splattering gore and a few glances at bare titties, and they won't even ask why the innocent victims stuck in the haunted house for a weekend while they're being systematically slaughtered never bothered to pull out a cell phone and dial 911.
Plot? Continuity? Logic? Linearity? Who needs all that antiquated crap? Apparently no one at all, these days.
My acceptance has been stretched to the limits by the sheer blather of TV shows like X-Files and Lost where not only have the producers given up on any semblance of story telling, but they might as well have their editing performed in a Moulinex for all the good it will do the audience. Shoot a few seasons of a TV show without the benefit of a script of any realistic sort, edit it completely randomly, air it, and watch the internet forums light up with nerdish "theories" of what the flying frak that mess was all about.
Yes, "frak" definitely brings me to a TV series I've been more or less slavishly following for six years and is about to come to an end... in airing, if not necessarily in plot: Battlestar Galactica. Having just watched the penultimate episode of the run, I found myself mouthing that singular contribution of this series to the vernacular: "What the frak???"
This "reimagining" of the cornball 70s series seemed to take a timeless story of humans fleeing from mechanical demons (Terminators, Cylons, etc.) and update it into the "Dark Knight" mold which the goth tweens seem to love these days. Everyone is tortured by their internal demons to the extent that the external demons can't even compare, especially when those external demons are just as messed up. Ya ya ya. Blah blah blah. Seen it. Done it. Got the T-Shirt. I want my money back. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.
The linear story structure for centuries has been: Boy meets girl; boy courts girl; boy and girl get married and live happily ever after. These days, the current synopsis paradigm is more along the lines of: Boy doesn't meet girl; girl meets girl who believes she's boy; boy meets a vampire ghost who astrally projects she's girl (although sometimes she's a levitating android donkey wearing a pink tutu); girl boy and vampire girl engage in hours of angst filled flashbacks where the motivation for their confusion remains just as much of a mystery than ever; everyone stumbles around muttering oblique nonsequitors; the final credits roll; Academy Award / Emmy nominations follow.
That "Daybreak Part I" episode of Battlestar Galactica was very much an adherent of the "modern" school of non-story-telling. The series premiered with eerie premonitions of the "Cylon Plan". Even the opening credits for the show's first seasons heralded this evil plan against mankind. But now that we're just a week from the ending, any hint of a plan has gone the way of the rest of the setups which the writers seemed to be structuring for six years. BattleLost Galactic-X: There are no answers only more questions... because the writers wrote themselves into holes that they couldn't extricate themselves from.
Producer Ron Moore summed up the finale of Battlestar in this quote: "I was getting caught up in the wrong plot in my head, and I was getting annoyed with myself, and with my writers, and life in general, and my children, and cats. I was in the shower and just sort of had this epiphany that I was concentrating on the wrong thing. It's really not about the plot, it's about the characters. I came back into the writers' room the next day and wrote ‘It's the characters, stupid' up on the board."
Therefore, after six years of trying to follow along to figure out just what this evil Cylon plan to wipe out mankind is, it will turn out that we're going to be treated to more "Caprica Before The Fall" flashbacks of Roslin eating sushi while considering whether to go on a blind date, Lee trying to shoo a pigeon out of his apartment, and Gaius and Caprica Six getting it on in the back of a Lincoln limo heading down Granville Avenue in Vancouver... oh... sorry... Caprica City. It's so deep. It's so meaningful. It's so mysterious. It's such crap!
The only mystery left in Battlestar Galactica is how they managed to shoot so many bright sunny scenes in Vancouver, a city whose constant liquid sunshine weather makes Seattle look like Phoenix.
The wimp out coitus interruptus plotting of Battlestar Galactica, like so many fiction shows on television today, is a complete insult to the millions of people in the TV audience. Today's screenwriters no longer take their classic inspirations not from the great movies of the past: Gone With The Wind; Citizen Kane; It's A Wonderful Life; and the other magnificent films which have entertained generations, but they harken back to the incoherent random Dadaism of Un Chien Andalou: Let's slice the wife's eye with a razor then have the husband bicycle through town dressed as a nun, and watch the film criticism classes for decades light up with nerdish "theories" of what the flying frak that mess was all about.
Anton Chekhov famously stated: "If in the first act you have hung a pistol on the wall, then in the following one it should be fired. Otherwise don't put it there." That is the essence of good story telling. There is a reason for everything: The pistol is on the wall; it's a plot point; it will be "paid off" by someone getting shot. However, today's Hollywood paradigm is: The pistol is on the wall; the levitating android donkey will pass by it on the way to shopping for a mauve bra to go with her pink tutu while muttering about existential insecure apprehension.
Like so much of modern culture, this fad of plotless plotting is sheer unadulterated whale dreck, and is not only to be criticized, but forcefully rejected by all audiences. As viewers, we must make our preferences clear to the addled bozos in Hollywood, and as writers we have to work hard to return some shadow of linear reason to the fiction we write. And we must abandon plotlessness as the sign of creative bankruptcy: the ultimate lousy writer's crutch.
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