Monday, August 20, 2007

Negatively Impacting Social Traits

Howdy bloggers,

What does that title mean you say? Well it's my definition of a character flaw. Of course as usual I'm totally going against the grain but at least in this case I have at least a well-known author who passively agrees that a flaw doesn't need to be a terrible internal conflict, it could just be a trait that would serve you well in one instance but be a hindrance in another.

The example the aforementioned author - Dr Linda Seger - wrote about was that she was from a small town and the values and mores she considered important would likely be a problem in say West Hollywood.

My favorite example of this occurs in the movie "RV," starring Robin Williams. In the movie Robin's character takes his wife and family on an RV trip to cover up his having to cancel his vacation.

Along the way they meet the Gornickies, a nice enough family but with living in a bus and home-schooling most people would stay far far away from them. Their light demeanor and wholesome folk singing would be pretty much frowned upon in the average trailer park full of tattooed temptresses and under-achieving rockers.

Another good example that I think of is both Red and Brooks who were institutionalized and all of the things that made them "big men" in prison will hardly serve them well in a world where people don't need cigarettes are books delivered or even solemn companionship.

In Brooks' case his traits wouldn't allow him to succeed, but with Red his friendship with Andy forced him to keep a promise else he would have been hanging from the ceiling also.

Another good one from a non-produced movie is a character I created named Ascha, a sheltered young virgin who dances like a stripper. Now of course in high school, where everyone knew her over-protective brother, no one wold dare say or try anything, but in college - where casual sex on alcohol and drug use are the norm - her friendly wholesome attitude will lead to trouble as people expect her dancing to reflect her lifestyle. It doesn't and she quickly finds out that there are those who can only see external personality traits and not internal.

Another really good example is North Country, in which Charlize Theron plays a woman who wants to stand up for herself in a place where it is not accepted. She goes through hell as soon as she makes note of the total abuse of women in the mine. Of course her negatively impacting social trait can be described as a "single mother." (She must be a slut)

When looking at modern movies, several come to mind, beginning with "Clueless" where Alicia Silverstone is a virgin who doesn't now a guy is gay or what a "bent one" is. In her sheltered environment she is a "queen" but throw her into a party college and her "wholesome" traits would definitely be mislabeled.

Jaw Breaker is another where the new girl wants to fit in with Rose McGowan's crew but finds she is not quite "vicious" enough.

That's not to say that being an asshole can't be exploited as a "flaw" or even an angry person who doesn't mix well with others (As Good As It Gets).

I'm actually working on a Rom Com where the hero is insecure about women exceeding his level of achievement and acts to maintain his "superior position" however he must; moral or immoral, legal or illegal.

A trait like that can be totally destroyed by a woman already his equal and only concerned about getting the job done. It ought to be interesting. Of course we throw in the boss who wants to teach him a lesson and voila, instant 90 minute drama.

At any rate I've been promising to post this for awhile but the original draft got lost when Google Pages crashed or something. So here it is in all its glory. I think it's important to remember that no one really knows what will be interesting to the masses but the re-telling of stories is starting to get rather lackluster as is evidenced by the bad numbers from "The Invasion" and several other remakes.

As writers we have to push the envelope, as something like the Matrix blew away all comers for a franchise. I'd love to create a franchise like that but I'd be happier with 20 small movies that movies critics stand up and say, "What the hell was that?"

It was interesting but I didn't get....

To do that nowadays, you have to find your pop culture voice.

Of course I don't believe in the exploitation of various groups for laughs but then I also write heroes who don't smoke so maybe that's my "flaw." I just have to be positive. Most of the time. Sure I have a movie that could end up NC-17 if I'm not careful but it is a real story about a real person whose "egotistic traits" cause her many problems as she is reluctant to take advice from anyone.

For more examples of this just find movies that are "fish out of water" tales. Most of those have a hero whose flaw is just being different from the majority of their social or cultural group.

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