Thursday, July 28, 2016

When Writers Cop Out

So I'm on the plane back from London to Melbourne and I'm watching Deutschland '83 which is about an East German agent infiltrating NATO command in yup, 1983...I'm watching episode 4 and our young, handsome Soviet agent has compromised a NATO General's secretary by leaving a bug under her desk which has been discovered by a cleaner. The agent's handler tells him to recruit the secretary or kill her. He takes her swimming and thinks about letting her drown in the river when she gets cramp but instead he saves her tells her he loves her and then explains that he's a Stasi agent. She thinks things over and decides to run away. He catches up with her in the woods. This is where the writers copped out and I stopped watching the show. Instead of having him kill her, she gets killed sort of accidentally by running in front of a car. Our hero is robbed of his moral choice by a Deus Ex Machina BMW. The writers did this because they thought we would lose sympathy for our hero if he kills the plain, decent, nice secretary.* In other words the writers don't respect you or me the viewer. They don't think we're intelligent enough to have two conflicting emotions in our head at the same time: revulsion at our hero's actions, but interest in seeing what happens to him next. Funnily enough almost exactly the same thing happened in The Crying Game 23 years ago. The writer, Neil Jordan, didn't actually have the IRA man kill the captured British soldier...instead after a run through the woods he is knocked down and killed by a big Deus Ex Machina Land Rover. Neil Jordan was afraid we wouldn't be able to watch the rest of the movie if Forrest Whittaker was actually shot in the head execution style the way the IRA actually killed all their captured British soldiers and policeman. 
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Bizarrely almost exactly the same death happened in another German production The Lives of Others - woman tormented by Stasi runs out of apartment and is killed by a tram. This, folks, is utter bullshit. Alfred Hitchcock knew this was bullshit 50 years ago when he had that scene in Psycho where Marion's car momentarily doesn't sink in the swamp as Norman Bates tries to get rid of the evidence. We are deliciously on Norman's side with our heart in our mouths as the car sits there in the quicksand not sinking...this despite the fact that we hate Norman Bates for what he's done to the lovely Janet Leigh. Hitchcock knew that audiences are capable of holding several different emotions in our heads at the same time loving and hating the hero protagonist. We're not dumb we'll still watch the movie if the hero makes some terrible moral choices. Indeed our hero wrestling with his or her morality is what makes books and movies interesting in the first place. Just read a Graham Greene novel some time - that's what they're all about and they're bloody fascinating. An unconflicted hero is boring. Unlike the rest of the world I never dug The Shawshank Redemption precisely because there was no actual redemption - Andy was innocent and virtuous all the way through...Ugh. 
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So yeah don't let writers pull that crap on you and call that shit whenever you see it. You need to be treated with more respect than that. Deutschland '83 you lost me as a viewer when you treated me like an idiot...

*I knew she was doomed, by the way, because she wasn't as pretty as the other female lead on the show. I've been watching Stranger Things and it does the same thing: killing the plainer female characters but letting the prettier ones live...this is some more bullshit right here but that's a discussion for another day...