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-   -   Fatal Flaw? (http://messageboard.donedealpro.com/boards/showthread.php?t=54124)

Ronaldinho 03-31-2010 12:56 PM

Re: Fatal Flaw?
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by JimHull (Post 632130)
But I do believe there is value in understanding the difference between the character who drives the efforts towards the goal and the character through whose eyes we witness the film.

Sure. Casablanca is just a really poor example of this dichotomy.

Quote:

If Rick was the Protagonist, and by that I mean the character who drives the efforts towards the goal, then I think for the film to have the same sort of ending Rick would have ended up with Ilsa.
I disagree. Let's take a simpler example. Let's say that Luke fails to blow up the Death Star. He doesn't turn off his targeting computer, his torpedoes impact on the surface, and the D.S. blows up the moon with the rebel base on it.

Now, I think we can all agree that such an ending wouldn't be very satisfying, I'm not arguing that it's a better ending,or anything like that.

But it doesn't change who the protagonist or main character of the story is. Those elements are defined the the totality of the story - they aren't determined after-the-fact by the ending.

If Rick had gone through with the plan he told Ilsa, and gotten on the plane himself with her, handing Laszlo over to the Nazis, we all agree that wouldn't be a very satisfying ending, but it also wouldn't change the action of the first 98% of the movie. If you're relying on the ending to define your main character, then, it follows that you're suggesting that you can not identify the main character of a story if you missed the last five minutes of it.

That strikes me as absurd on its face.

JeffLowell 03-31-2010 01:38 PM

Re: Fatal Flaw?
 
Exactly. The decision of the protagonist in the last three minutes doesn't define his role in the story for the last two hours.

Also, to assume Rick is the protagonist only if he gets the girl is to say that you can only have happy endings in films. So Woody Allen wasn't the protagonist of Annie Hall because he lost her, and Julia Roberts wasn't the protag in My Best Friend's Wedding for the same reason, not to mention every romantic tragedy (which Casablance falls under) where they don't end up together.

I get it that WWII is a big event, but it doesn't make it the main story of Casablanca. It's like saying that Titanic is really a story about the people who told the ship to go faster vs the people who said it wasn't safe because of the icebergs. Jack and Rose? Not driving the action of the movie.

JimHull 03-31-2010 02:02 PM

Re: Fatal Flaw?
 
"Titanic" I'll skip because I don't think it was particularly that great. As far as "Best Friend's Wedding" goes I would definitely say that Julia Roberts is both the Protagonist and Main Character. I would say her efforts to subvert such wedding end in failure, but she is in a much better place. I would categorize that film as more of a Personal Triumph - the efforts to pursue the story goal (the problem everyone is dealing with) end in failure, but the Main Character is in a much better place.

Personally I don't think the goal everyone is dealing with in Casablanca revolves around whether or not he gets Ilsa, so I wouldn't categorize him as the Protagonist. It was mentioned previously that this was what Rick was pursuing and that this was the main goal of the story, so I was trying to use that as an example.

I have a whole series of articles I wrote on Endings last year here: Meaningful Endings. Each one has a several video clips that help demonstrate my arguments. They should help explain that I don't think every story needs to have a happy ending (in fact, my favorites don't).

This goes back to what I believe is the incorrect assumption that the Protagonist is the character we care the most about, or empathize with the most. I believe that responsibility lies with the Main Character. When it all comes down to it this is an argument over definitions, and my argument is that the presently accepted definition of the Protagonist as being the character an audience empathizes most with is inaccurate.

Re: Ronaldinho, I agree that the relying on the ending to define your Main Character is absurd. I was using the ending of a story to help define who the Protagonist is. If you accept that idea that stories are about solving problems, then it follows that you would want to know whether or not those problems are solved and who was leading the charge towards him.

Laura Reyna 03-31-2010 02:08 PM

Re: Fatal Flaw?
 
I didn't read all of the posts...

I'm one of those who doesn't make a distinction btwn the "Main Character" and "Protagonist" in my head. MC, protagonist, Hero-- they are all the same person in my head. The person with the goal that drives the story. But I've never written a story that had a seperate narrator or POV char.

I don't think most writers think about labeling these kinds of things when they're writing. All this comes out of academic, after the fact analysis. Maybe if I was writing a paper to impress a professor I would think about it more.

As a writer, I try not to over analyze too much, try to keep it as simple as possible. Writing movies is hard enough already without tying yourself in knots over this kind of stuff.

Rantanplan 03-31-2010 02:13 PM

Re: Fatal Flaw?
 
For stories where there might be a main (focal) character AND a protag, here's from Wiki:

In any narrative, the focal character is the character on whom the audience is meant to place the majority of their interest and attention. He or she is almost always also the protagonist of the story; however, in cases where the "focal character" and "protagonist" are separate, the focal character's emotions and ambitions are not meant to be empathized with by the audience to as high an extent as the protagonist (this is the main difference between the two character terms). The focal character is mostly created to simply be the "excitement" of the story, though not necessarily the main character about whom the audience is emotionally concerned. The focal character is, more than anyone else, "the person on whom the spotlight focuses; the center of attention; the man whose reactions dominate the screen."[1]

So following that differentiation, in T2 Arnold would be the focal character but the audience's emotional investment lies with the protag(s), i.e. the kid and Sarah Connor. Yes, no?

NikeeGoddess 03-31-2010 02:13 PM

Re: Fatal Flaw?
 
TANGENT ALERT!
i feel bad for the wives and girlfriends of some of you geeks that love hearing yourself talk so much that you over-fricken-analyze to death. do you come here b/c they won't listen to you anymore? geeez! that's what you should be writing about. write what you know!

geeks who over-fricken-analyze to death turn into nerds... which is not a good thing.

ok - as you were
or NOT

Biohazard 03-31-2010 02:53 PM

Re: Fatal Flaw?
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by NikeeGoddess (Post 632074)
shawshank redemption
road to perdition
million dollar baby
to kill a mockingbird
training day

Not familiar enough with some of those films to give an accurate reply, but I will say this...

Shawshank Redemption - Andy's story
Million Dollar Baby - Maggie's story
Training Day - Jake's story

The character that begins the story with a specific flaw or need and ends up falling into what becomes the principal conflict that creates a specific goal for the character which drives and gives purpose to every event of the story and forces the character to change or grow to overcome his/her flaw in the end...that character is the protagonist, because it's their story.

I find it strange that something as elementary as determining the hero of a story confuses anyone on these boards.

If you can't immediately pick out the hero and villain of TRAINING DAY, then I don't even know what to say. I'm definitely not qualified to handle a matter that severe.

The protagonist is the main character - it's their story.

TheKeenGuy 03-31-2010 03:01 PM

Re: Fatal Flaw?
 
I can't tell you how pissed off I get when the Academy does something like nominate Ethan Hawke in TRAINING DAY for Best Supporting Actor.

Steven Jenkins 03-31-2010 03:05 PM

Re: Fatal Flaw?
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by NikeeGoddess (Post 632175)
TANGENT ALERT!
i feel bad for the wives and girlfriends of some of you geeks that love hearing yourself talk so much that you over-fricken-analyze to death. do you come here b/c they won't listen to you anymore? geeez! that's what you should be writing about. write what you know!

geeks who over-fricken-analyze to death turn into nerds... which is not a good thing.

ok - as you were
or NOT

yeah - but HOW?

Am I the main character or the protagonist? And who's the cat playing - (probably my mentor).

There's nothing wrong with nerdiness - I'm pretty glad overall that there's a few nerdy architect's out there who know the difference between a firedoor and catflap.

JeffLowell 03-31-2010 03:07 PM

Re: Fatal Flaw?
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by NikeeGoddess (Post 632175)
TANGENT ALERT!
i feel bad for the wives and girlfriends of some of you geeks that love hearing yourself talk so much that you over-fricken-analyze to death. do you come here b/c they won't listen to you anymore? geeez! that's what you should be writing about. write what you know!

geeks who over-fricken-analyze to death turn into nerds... which is not a good thing.

ok - as you were
or NOT

Excellent 2448th post.

Laura Reyna 03-31-2010 03:20 PM

Re: Fatal Flaw?
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by TheKeenGuy (Post 632189)
I can't tell you how pissed off I get when the Academy does something like nominate Ethan Hawke in TRAINING DAY for Best Supporting Actor.

This still bothers me. :mad:

Hawke has as much or more screen time as Washington-- as well as being the protagonist!

TwoBrad Bradley 03-31-2010 03:25 PM

Re: Fatal Flaw?
 
This goes way back so I might have it wrong.

I seem to recall that James Woods went berserk during an interview for Against All Odds when the interviewer implied he was the antagonist and not the protagonist.

JeffLowell 03-31-2010 03:35 PM

Re: Fatal Flaw?
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by TheKeenGuy (Post 632189)
I can't tell you how pissed off I get when the Academy does something like nominate Ethan Hawke in TRAINING DAY for Best Supporting Actor.

I don't believe that's the academy's call. I believe sometimes actors go "down a weight class" believing that there's less competition.

zenplato 03-31-2010 04:33 PM

Re: Fatal Flaw?
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Biohazard (Post 632185)
I find it strange that something as elementary as determining the hero of a story confuses anyone on these boards.

The protagonist is the main character - it's their story.

Things like this seem so obvious...I guess not.

asjah8 03-31-2010 04:40 PM

Re: Fatal Flaw?
 
bio, i respectfully disagree about maggie in mdb. her stakes in the story - she desires to be a ring fighter. she didn't start the story as one, so she didn't have anything to lose except going back to the trailer parks. since the extended family thread was only a light offshoot of the dt, i don't see that as being high enough stakes for such a powerful story. a journey is about regaining what is lost. maggie can't regain what she didn't lose, and can't lose what she didn't have.

frankie on the other hand was created as someone who has something to lose. he's already lost a prize fighter that abandoned and humiliated him; and; he's already lost his daughter. both stakes are high; one is personal, the other is professional. frankie has a journey to make and when maggie walks in the door, she immediately sets him on edge. to me, that's what an antagonist does -- pushes the protag into a corner and then keeps coming; ie, upsets the ordinary world.

maggie is frankie's million dollar baby - she's a representation of daughter, fighter, pride, determination and respect all rolled into one package. exactly what frankie is missing but a flaw he doesn't recognize until his ordinary world changes. when frankie pulls the plug on her assisted life machine, he's both physically and symbolically letting go of his flaw and recognizing that he can go on as a healed individual. the film is his story and what this scrappy, determined girl did to change his life.

anyway, that's how i see mdb. everyone has a different perception and half the fun of writing lies in the interpretation. :)

Biohazard 03-31-2010 05:49 PM

Re: Fatal Flaw?
 
Million Dollar Baby - the title even says it's Maggie's story.

She the protagonist. She is the character that has the goal that drives the story on what all else hinges. We watch her grow and struggle and push forward with the help of her unlikely mentor.

Frank's not the one in the ring fighting. Frank's not the one riding the bus home, longing to have a better life. Frank's not the one trying to support his family. Frank's not the one doing anything except trying to help the protagonist achieve her goal.

Sure, Frank may have struggles of his own and might even arc, but it's not his story.

Ronaldinho 03-31-2010 05:58 PM

Re: Fatal Flaw?
 
Your disagreement is exactly what I didn't like about MDB.

The first two acts are her story, and then suddenly it turns into a story about him. The third act is very much his story, and it ends up being really tedious and unsatisfying (to me) because it's not dealing with the character I care about and the issues I found interesting up to that point in the film.

YMMV.

Biohazard 03-31-2010 06:17 PM

Re: Fatal Flaw?
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Ronaldinho (Post 632239)
Your disagreement is exactly what I didn't like about MDB.

The first two acts are her story, and then suddenly it turns into a story about him. The third act is very much his story, and it ends up being really tedious and unsatisfying (to me) because it's not dealing with the character I care about and the issues I found interesting up to that point in the film.

YMMV.

M$B does have a very disjointed feel. I don't care for it nearly as much as the movie wants me to.

NikeeGoddess 03-31-2010 07:20 PM

Re: Fatal Flaw?
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by JeffLowell (Post 632204)
I don't believe that's the academy's call. I believe sometimes actors go "down a weight class" believing that there's less competition.

i think it's got to do with paycheck. the one with the biggest paycheck is the main character and the protagonist.

NikeeGoddess 03-31-2010 07:21 PM

Re: Fatal Flaw?
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by JeffLowell (Post 632260)
All right, Jim, last try.

What would you say the logline of Casablanca is? Shawshank?

no don't! walk slowly away from the computer.

asjah8 03-31-2010 08:20 PM

Re: Fatal Flaw?
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Biohazard (Post 632235)
Frank's not the one in the ring fighting. Frank's not the one riding the bus home, longing to have a better life. Frank's not the one trying to support his family. Frank's not the one doing anything except trying to help the protagonist achieve her goal.

Sure, Frank may have struggles of his own and might even arc, but it's not his story.

hehe... we disagree and that's cool. :)

protagonist's actions can be as subtle as a web of protective self-defense mechanisms to avoid being hurt. and antagonist derives from antagonize.

maggie wasn't trying to support her family, she didn't even like her family. and frank didn't want to help her; he wanted her out of his gym through the first act. he turned her down several times until she had antagonized him so persistently, that he gave in. up to that point, she was using a workout ball that eddie gave her against frankie's wishes.

over to casablanca or shawshank or... where were we?

jonpiper 03-31-2010 08:47 PM

Re: Fatal Flaw?
 
Just finished rereading Casablanca, and certain lines still brought tears.

The logline must contain what Rick must do when he gains possession of two letters of transit.

That's what the story is about. Rick must do the right thing with those letters. The love affair, the occupation, the other characters all present obstacles, complications.

The story is about how Rick faces challenges and goes through a series changes.

Rick is the protag, main character, and the one the audience is most attached to and involved with.

P.S. Rick gets the letters and hides them in the Piano P16. When Ugarte is arrested P30, Rick ownes them. What will he do with them? He can use them for his own eventual escape. He can sell them. As the story progresses, he must weigh various options. Lazlo and Ilsa enter P34. Rick and Isla meet P44.
What role will the letters of transet play. What will Rick do with them?

NikeeGoddess 03-31-2010 11:06 PM

Re: Fatal Flaw?
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by JeffLowell (Post 632191)
Excellent 2448th post.

what's that i smell? irony? sarcasm?

THEUGLYDUCKLING 03-31-2010 11:17 PM

Re: Fatal Flaw?
 
More like mock laughter.

zenplato 04-01-2010 06:02 AM

Re: Fatal Flaw?
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by jonpiper (Post 632285)

The story is about how Rick faces challenges and goes through a series changes.

Rick is the protag, main character, and the one the audience is most attached to and involved with.

I think that's a good point. I'd also add that Rick's internal "flaw" is that he lets no one in, except for HER. We see it throughout the first act how they set this up because if Rick doesn't care about her, then this story never happens.

"Rick never drinks with anyone" and when he's given the LoT, he's still cold and uninvolved. He's mildly impressed when he finds out the soldiers were killed by Ugarte.

But when Laszlo arrives, this makes him react because Victor Laszlo has the one thing that Rick wants: llsa. Prior to his arrival, Rick has a seal between him and everyone. Victor's arrival and his bar draws Rick into the conflict.

So, I'd argue that Laszlo is the antagonist because it's his actions that make Rick react; thus creating the dramatic elements. The external conflict was there all along, but Rick's not involved, he's neutral and it's not until his love for llsa that he is finally pulled into the exteral conflict, imo. The one thing standing in Rick's way is Laszlo.

Steven Jenkins 04-01-2010 08:28 AM

Re: Fatal Flaw?
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by zenplato (Post 632341)
So, I'd argue that Laszlo is the antagonist because it's his actions that make Rick react; thus creating the dramatic elements. The external conflict was there all along, but Rick's not involved, he's neutral and it's not until his love for llsa that he is finally pulled into the exteral conflict, imo. The one thing standing in Rick's way is Laszlo.

I'm not convinced.
What good are the LoT to Rick? He can't go where he wants to go - home. He only uses them against Ilsa, refusing to give them up, so getting some kind of revenge on her. The LoT eventually bring Rick and Ilsa to a conflict which resolves Rick's persoanl issues - which I'd argue is Rick's main plan by holding onto them, and getting revenge if the plan doesn't work (he even tells her they're in his pocket when she holds a gun to him, when in fact they're not at all).

I can't see any indication that Rick sees Lazlo as standing in his way of Ilsa. In fact he tries to warn Lazlo that Ilsa may not be the loyal wife he thinks she is. OK - he may be hoping they'll split up, but will that bring Ilsa back, and would he take her back anyway? Also - why does Rick back Lazlo up in the french patriot scene against the Nazis? Rick's a neutral.

I just can't buy Lazlo as being Rick's Antagonist - more the reverse. Rick stands in the way of what Lazlo wants - the LoT. Lazlo is the symbol of a good and noble cause - Rick stands in his way. What does that make Rick? So unless you have two protags and two antags and two storylines, what else is up for grabs?

JeffLowell 04-01-2010 08:53 AM

Re: Fatal Flaw?
 
Casablanca: a Resistance fighter tries to flee the Nazis, but his wife's old lover stands in the way.

Steven Jenkins 04-01-2010 09:02 AM

Re: Fatal Flaw?
 
LOL
Which makes - what? Lazlo the protag, and Rick the MC?

I think I'm going slowly going insane :turkey:

JeffLowell 04-01-2010 09:34 AM

Re: Fatal Flaw?
 
No, no. Clearly Rick is the antagonist of Casablanca.

instant_karma 04-01-2010 09:44 AM

Re: Fatal Flaw?
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by JeffLowell (Post 632353)
No, no. Clearly Rick is the antagonist of Casablanca.

No, no, no. It's Sam! He's like the Keyser Soze of Morocco, only his devious plan fails at the very end.

Think about it. He's always trying to manipulate Rick and Ilsa into getting back together. If that had worked, Rick would have left Casablanca and the bar would be his.

Hell, he was probably working for the Nazis on the side. Bastard!

JeffLowell 04-01-2010 10:00 AM

Re: Fatal Flaw?
 
I think you're onto something! I have a team of scholars running it through the Dramatica Story Engine as we speak. Expect an answer in two to three months.

SuperScribe 04-01-2010 10:03 AM

Re: Fatal Flaw?
 
Come on. Everybody knows the nightclub is the protagonist and the flashback is the antagonist.

Silly screenwriters.

Steven Jenkins 04-01-2010 10:05 AM

Re: Fatal Flaw?
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by JeffLowell (Post 632353)
No, no. Clearly Rick is the antagonist of Casablanca.

What's the catch:shifty:

:smokin: Oh,who cares. :whatno:

Rantanplan 04-01-2010 10:52 AM

Re: Fatal Flaw?
 
Personally, my favorite scene in CASABLANCA is when the fat man swats the fly in the BLUE PARROT. I think he should have been developed into a Main Character :)

instant_karma 04-01-2010 11:02 AM

Re: Fatal Flaw?
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Rantanplan (Post 632372)
Personally, my favorite scene in CASABLANCA is when the fat man swats the fly in the BLUE PARROT. I think he should have been developed into a Main Character :)

The fly or the fat man?

I can see both working.

Steven Jenkins 04-01-2010 11:07 AM

Re: Fatal Flaw?
 
I've had enough of Casablanca - who's the Protag in "A Christmas Carol"?

Is it Bob Cratchit?

Ok - laugh it up :p

(Sorry - this isn't a serious question!)

JimHull 04-01-2010 11:08 AM

Re: Fatal Flaw?
 
Re: loglines for Shawshank and Casablanca

I have an idea where you are headed with this question, but before I bite...

In my estimation, loglines are about as useful to an author as the concept of "raising the stakes." They're great for development executives and the back of DVD boxes, but they don't really give a writer the tools necessary to write a complete story. They are reductive and meaningless and should not be a part of the creative process as they don't delineate any structural features of a story. Likewise, they are not a useful tool when it comes to analysis. If they did somehow communicate the true meaning behind the author's original intent, then we would all be writing loglines instead of elaborate well thought out screenplays.

That being said, I will concede that if I were to write loglines for those films, the first would center on Andy's story, the second on Rick's. Those are the most compelling parts of the story and would do well in the marketing or pitching of said story.

Loglines illustrate and summarize the most interesting or compelling parts of a story. An author may choose to emphasize any portion of a story's structure, making one element more interesting than the next, with little to no effect on the structure itself. The intensity of one does not negate the necessity of the other. Whether or not Darabont spent more time on Andy's story does not change the fact that the film is seen through Red's eyes. It is his personal perspective on the events that unfold that we as an audience share, and it is an integral part of the story's message.

instant_karma 04-01-2010 11:16 AM

Re: Fatal Flaw?
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by JimHull (Post 632378)
Loglines illustrate and summarize the most interesting or compelling parts of a story. An author may choose to emphasize any portion of a story's structure, making one element more interesting than the next, with little to no effect on the structure itself. The intensity of one does not negate the necessity of the other. Whether or not Darabont spent more time on Andy's story does not change the fact that the film is seen through Red's eyes. It is his personal perspective on the events that unfold that we as an audience share, and it is an integral part of the story's message.

I still don't see anything here that goes against the idea that Red is simply the Narrator, telling the story of Andy, the Protagonist.

If you don't think Red's role fits this already pretty well established storytelling device, could you please explain why.

It seems like you're trying to sell a new paradigm to replace one that currently works perfectly well.

Steven Jenkins 04-01-2010 11:22 AM

Re: Fatal Flaw?
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Steven Jenkins (Post 632377)
I've had enough of Casablanca - who's the Protag in "A Christmas Carol"?

Is it Bob Cratchit?

Ok - laugh it up :p


(Sorry - this wasn't a serious question!)

NikeeGoddess 04-01-2010 11:24 AM

Re: Fatal Flaw?
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by instant_karma (Post 632382)
I still don't see anything here that goes against the idea that Red is simply the Narrator, telling the story of Andy, the Protagonist.

If you don't think Red's role fits this already pretty well established storytelling device, could you please explain why.

It seems like you're trying to sell a new paradigm to replace one that currently works perfectly well.

here's my take that i posted several pages back.

redd talks about how he spent so many years inside that he didn't think he could survive in the real world. remember when the first old guy got released and hung himself? redd thought he was on that same path but andy's desire to get out of that prison even after 17 years inspired him to survive out there. that's why redd is the protagonist and andy is the main character.


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