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Old 03-30-2010, 03:49 PM   #81
instant_karma
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Default Re: Fatal Flaw?

Hey Jim

I haven't seen The Lives of Others yet, but I'm not really sold on the other examples you mentioned.

In Zombieland, I would say that Columnbus is definitely the protagonist, rather than the girls (they even serve as antagonists, albeit briefly). When the girls go their own way and wind up in trouble, he's the one who decides to go look for them and guilt trips Tallahassee into helping him. He is the proactive character.

I dont buy that the girls are the protagonists by virtue of tryng to reach the safety of the West Coast. Only the younger of the two girls actually believes that there is safety left in their world. All the characters share the same goal, which is simple survival, and trying to make sense of the new world they find themselves in.

With The Terminator, I see Reese's role as being similar to Obi-Wan's in Star Wars. He's there to protect the protagonist (Sarah Connor) and fill her in on the bigger world that has just opened up to her. If you take the Joseph Campbell slant, Reese is The Wise Old Man, teaching Sarah how to make the explosives is his handing out the Magical Weapons, just like Obi-Wan with the lightsaber.

And just as with Star Wars, it is the protagonist (Sarah Connor) who vanquishes the Antagonist (The Terminator) with the wisdom and weapons given to them by the mentor figure.

On a completely unrelated note, I have discovered that I cannot type the words Sarah Connor, without hearing Arnold Schwarzenegger saying it in my head.
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Old 03-30-2010, 03:56 PM   #82
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Default Re: Fatal Flaw?

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Originally Posted by JimHull View Post
LOL, nice one dmizzo - The problems in "Casablanca" exist because there are two letters of transit that have gone missing. Letters of transit that Lazlo was going to use to get to America. Everyone wants those letters, but it is Lazlo who is driving the pursuit towards them (both because he is in Casablanca and because he wants them for his own self-interest). Strasser is actively trying to prevent that from happening (Antagonist). Once Lazlo gets those letters, the problems in the story are resolved and the film is over.

The Main Character - the one we experience the story through is Rick. Through him we get to feel what it is like to be someone who goes from an attitude of not sticking their neck out for anyone, to someone willing to take action for the benefit of others.
I could well be getting this all wrong, but the main message I'm seeing here is that you believe that whoever wants something the most is the Protagonist.

In The Terminator, that would make The Terminator the Protagonist because what it really really wants is to kill Sarah Connor. In fact, it's the sole purpose of it's existence. And this would make Reese the Antagonist, because he is standing in the way of that goal.

I know this is surely something of an oversimplification of what you're trying to teach, but I think I can see why the OP was getting a bit muddled up.
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Old 03-30-2010, 04:08 PM   #83
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Default Re: Fatal Flaw?

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Victor Laszlo is the protagonist? Those are some serious semantic gymnastics you're attempting, Jim. Try not to pull something.
What does Ric ACTIVELY do in most of movie to advance the External action plot, except feel sorry for himself? Nothing until the final scene at the airport. Lazlo is the prime mover of the action - his presance, his influence his wife, and all the frantic activity these generate. It's Lazlo's cause (once Rik's) that Rik finally rallies to after he's solved his INTERNAL issue.

So Rik - internal struggle
Lazlo - external struggle

External struggles (for a noble cause) are surely what indicate a protagonist?

Lazlo was prepared to sacrifice his life for the struggle

Rik didn't stick his neck out... etc etc

But Rik has an ARC , while Lazlo doesn't. Does that make Rik the true Protag, AND MC? Or just the MC. ?
If Lazlo is just the mentor who gives Rik (other than his wife) the call to adventure, then the whole movie is just a first ACt

THANKS Instant You came to the same conclusion I did for the same reasons.

Last edited by Steven Jenkins : 03-30-2010 at 04:28 PM.
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Old 03-30-2010, 04:11 PM   #84
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Default Re: Fatal Flaw?

No, you could definitely convince me. I've been wrong before. You can search "Children of Men" on my site for a good example where a reader pointed out flaws in my initial analysis. My initial understanding of "The Wrestler" was wrong as well. (As was my use of "Casablanca" as not being an adaptation).

I guess this goes back to my initial reason for popping my head in here: the confusion some writers encounter when they try to write Main Characters who don't drive the efforts towards resolving the story's central problem. Save the Cat! and McKee require that writers write "willful protagonists" - this runs counter to some writer's intuition and runs up against some of the films I provided as examples.

A neophyte writer trying to write "Casablanca" might struggle with the idea that he has a character that doesn't stick his neck out for anyone yet also has to be responsible for driving the plot forward. While you could argue that Rick does some of this towards the end of the film, in the beginning he could care less.

That's why I think it is important that writers find comfort in knowing that they can separate out the concepts of Protagonist and Main Character if they want to. You don't have to. There are great films where they are one and the same (Up In The Air, The Wrestler, Silence of the Lambs, Braveheart, The Godfather, and so on), but there are many who start out writing their story, then find they struggle with who is really driving things and who the audience feels they are.

Understanding the difference between the two opens up a world of possibilities.
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Old 03-30-2010, 04:26 PM   #85
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Default Re: Fatal Flaw?

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What does Ric ACTIVELY do in most of movie to advance the plot, except feel sorry for himself? Nothing until the final scene at the airport. Lazlo is the prime mover of the action - his presance, his influence his wife, and all the frantic activity these generate.
"Presence" isn't an action, nor is the response it generates. He tries and fails to get Rick to give him the letters.

Rick hides the letters; Rick refuses to admit he has them (risking his own neutral status by doing so); Rick tells his band to go ahead and play the French National Anthem, getting his club shut down in the process (Laszlo asks, but they won't do it unless Rick tells them to); Rick decides to give the letters to Laszlo so he can flee to safety; then he comes up with and executes the plan to get Laszlo and Ilsa to safety, again, risking his own life and freedom.

(Besides, the letters aren't what the movie is about - they're the MacGuffin.)

Quote:
Originally Posted by Hull
A neophyte writer trying to write "Casablanca" might struggle with the idea that he has a character that doesn't stick his neck out for anyone yet also has to be responsible for driving the plot forward. While you could argue that Rick does some of this towards the end of the film, in the beginning he could care less.
Again, he's hiding the letters and ordering his band to play the anthem long before the end of the movie. He starts the movie claiming he could care less, but it's clear very early that that's not true. It's clear when Ilsa walks into his bar.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Hull
That's why I think it is important that writers find comfort in knowing that they can separate out the concepts of Protagonist and Main Character if they want to.
Honestly, I still haven't heard one example by you or Steven where it actually happens. Having a narrator, or empathizing with another character, doesn't make the protagonist not the main character, IMO.

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Understanding the difference between the two opens up a world of possibilities.
Or confuses the heck out of people.
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Old 03-30-2010, 04:45 PM   #86
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Default Re: Fatal Flaw?

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"Rick hides the letters; .
Ok - but for a noble cause, or simply to force the issue with Ilsa and get closure on his internal problem?

Rik's actions with the national anthem was reactive, he didn't initiate it the episode.

Rik is deffinitely the hero of his internal struggle, then becomes the hero of the external struggle - both protag and MC.

Actually, I guess that the final image of Rik walking off into the 'sunset' with renault (instead of Lazlo flying into the blue with Ilsa, or Lazlo & Rik flying off into the blue withour that two-timing bitch Ilsa) underlines that the writer wanted us to see Rik as the hero - and therefore the Protag.

I guess you're right after all
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Old 03-30-2010, 04:53 PM   #87
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Default Re: Fatal Flaw?

No matter what the last image would have been, Rick's the protag. You could have ended it with Ilsa looking down and it wouldn't have changed that.

Earlier, Jim said "Once Lazlo gets those letters, the problems in the story are resolved and the film is over." This is really the crux of why I disagree - no one really gives a shit whether or not Laszlo gets the letters. No one is following that, or wondering if he will. They want to know if Rick will get Ilsa. When he makes that decision, the movie is over.

Do you think people walked out of the movie saying "thank god Laszlo got away" or "I can't believe that Rick put her on the plane"?
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Old 03-30-2010, 05:19 PM   #88
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Default Re: Fatal Flaw?

Which is why Rick is the Main Character and Lazlo is the Protagonist.

There is a difference between the audience's reception of a story and the work of fiction itself.

Sure, the audience doesn't care much whether Lazlo gets away or not (I would argue that from a logical standpoint they do), but within the story itself -- the players inside of the story - they care a great deal. In fact, it is what everyone in the story is concerned with - from Strasser to Ugarte to Ilsa to everyone - those letters and who ends up with them are a very important concern to them and the source of problems within the story.

Stories are about resolving problems - understanding what those problems specifically are can help one determine how best to craft an effective argument for how to go about resolving them.

Your attachment to Rick as the only one the audience cares about speaks to the fact that he is the Main Character - that we are him throughout the course of the story (empathy).

As far as the confusion with the narrator, I think you're missing the point that these narrators have deep emotional issues going on with them that go far beyond just telling the story. The thematic concerns that Red and Scout deal with are an essential part of the story's meaning - they are not separate from it. Scout deals with her own personal problems with racism (in her dealings with Boo) and Red deals with his own personal issues stemming from the fact that he has become institutionalized. These very personal viewpoints on the story's central problem are reflected in the larger overall story that everyone is concerned with (the racist attitudes present in the trial in Mockinbird, and the corrupt hopeless situation that keeps Andy unjustly locked away).

The Protagonist carries the logical argument of the story, the Main Character carries the emotional argument.

Last edited by JimHull : 03-30-2010 at 05:37 PM.
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Old 03-30-2010, 05:46 PM   #89
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Default Re: Fatal Flaw?

Nobody has talked about the protag's character arc, unless I missed it. Rick went from a guy who doesn't give a **** about anything, to a guy whose unrequited love pops into his life, stirring deep emotions, to a hero who sacrifices his love and happiness for the greater cause.

Did Laslo arc?

Many stories have protags who don't arc. But can you have a non-protag character who arcs as much as Rick did?

The story was mostly about Rick. We witnessed his journey. We identified with him throughout the story. Not so with Laslo.
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Old 03-30-2010, 05:47 PM   #90
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Default Re: Fatal Flaw?

Jim:

Casablanca is a love story between Rick and Ilsa, not a story about a resistance leader trying to escape the Nazis. To say that Laszlo is the protagonist is missing the point of the entire movie. We empathize with Rick because we're following his journey as he pursues Ilsa.

You could design a movie where Laszlo is the protag, and his girlfriend falls in love with the man who has the key to his escape and he has to figure out how to use that to get out of the country... but that's not even remotely close to the movie that exists.

One other point:

Quote:
In fact, it is what everyone in the story is concerned with - from Strasser to Ugarte to Ilsa to everyone - those letters and who ends up with them are a very important concern to them and the source of problems within the story.
[...]

Quote:
The Protagonist carries the logical argument of the story, the Main Character carries the emotional argument.
I see exactly why Steven thinks that some antagonists are the protagonists of the story, given your definition.

Die Hard. McClane is completely reactive regarding the robbery: he stumbles into it, and by luck isn't captured. He doesn't try to solve it himself - he waits for help, calls for help, kills in self defense.. it's not until late in the movie that he actually actively tries to solve the problem himself.

The contents of the vault and whether or not Hans ends up with them is the problem that everyone in the story concerns themselves with: Hans, McClane, the police and FBI. Hans begins the story by actively showing up and seeking the vault, then spends the story overcoming obstacles to the money.

Obviously Hans isn't the protag, but your definition certainly leaves that possibility open.

The mechanics of the MacGuffin (the contents of a vault, letters of transit) shouldn't define who you label your protag.
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