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  • Antagonists?

    I know all SPs are meant to have a strong antagonist who's as committed to stopping the protagonist as the protagonist is to achieving his goal.

    My Q: does every SP have to have a tangible antagonist?

    I've got an idea in which my protagonist is seeking something that involves a road trip, but when he finds what he's seeking, he learns that it's not the miracle cure he was after and that, in fact, the answer to his problems were actually inside him all along.

    Now, the idea as I conceive it does not need a person trying to stop my protagonist, certain situations will arise on the road trip that will be the obstacles on his journey. Is this sufficient, or do I need to create an antagonist to offer him opposition that in the end would just be artificial?

    I've been trying to think of anagonist-free film examples and battling. But, given one of the recent trends, who is the antagonist in "American Pie"? Assuming the guy who has the tete-a-tete with the foodstuff is the protagonist, the only real antagonist to his goal to score is his own incompetence. So, does that answer my Q, or am I missing something here?

    Any help'd be appreciated.

  • #2
    Aw man....

    Your screenplay sounds eerily like one I just completed. I had the same question in regard to the antagonist. I believe the situations can adequately prove to be both an obstacle and an antagonizing force, but it may not be as interesting.
    I ended up putting a real antagonist into my story and it did pep things up.

    I just hope your guy and my guy aren't looking for the same thing.....


    • #3
      Re: Aw man....

      I watched THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE recently and wondered about this. There is no antagonist that's trying to stop them from escaping the ship. Much conflict arises between the survivors trying to escape. But they all have the same ultimate goal and don't try to prevent each other from reaching that goal. It's almost like God is the antagonist to the Gene Hackman character.

      Anyway, I guess my point is that there are probably situations where a specific antagonist isn't necessary. But if there is any way to effectively depict one in your script that doesn't take away from the other elements you think will work, I'd try and do it.


      • #4
        Re: Aw man....

        As taught in my High School English class:

        Man against Man
        Man against Nature
        Man against Himself

        Something or someone is standing in the way of the protag's goal. That's supposedly the rule. Has it ever been broken?


        • #5

          I hope so too...mine's a comedy, a rom-com, college kid thing. Please tell me yours is heavy drama or action.

          Thanks for the English lesson. So tell me, who's the antagonist in American Pie? What about American Beauty? Officer and a Gentleman? Pretty Woman? When Harry met Sally? Sleepless in Seattle?

          No obvious (or at best fairly ineffective antagonists). So I guess what you're saying is an antagonist can be a force of nature or the protagonist himself?


          • #6
            Re: Antagonists

            There doesn't have to be an antagonist, but there does need to be some tangible (visual - so that the audience knows it's there) obstacle. Usually that's a person, because it's much easier to create conflict if your obstacle can talk back to your protagonist.

            The other Bill's three kinds of conflicts fit any story you can come up with. The first two are common fodder for film because we can SEE the conflict. The last is tricky, but can be used in a script if the conflict can be made visible to the audience.

            AMERICAN PIE - Main conflict is man against himself - guy can't get girl because he's a geek. We can SEE him not getting the girl. But there are antagonistic characters in the film, plus the COMPETITION between the 4 guys makes his buddies his rivals (kind of low key antagonists).

            OFFICER AND A GENTLEMAN - Lou Gossett, Jr. is the antagonist. He's not a villain - he's the guy that gets between Gere and his goal by demanding perfection.

            SLEEPLESS IN SEATTLE is interesting. In most romantic comedies the thing that keeps the couple apart is a romantic rival. SLEEPLESS keeps the couple apart using geography - there's an entire country between them! What prevent the protagonist from the goal is distance - something tangible (we can see it on a map - and I think his son even checks it out on a map in one scene). Man against nature.

            Adventure movies frequently have man against nature - climbing mountains, etc.

            Just make sure we can SEE the goal and SEE the obstacle. If we can't see it on film, it isn't there.

            - Bill


            • #7
              Re: Aw man....

              In Poseidon Adventure the antagonist is the ship. The characters are trying to stay alive and get out. The ship is putting up very big resistance.

              In American Beauty, the antagonist is society. The protagonist decides to do things his way outside societal norms. It works for him, but not his boss, his wife or neighbors, who represent the physicality of society at large and ultimately shoot him dead.

              I can't think of one for When Harry Met Sally, but it has been a long work day. Maybe something will come to me. (smile)


              • #8

                Thanks guys for the info.

                So an antagonist need not be a person, but must be some visual force or opposition. Would then a series of different people who try and stop a hero collectively constitute an antagonist?


                • #9
                  Re: Antagonists

                  When harry met sally? the antagonist is their friendship, right? isn't that their obstacle? i only saw it once, but i do remember getting into such a fight with my date after seeing that film that she tossed a glass of wine on me. yes, we were fighting over who or what was the antagonist. ah, the safety of a computer screen. hmm, i wonder whatever happened to that wild filly.


                  • #10
                    Re: Antagonists

                    Obstacles my friend, that is your antagonist(s). Personal
                    boundaries which the main character must over come.

                    The antagonist, whatever that may be is what creates the arch for your character.

                    Is their anything more poetic than a flawed character that
                    has the same 'markings as you'? You are you're own enemy.

                    Everyone is skewed, you need not have to look at the paintings of the past - if we could only model our
                    characters after a smeared 'Dali'.

                    Our Personal endeavors are marked by internal strifes, the war inside. Unleash tht in your VOICES.

                    To pen that is the writers obligation.



                    • #11
                      Apollo 13. I'm a youngin and this movie was kicka$$. I never saw the Poseidon adventure, but it sounds similar. With each beat, something goes wrong. uh-oh. what was that explosion. uh-oh. there isn't enough fuel to get them back. uh-oh before we fix that problem, there isn't enough oxygen. uh-oh, the there isn't enough juice if they need to power up the lem for reentry.we have to shut down all power now and figure out how to restart it later without shorting. uh-oh. uh-oh. uh-oh. will the heat shield work? uh-oh. there isn't really any one antogonist, but a series of obstacles- an obstacle course. It can work so well if you do it right. I was on the edge of my seat watching this flick. i suppose you could liken the ship as the antagonist, but i think that oversimplifies it. there are clear obstacles that occur one after another and are very visual (and thus keeping the audience waiting for the mini-solution, and waiting for the next problem).


                      • #12
                        The antagonist is what thwarts the protagonist in the pursuit of his goal. It can be internal (alcholism, inability to commit) or an external person or force.

                        Someone asked about have a group of people be the antagonist. I wouldn't do it. In most cases it will just dilute the power of the story. You can have a group of people battling your hero, but you need to have a person in charge who is the real antagonist. So, if your hero is battling "the mob" the real battle is with the mob boss.


                        • #13
                          Re: Antagonists

                          Wannabe, a series of different characters who block a protagonist's objective constitute and/or create obstacles, but are not necessarily "the" antagonist. Darth Vader's storm troopers cause the heroes a lot of grief, but they are not the antagonist, they are representatives of the antagonist and his power. Ditto for the gangsters in Untouchables. They are obstacles, but not the antagonist, the antagonist is Al Capone. There is usually one major antagonist, and then that antagonist has long arms that show up different ways.

                          Now I have to go throw a glass of wine on Dance. (wink)


                          • #14
                            Re: Antagonists

                            gig, is it really you? wow, how have you been all these years? that stain never did come out. it was my favorite shirt, you know.

                            to all, i've mainly lurked and have posted only a few times. my name is dance and i'm a screenwriter. ah, that felt good. now hand me a cup of that free coffee!