Changing attitudes

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  • Changing attitudes

    This isn't quite the same as the rooting for anti-heroes thread, but it could be related.

    We were watching a random ep of The Black List the other night, a bunch of FBI agents are closing in on a group of armed people in the woods, and they're shouting "FBI! FBI!" -- and I knew I was supposed to be thinking, yay it's the good guys, woo hoo.

    Except my thought was, hold on, just how bad are the bad guys? I mean what's their position, what are they protesting against, are they murderous fiends who deserve to be shot down, or are their actions justified? Should I be rooting for them instead? Can I blindly trust the FBI, here?

    Have recent events -- and I'm not looking for a politics discussion, we've all seen the news, the phone footage, the assaults, the thuggery on the streets of major U.S. cities -- changed our perceptions?

    Cops, FBI agents, secret service, people from other government agencies, have been the lead characters in our action scripts since whenever. In mine, anyway! Can we still write these guys as the heroes and assume the audience is going to cheer for them? Or do we need to do a lot of extra work to present them as not jackbooted Nazis prepared to turn on their own civilians and beat them or gas them on command? Has the trust and the support these characters used to automatically receive from the moment they were intro'd*, been diminished or even wiped out?

    I'm thinking maybe yeah. You got any thoughts on this?

    * unless of course they were intro'd as bad guys, bent cops, turncoat agents, up to no good.

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  • #2
    Re: Changing attitudes

    The story I'm working on now has a deputy US Marshal as a protagonist (which is a slightly different job than any other police officer -- marshals do not investigate crimes or arrest people suspected of crimes. They protect people and hunt down known felons*).

    I've been developing this story with a producer since April. The first set of notes I received were focused strictly on story problems. The second set, which I got after everything that happened in June, were focused on making my main character as unimpeachable as possible -- ethical, moral, above board in every capacity. Someone who who would rather let a criminal go than break a law to catch them.

    This may have been their intention the entire time, but I can't help but think that the current climate has had at least a small affect on it.

    But there are a lot of old crime movie tropes that will be retired, and probably for the better.

    If the major studios and streamers abandon hero cop narratives altogether, that will open up a niche market for smaller and foreign companies, which might create more opportunities, which is good as well.


    * Richard Kimble not withstanding

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    • #3
      Re: Changing attitudes

      I watched The French Connection last night and within ten minutes it was clear that it wouldn't have a chance in hell of getting made today. It actually seems like the exact kind of movie many are rallying against as Hackman is not only a bit of a brute but he also says a few racist things. Might be part of the point though as he basically loses in the end.

      This won best picture in the 70's too so I guess attitudes have changed a lot. Good movie anyways but not as good as I was expecting.

      I think the majority of people will have no problem rooting for good law enforcement characters but I doubt many cop movies will be made anytime soon. It's no secret there are corrupt and crazy cops (I actually got suplexed by a marshal over a misdemeanor when I was 15. He drove my face into the street with his knee as he cuffed me too). That said there are still a lot of decent ones and the continued anarchy and rioting is starting to disgust people as well. If you're still gonna write cop stories just don't show them being racist psychos and maybe someday it'll get picked up. End of Watch was a good recent cop movie. Training Day at the other end of the spectrum.

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      • #4
        Re: Changing attitudes

        Originally posted by dpaterso View Post
        Have recent events -- and I'm not looking for a politics discussion, we've all seen the news, the phone footage, the assaults, the thuggery on the streets of major U.S. cities -- changed our perceptions?

        ... Has the trust and the support these characters used to automatically receive from the moment they were intro'd*, been diminished or even wiped out?
        Yes from me to both questions.

        Originally posted by DDoc View Post
        It's no secret there are corrupt and crazy cops. If you're still gonna write cop stories just don't show them being racist psychos and maybe someday it'll get picked up.
        It seems to be a job requirement. “Qualified Immunity” is an incentive for them to “break bad.” That, and birds of a feather flock together.

        L.A. Confidential (1997) had both good and bad cops for its story conflict. As to whether to write “good” or “bad” police and federal agents into our stories? That’s wholly dictated by the story itself.
        Last edited by Clint Hill; 07-25-2020, 08:54 AM.
        “Organizations for writers palliate the writer‘s loneliness, but I doubt if they improve his writing.“ — Ernest Hemingway

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        • #5
          Re: Changing attitudes

          We slipped something to a couple producers on like May 28th. High concept. Female protag. Contained location. And, uh, oh yeah - former cop protag and the inciting incident is a police shooting in the past.

          So yeah. They were like "fix that and we want to take this to buyers.- So basically she's not a former cop anymore. As it turns out, the new profession was a better thematic tie-in to the story. But yeah, really bad timing on my part.

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          • #6
            Re: Changing attitudes

            Recent events in the US may indeed have broken a default (fictional/fantasy) positive view that some people inside/outside the US have of US authority forces - but it's an ignorant audience that doesn't know how US authorities acted against black civil rights campaigners in the 1960s and anti-Vietnam War protesters. Is your audience likely to have seen In The Heat Of The Night [1967] and/or Selma [2014] ?

            However, when has any authority ever deserved automatic trust and respect by anyone other than the most naive? If one didn't grown up learning not to trust authorities (police, legal, intelligence, military, political, social, religious, etc) then the never-ending new cases of their corruption and wrongdoing should teach one not to. (eg: the still unresolved Stephen Lawrence case.)

            But then some people just aren't paying attention and don't care.

            Did anything really change between the Peterloo Massacre and the Miners' Strike? Has anything changed since then?

            The pitiful Donald Trump and pathetic Boris Johnson may have forever broken the movie world's default respected characters of US President and UK Prime Minister. If Donald Trump was Mr President in Independece Day, then an audience would likely get behind the aliens.

            Were I still contributing to a satirical news website, then I would submit this one-liner:
            Police Chief insists heroic PC Andrew Harper merely "one good apple"
            Know this: I'm a lazy amateur, so trust not a word what I write.
            "The ugly can be beautiful. The pretty, never." ~ Oscar Wilde

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            • #7
              Re: Changing attitudes

              I don't necessarily think we'll move away from cops being good guys or the President being a respectful character as a result of changing attitudes.

              I think the result is it opens up the opportunity for new types of stories more than it closes the door on tropes we've become accustomed to.

              Although, at certain points in time, very specific things may temporarily be a no go as Satriales demonstrated.

              Another example from my experience is in the movie I worked on last summer, there was a scene where the main character walks into an armory with literally every gun known to man except one glaring omission that everyone on the crew noticed.

              Apparently Disney had prohibited the depiction of M-16's on screen because they were super sensitive to the fact that they look like AR-15's, which as we all know are the primary tool used for the new American pastime of shooting up shopping malls.
              Last edited by Prezzy; 07-25-2020, 09:16 PM.

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