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Random, disconnected thoughts - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
fernwithy
fernwithy
Random, disconnected thoughts
Well, nothing earthshattering to discuss today, really. So just things I've come across or thought that I'll express because, hey, it's my LJ.

Orson Scott Card commented that none of the characters in RotS was a human being, calling the actors heroic for making them work anyway, and then slamming the previous two movies gratuitously. He apparently missed that all of that pesky human stuff had to be achieved before a complex plot like RotS could start... aka, in the other two movies, which he was determined to ignore, which gave the specific histories that made the characters who they were.

:headdesk:

Then we get into the question of whether we're dealing with "types" or "characters," and I'm not sure why there's such a big distinction. Yes, Anakin can be "typed" as the troubled kid from a bad situation who worked his way up but was under pressure. Obi-Wan can be "typed" as the wise mentor (though he was forced into it, no pun intended). Mace can be typed as bad-ass. And so on and so forth.

The thing is, any character... hell, any person can be reduced to type if the viewer/reader chooses to do so. I love Mr. Card's books, but if I wanted to, I could call Peter Wiggin the Thwarted Firstborn With Ambition type, or Calvin the Jealous Younger Brother type, or Peggy Larner the Bright Chick Who Is Nonetheless Soft and Feminine type. I could watch Shattered Glass and call Stephen Glass the Eternal Child type, or check out Stand By Me and call Teddy the Corey Feldman Character type. I could call my mother the Stalwart Single Mom type.

Any time you're not in the person's head--which means any movie or television show or, say, real life scenario--you can reduce a person to a "type" by ignoring the things that make that person specific. Yes, Anakin's the ol' Tortured Soul type, but that's based in his history in slavery, combined with his brilliance, combined with the intense dyadic relationship with his mother, combined with his rescue by a kind Jedi, combined with his manipulation by Palpatine, and... well, it goes on. There's a lot of very specific Anakin-stuff in his head that is character rather than type, but because Lucas is writing for the screen and not for a novel, it depends fully on the actors to get it across. No one is inside their heads other than the actors themselves, and you have to be able to judge by action and expression what the story is. (I do believe I've done the "characterization via action" rant before.) You're just not going to get a handy breakdown of possible motives, which is Card's favorite way to deal characters. He does a nice section in Characters and Viewpoint, analyzing the same scenario in several ways, depending on the audience having access to different information about the characters which is not stated... an exercise that you can't do in film, because what you have is what you see, and it's up to the communication between actors and audience to get across the back-story and motive stuff. The screenwriter can't do that--and Lucas gets in trouble when he tries to--because people just don't talk about that sort of thing.

And then there are archetypes to deal with as well. Is something a cliché only because it's used a lot? Or are some things used a lot because they are important figures in our collective understanding of the world, our community story, which recur naturally and which it would be highly artificial to deny space to?

Sigh.

I must confess, for the record, that I do think the love dialogue in RotS is wince-worthy, but I actually like it because of that. I know, it's a cockeyed interpretation, but honestly, 99.999% of the world doesn't think in Shakespearean sonnets, but all of us get in smarmy moods sometimes, and say goofy things. And they come out sounding silly to everyone other than the people involved, and sometimes even to them. In a world where Chicken Soup books and saccharine Hallmark cards with gauzy pictures of flowers on the outside and badly written glurge on the inside sell by the millions, my response to cheesy dialogue is, "Hey, at least he's not buying her a greeting card that says that, or quoting a popular song. He's taking the trouble to make it up himself, no matter how badly he's doing it. Good on him." :chucks chin: I mean, come on... these two are really, really young; neither of them has much experience with being in a romance. Not everyone involved in a first love is going to come up with "Arise, fair sun, and kill the envious moon..." So, yeah. I find the very mawkishness of the dialogue endearing about them.

I was clicking around TFN and found an article by Henry Jenkins and Jenkins' response to criticism of him in the article (apparently, he hadn't realized he was going to be quoted extensively and hadn't spoken carefully or something). One of the things mentioned is that in LFL's fan film contest, they allow documentaries and parodies, but specifically exclude fanfic-like plots. Jenkins points out that this invites entries of the sort traditionally associated with fan films made by men, while excluding the whole of the fanfic community, which is overwhelmingly made up of women.

I can actually see the result that way--it is, numbers-wise, true--but I don't see a good reason to ascribe base motives to it. Documentaries, parodies, and so on are things separate from story. Stories are, well, not separate from story. On the emotional level, it's got to be less jarring to see movies about your movies than to see characters put into your galaxy that you didn't know about and can't control. On the plain old pragmatic level, it's highly unlikely that a documentary or a parody is going to accidentally include a plot, action sequence, or dialogue exchange that's very similar to one planned for, say, the upcoming television series. With tens of thousands of fan writers out there, the chances that anything they're working on hasn't been attacked by at least a handful of them are pretty slim. And the legal department is really paranoid about lawsuits. I mean, a_p_ and ladyaeryn and I were all just thrilled to hear Anakin ask if Padmé would come with him to the dark side, where they could rule the galaxy together, because of course the premise of her doing so is the whole root of the Lady Vader stories, and our response--like most fan writers, I'd guess--was, "Woo-hoo!" But it's certainly not beyond the pale to imagine a fan writer saying instead, "That was my idea! Lucas stole it! I had it online... anyone could have gotten it! I'm not getting any credit, even though that's my idea right there on screen!" And promptly making a public nuisance of herself, despite the fact that it was a guessable moment. Now, any legal action would be lost fairly quickly, but the PR involved in it just makes it not worth it.

FWIW, I think they're being silly, and especially in the case of a contest could simply have a clause in the entry form saying, "Dude, we're looking at it, and if we've got something brewing just like it, tough noogies." And they could have access to some excellent new writers who would cost them less than they're paying the big names and who have new and interesting ideas. I think SW could benefit hugely from something like Star Trek's Strange New Worlds books. (That I'd be submitting to such a thing before they could finish making the press announcement has nothing to do with this belief, of course. ;)) But the fact remains that I do understand the decision, and while it does have the de facto effect of shutting out the only female-dominated part of fandom (other than Saga Journal, of course), I severely doubt that the reasoning even had to do with trying to shut fanfic writers up, let alone disenfranchise women. It's purely CYA stuff. Misguided, imho, but not malevolent.

BSG premieres at 10pm EDT on July 15.

Apparently, no one in their fan relations department said, "Hey, you know, maybe we'd do better to start the season a week before or a week after a large international midnight release party that's attended by diehard sf/f fans and will occupy the entire attention of any media involved in this sort of thing. You know, just for the giggle factor."

I like BSG. Honestly, I do. I'm very pleasantly surprised that they've followed up on thematic questions they asked in the pilot, dealing with faith and so on, that I was sure they'd never address in primetime. But let's see... BSG, waited for for maybe a couple of months, versus a major party in a huge fandom thrown for a book we've been awaiting for a couple of years. Well, that's why there are VCRs, of course, though I'll be finishing HBP before watching anything. But if you want something to be an event, it's not usually good to have people saying, "Well, I can tape it."

Okay. That's it.
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Comments
imadra_blue From: imadra_blue Date: June 11th, 2005 06:27 am (UTC) (Link)
Hmmm. As a whole, and I guess I am taking the whole prequels into account, I do think they were all rather human. Obi-Wan was not as wise as he was in the Classic Trilogy, and even there, Obi-Wan was not so wise as to see the good left in Vader or be completely trusting in Luke's decision to go save Han and Leia in ESB. Anakin was not an all-powerful Jedi, and obviously not a terribly reasonable man. Padme was strong in the first two films, but wound up rather weak by the end of RotS. (My opinion, I just can't quite buy the whole theory of her dying to save her kids, because it was never mentioned, and it was specifically stated she lost the will to live. I just can't believe in it. However, I have come to terms with the shift and the fun in fanfiction is explaining why she ultimately was human enough to lose her will to live.) All characters and people have types if you want to look at it that way, but every character is a character filled with quirks and personality traits. However, how you interpret each character based off film is going to be subjective to some degree. Not everyone will see the same. And not everyone will be convinced by the actor's portrayal. I was not entirely buying Hayden's portrayal of Anakin's fall, it was not entirely convincing to me. However, I think Ewan and Natalie properly convinced me of their heartbreak at the end of RotS. Not only does film not allow us fully in the head of Anakin, Obi-Wan, Padme, or whoever -- allowing a lot of wriggle room on believability on characterization and perception -- but everyone's own life experiences and opinions color their perceptions of the actors' performances and of how to interpret things.

And that was probably a really long and complicated way of saying I agree with you. :D
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: June 11th, 2005 02:35 pm (UTC) (Link)
(My opinion, I just can't quite buy the whole theory of her dying to save her kids, because it was never mentioned, and it was specifically stated she lost the will to live. I just can't believe in it. However, I have come to terms with the shift and the fun in fanfiction is explaining why she ultimately was human enough to lose her will to live.)

There's that theory out there now? I think we need to just face it--that was a ball-dropping of major proportions on that character. She didn't die to save her kids. She died because... for no good reason whatsoever. I love the movie, but each time I see it, those five minutes or so annoy and irritate me. I really thought I'd get used to it and maybe start to feel something other than annoyance, but no dice. Every time, the canon-logic bells ring louder, rather than more softly, and I find myself less willing to kenobi it ("So she remembered... from a certain point of view"). It actually made her less human, too.

Er, that was off-topic. Loved the movie, except for everything about Padmé's plot line. It's one thing to have weaknesses, it's another to change the character entirely between movies.
equustel From: equustel Date: June 11th, 2005 06:40 am (UTC) (Link)
Amen about the A/P dialogue - I took my roommate and her boyfriend to see ROTS awhile back and they actually remarked that it sounded like the dumb stuff they say to each other and then smile over later. Because you don't analyze each other's dialogue when you're in love, you just don't care. As long as it's honest, the other person's not going to give a rip how it sounds.
melyanna From: melyanna Date: June 11th, 2005 06:44 am (UTC) (Link)
About the BSG premiere: a huge chunk of BSG's audience also watches Stargate, and that's been the premiere weekend for SG-1 for a while. (For the last three years, at least — not sure about the premiere date when it was on Showtime.) I'd be shocked if anyone at SciFi thought about HP when considering the premiere date. The middle of July is just when Stargate premieres.

Not being actively into BSG fandom, I can't speak for it, but I can say that most of the SG-1/Atlantis fans I know aren't so interested in HP that they'd go to a midnight release. A lot haven't bothered with HP. A lot have read the books, but most of the Stargate fans I know will wait a few days before getting the next book. (I'll also point out that both Atlantis and BSG left off on rather nasty cliffhangers, and since HP didn't, a lot of people may prioritize that way.)
duncatra From: duncatra Date: June 11th, 2005 06:54 am (UTC) (Link)
I'm not so big on the idea of LFL-sanctioned fanfic. I think such things are best kept seperate, for the sake of both fan and pro fic. I can easily see it becoming a mess, and there are fanfic things I don't want in the profic, and profic things I don't want in the fanfic, so...

I mean, you're not into the EU, but what if the word from LFL in such a situation said you had to incorporate the events of the novels? Would you still be willing to do it?

That said, for a while back in the 90's, the West End Games Adventure Journal was publishing short stories by fans - fans with 'writing experience' (not necessarily fiction) but fans nontheless. I have some pals who got stories published - a few of them are in the Tales from the New Republic anthology, even. They were mostly OC stories, theoretically with a roleplaying basis, but they were short stories.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: June 11th, 2005 02:07 pm (UTC) (Link)
I mean, you're not into the EU, but what if the word from LFL in such a situation said you had to incorporate the events of the novels? Would you still be willing to do it?

Hell, yeah. I'm a complete whore when it comes to publishing. Boilerplate, straight up; royalties and I'll take you roun' the worl'. I'd have to catch up on my reading and grit my teeth and fight the nausea, but I could probably incorporate an EU element or two without dying of it.

That said, I would much prefer them to use a different model--go to the Trek/Quantum Leap sort of model where each other hits re-set at the end. And enough of the EU has been rendered as obsolete as my fics that they may as well start over anyway. But, like you said, I'm inclined to think in terms of the "Tales" books, which are the closest thing they've got to the Strange New Worlds anthologies (except that they don't seem to make a habit of releasing a new edition every couple of years), and the sort of story I'd be most likely to sell is in the "Flight to Rison's Deep" variety, where the EU might or might not exist, but is utterly irrelevant to the characters involved.
nomadicwriter From: nomadicwriter Date: June 11th, 2005 08:32 am (UTC) (Link)
I must confess, for the record, that I do think the love dialogue in RotS is wince-worthy, but I actually like it because of that.

Too true. I mean, immediately after the film a lot of people were mocking it in the form of the old "You hang up" / "No, you hang up" exchange, and I just wondered if people were actually listening to themselves. You're mocking the dialogue of two young people having their first romance on the basis of the fact that they sound like... young people having their first romance? Yeah, it's goofy, sickly sweet and irritating, but let's face it, it's probably a lot more realistic than the ultra-witty back-and-forth you might get in something like, say, Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

I love the snappy banter like everybody else, but the Anakin/Padmé dialogue didn't bother me at all, because I had no problem buying that two fairly inexperienced kids in love would talk like that. It's not like either of them had the opportunity to get that sort of thing out of their systems when they were thirteen. I freely admit I couldn't have sat through a whole movie of it, but when you're talking, what, four or five lines every so often... What's the issue?
may_child From: may_child Date: June 11th, 2005 09:03 am (UTC) (Link)
Yeah, it's goofy, sickly sweet and irritating, but let's face it, it's probably a lot more realistic than the ultra-witty back-and-forth you might get in something like, say, Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

One criticism of the romance dialogue that baffles me is that it isn't "realistic." It's VERY realistic, actually -- it's the ultra-witty "Buffy" stuff that isn't. I mean, who is that quick-witted in in real life? Honestly? But "ultra-witty" is the standard for movie/TV couples, so people come to think that that is what is realistic.

I'd bet any amount of money that the people who scream the loudest about the "awful" P/A romance dialogue are the biggest treacle-mouthed saps with their own significant others. In fact, I have a co-worker who bitched about the romance dialogue, but he sits in the cubicle next to mine, and I have heard some of the mush he's said to his wife.
krpalmer From: krpalmer Date: June 11th, 2005 12:31 pm (UTC) (Link)
On the subject of love dialogue winked and smirked at and my own reactions to it, perhaps I've finally picked up on the comment George Lucas has reiterated many, many times, about the imagery being more important than the words spoken. Either that, or I figured the scene in question was short enough that it wasn't worth carrying whatever incipient annoyance I might have had over to bother me during the rest of the movie.

This may not be the point being made about "women dominate fanfiction," but I can remember seeing a good number of fanfics written by men. That may have to do with the specific gender balances of some of the fandoms I've followed in a fanfic way, though.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: June 11th, 2005 01:56 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yeah, there are always men who write the stuff, but the field, on the whole, is lopsidedly female, often the only part of a fandom that is. And Jenkins big thing is that fanfic is a feminist expression to subvert partriarchal copyright laws, which I think is crap anyway.
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parallactic From: parallactic Date: June 11th, 2005 05:34 pm (UTC) (Link)
I agree with you in that any character or person can be reduced to a type. But the best stories take the broad outline, or the archetype, and add texture, details, and maybe even contradictory things to it, so that it becomes individualized, and you end up caring about that particular incarnation of the archetype and no other.

While I think that Card's method of getting to character through motives is one way to do it, it's not the only way and there are cliche motives out there. How many times have we heard of the hero doing what s/he does because it's the 'right' thing to do, or because s/he was raised right, or destined to? IMO, it becomes more interesting if the hero saves someone not because it's the right thing, but because the person reminds him/her of a dead loved one, or because they get a thrill out of danger, or some other individualized reason.

I'm not quite sure where cliche blurs into archetype, but I suspect it comes down to how well the storyteller handles the elements of the story. Sort of, an expensive paint set in the hands of a novice will not produce a work of art. But a great artist, using just a pencil, will be able to produce something breathtaking.
darth_pipes From: darth_pipes Date: June 11th, 2005 05:42 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'm looking forward to Galactica myself. I was really impressed with what they did during the first season. Just read that Lucy Lawless is going to guest-star on a couple of episodes.
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From: (Anonymous) Date: June 12th, 2005 05:54 pm (UTC) (Link)
On the dialogue thing, I seem to be the only person who actually liked (don't throw stones at me, please) the Gungan dialect.

The first thing I thought when the characters started using it was why would these aliens use a pidgen or creole form of the language the humans use? Especially when we saw so many aliens using their own languages in in RotJ?

Pidgens and creoles get adopted for different reasons. One is that they can be seen as politically neutral, unlike a language used by a particular nation or tribe.

So, the Gungans using a this language suggested that, at this time, human-alien relations were good enough and strong enough that the Gungans had adopted what was probably a trade pidgen as their main form of communication between tribes and city states. By the time of RotJ, nonhumans had been marginalized enough that human languages were politically negative. It also suggested that the average alien was less likely to interact enough with humans to be using a human based language easily.

Ellynne
From: inyron Date: June 14th, 2005 02:57 am (UTC) (Link)
Oh gosh, July 16th. Honestly, here are all the things I would like to do that weekend:

Watch the premieres of Stargate, Stargate Atlantis, and BSG.

Go to a midnight release party, buy HP book 6, and read it all in one sitting.

Go to my very first con in Boston, and meet a bunch of Stargate actors.

Here is what I will be doing that weekend:

Be a bridesmaid in my cousin's PA wedding.

Which is, y'know, fun and all. And I love her. But why did evvverything have to be that one weekend?
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