A phrase I hear a lot when friends and family recommend TV shows or movies is this – “You have to skip parts here and there, but the story is incredible.”
This doesn’t make any sense. I was taught that to tell a great story, every frame must be handpicked for perfection, every line carefully considered and every choice serving the noble goal of leading the audience to something better. This is an unyielding and unwavering standard. It must not be diluted or polluted. A story is great if ALL of it is great and no less.
The first question to arise is what is the content that is so offensive in the first place? Content that glorifies moral wrongs. This is the kind of content in which lust, violence, betrayal, lying, cheating, or any other debauchery is justified in the end for the greater good, etc. Sin and malice lead to consequences and punishment. Repentance leads to justification. That’s how it was, is, and always will be. Period.
Then there is the content that presents conflict and wrong doing because without it – there is no story. I must be clear, without conflict and error, your story will suck. You have to have people being selfish, nasty, and even downright evil. You HAVE to. Sauron is arguably more evil than 99% of any other character in storybook history. He wants to rule the world in darkness and will do anything to get it. That sums up every dark thought in every evil character. The Joker, Voldemort, the Emperor, Hannibal Lector, Commodus, Sid, men in suits, the Nazis, Javert, and the countless villains who range from malign twin brothers, demented mothers, invulnerable psychopaths, spawns of hell, twisted businessman, conquerors, scheming families, and even forces of nature share a common trait which is they are fighting against the hero to win the day. Evil works on screen. No villain, no conflict… I change the channel.
That being said, there are too many television shows and movies that are hailed by critics and fans as revolutionary and ingenious all because they have taken dark to the next level of deep. Now I admit I don’t watch a lot of these shows and movies because every time I get interested, someone mentions the phrase I used at the beginning of this blog. I get really excited before I’m told that I have to watch out for the heaps and heaps of – use your imagination. Alright now stop using your imagination.
Most recently shows like Game of Thrones and House of Cards come to mind. If the writers are so good at creating compelling stories with many-faceted characters, then why all the sex scenes? Sex scenes are time killers and are cheap ways of showing intimacy or brewing turmoil. Anything that can be done in a sex scene can be done outside of a sex scene. Even something like rape doesn’t require it be shown. These things shouldn’t be shown, just as buckets of blood or twisted sadistic methods shouldn’t be displayed in their unbridled starkness.
The old movies and shows accomplished much more while showing less. You are not a great storyteller if a page of your script or minute of your reel is filled with content that puts the audience and the actors in jeopardy. A jeopardy of immorality, temptation and habit.
Some of my favorite movies and television shows have scenes that didn’t have to be in there. Everyone has a standard when it comes to how much is too much. But the more we as an audience and as filmmakers justify what we’re doing and say, “it’s all for the story,” or even worse, “it’ll get people to watch it,” then the more we degrade the art.
Matt Connors graduated from JPCatholic with a B.S. in Communications Media in 2010, and an MBA in Film Producing in 2012. He currently resides in San Diego and is the Development Executive at Yellow Line Media.
Post Image Attribution: HBO (Game of Thrones)