Saturday, November 7, 2009

Bathroom Monologue: The Dubba

One thing I’m introducing into the English language is “the dubba.” We see it all the time, especially on clever television, but have yet to assign it a word. I’m naming it for an imaginary friend I used to have who broke into such monologues until I couldn’t stand him anymore and stopped believing in him. The dubba is a rhetorical mechanism made of two parts.

The first part of the dubba is a monologue, typically underlined by some degree of emotion. It may be coldly disapproving, openly threatening, or even jubilant. It usually responds to a situation in the plot or an argument someone has set forth, most typically shredding a pretense. This only works in artistic mediums where the other character isn’t a conscious person who would never put up with this crap. It is incredibly entertaining to many people, such as myself, as we’d really enjoy it if it worked in real life.

For instance: “"Hey. If any of you are looking for any last-minute gift ideas for me, I have one. I'd like Frank Shirley, my boss, right here tonight. I want him brought from his happy holiday slumber over there on Melody Lane with all the other rich people and I want him brought right here, with a big ribbon on his head, and I want to look him straight in the eye and I want to tell him what a cheap, lying, no-good, rotten, fore-fleshing, low-life, snake-licking, dirt-eating, inbred, overstuffed, ignorant, blood-sucking, dog-kissing, brainless, dickless, hopeless, heartless, fat-ass, bug-eyed, stiff-legged, spotty-lipped, worm-headed sack of monkey shit he is.”

The second part of the dubba is a pithy non sequitur. Upon destroying someone’s argument against abortion or insulting his employer at length, the speaker of the dubba then compliments the target’s hat or tells her to have a nice day. This mechanism is amusing, particularly in dramatic exchanges, as it allows a degree of release for the audience, letting them know that the telling-off is over and they can applaud.

For instance: “Hallelujah. Holy shit. Where's the Tylenol?"

The dubba cannot be a mere monologue. Yes, the above monologue from National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation is hilarious, but it’s funnier that it tailspins and Chevy Chase is suddenly not asking to destroy his boss, but would like a mildly comforting drug instead.

The second part of the dubba is just as important, dismissing the original topic, and often dismissing the other party. Being so short, the non sequitur breaks from the monologue to establish that this issue is closed. Normally the speaker of the dubba will exit right after it. The movie continues but this particular issue in it is pretty much over.

Dubbas can be found throughout television, in shows like Columbo where the detective will talk for very long about one thing, convince himself the killer is innocent, then say, “One more thing,” changing the topic radically and implying he’s caught them with this other bit of evidence. Here the thing that is “over” is any shred of the killer getting away with murder. Dubbas are a hallmark of Aaron Sorkin’s writing and appear in his films like American President and throughout his TV shows like the West Wing, including a presidential dubba in the pilot episode. Sorkin is a pathological monologuer, and the dubba is unavoidable to those of us who find monologues appearing in all our stories. They allow a break of laughter, a shift of mood, and even a sweeping close to a charged scene. They remove some of the sting from the monologue that can often make the fiction seem more righteous than its characters, something that most of us would like to avoid. If language had natural selection, the dubba would be a new species of monologue that evolved a pincer with which to cut its own umbilical chord. That’s why we can’t stop writing them. They’ve out-evolved our writing habits, and that means they may soon devour us.

Now please give me the Tylenol.


  1. Thank you SO MUCH for bringing back the "Love This" option. There have been many stories where "This is Ok" was simply not an acceptable response. Thank you.


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