Saturday, February 25, 2017

So Your Protagonist Is An Asshole. You Still Owe Me A Plot.

Since I couldn't sleep thanks to syndrome pain, I tried out Amazon's new show Patriot. It felt worth a shot given warm reviews and an amazing cast, including Terry O'Quinn and the guy who plays Death on Supernatural. Why not try an offbeat espionage comedy?

The second episode goes on a weird spree of abusing disabled characters are least four separate times. The Asian math whiz who suffered brain damage in a car accident returns... only to be talked down to by everyone, and as soon as he shows his aptitude at math is still there, his competitor shuts his laptop and leaves him helpless. The protagonist steals the prosthetic legs of amputees which pays off in one of them being a security guard who has to chase him later, hopping along ineffectually.
It's all clearly designed to be random and "funny."

It's also all clearly designed to show how put-upon and ennui-ridden the protagonist is. What a sad handsome spy he is.

This is too similar to the bully kid who for some Godforsaken reason is the first POV character in Netflix's The OA. He assaults a teen singer, rupturing his throat and probably costing him his career. But it's all okay since the bully is emotionally unstable and our protagonist, and later gets along with a random angel girl who takes him away from assault charges and into a mystical plot. The show abruptly drops the victim whose life might be ruined.

Patriot isn't about why people abuse the disabled, and The OA isn't about why hot bully boys assault singers, and the American remake of House of Cards isn't about why politicians beat dogs to death. These introductions don't even define their characters by what they primarily do in their own stories. It's casual shock that dehumanizes victims, begs normalization for assholes, and distracts from the stakes of plots.

Which is to say: screw modern TV's fetish for main characters doing awful things for no good reason. It's lazy writing that splashes conflict everywhere without purpose. It demonstrates that mere conflict ain't what makes a story move.

Conflict is ground beef. If you don't cook it properly, it just rots.

If you're so uncreative that you have to write about abuser protagonists, at least give their actions a plot arc. Learn to write, scrub.

1 comment:

  1. Very good point. They've made anti-heroes that have little redeeming value and no reason why they are anti-heroes. It is really hard to root for a pointless jerk.


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