Dark AND Fun (A sort of Mad Max Review) #MondayBlogs

I recently watched Mad Max: Fury Road and holy fuck that was a fun movie. I expected to watch people drive through the desert in lunatic clothing screaming incoherent thoughts. Something like a remake of the California Love music video, you might say.

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Caaaalifornya Looo-ve.

What I did not expect was the damn fine movie that it was. The entire 2 hours were insane and dark and gritty and entertaining. More than once I had to laugh, not because anything particularly funny happen, but just at the fact of how much joy the set and rig designers must have had making this movie. There is one entire rig where the back side hold 4 guys drumming and the front has a guitarist suspended by bungee cords wailing away for the ENTIRE movie. What other movie could pull some shit like that off?

Now, stepping away from Mad Max, the movie reminded me of a Joss Whedon quote. I’m not much of a quote fanatic, but there are a few that stick with me and this is one of those: Make it dark, make it grim, make it tough, but then, for the love of god, tell a joke.

That very statement is what’s wrong with DC movies, Batman in particular. The Dark Knight Rises was so heavy and tried to hard to be important and grim and whatever else, that it forgot to be fun. That could be forgivable in some instances, but when your screenplay comes from a comic book? Nah, bruh, it has to be fun. It came from a goddamn cartoon.

Coincidentaly, this is one key aspect of story-telling that I think horror movies do well. How many scary movies have you watched that made you laugh out loud? More than one, I bet. Horror writers (The good ones anyway. Well, I’m assuming, I don’t care all that much for scary movies anymore) understand that if you are going to spend 90 minutes ruining someone’s (or everyone’s) life, you need to spruce it up with a couple jokes. Otherwise, your audience might actually kill themselves mid-movie.

Hell, Nightmare on Elm Street frightened the hell out of a good 3 people and Freddy Krueger still wound up being a singing, dancing, Ace Ventura with bad acne scars. Evil Dead? Scary as ten dammits before it became more funny than terrifying. And that’s the human response, right? We make jokes to get through a bad situation. How many times has the shit hit the fan and you’ve been like ‘well, at least I just bought this new shitproof shirt. Now it’s just my pants that are dirty.’? Okay, that might not be my strongest example, but you get the point.

Are we all going to die in a blaze of burning knives coated in cyanide with a witty retort on our lips? Probably not, but hey, they’re movies, they have to be a little liberal with ideas. But otherwise, that’s life. Bad shit happens and we make jokes to feel better. So, to me at least, when there is a story and bad things happen repeatedly with no lightening of the mood, it legitimately gets me down. A while back I came across a list: great movies you’ll never want to watch again. I read over the blurbs for each of the movies and never wanted to watch them in the first place. They all just sounded like a lot of awful things happening. I don’t give a damn how good the acting or screenplay is, I don’t want to watch a movie where a pregnant woman gets stabbed in the gut with scissors. (Yes, that was actually in a movie on the list. Maybe not exactly like that, but something close.)

Story-tellers, wordsmiths, scribes, best sellers, and hacks; no matter what you think of Whedon, remember those words and for god’s sake, tell a fucking joke already.

Writing & Raising Kids? Same Thing, Pretty Much

The other day I was thinking about all the ways parenting can go wrong. I’m not sure why that day in particular, just call it Parental Paranoia: PP for short. So I get hit with the PP, bad, and I start thinking about how hard it is to figure out what’s right to do with your kid’s upbringing, and shit. At this point the mush on one side of my brain overflowed into the mush on the other side and a theory struck me: There are many similarities between writing and raising a non-asshole child.

Think about it, when the idea first strikes you (I’m gonna make a new human/I’ve got a great idea for a story) you’re all about it. You can’t think of a single fucking thing that could go wrong because your idea is so perfect. So, obviously, you commit to the idea.

In the very beginning there is a lot of research and plotting. For example, you have to find out how to convince the stork to stop at your house on its next flyby. That can be a tough one, those ol’ birds are fickle bitches. Then you have all kinds of required reading: What to Expect While You’re Expecting, and, and…other stuff. Internet articles? Youtube videos? Actually, no, that is a terrible idea. STAY AWAY FROM YOUTUBE!

The writer has research to do too. Namely, how to make your novel not suck. That’s the hard one, I think. After that there’s Elements of Style and What to Expect When You’re Expecting a Best-Selling Novel. Okay, that last one’s probably not a real thing. Maybe it should be.

Now that you’ve got your research done and your story/hellspawn brewing you’re riding high. You’ve got this. How hard could it be? Millions of other people have done this very same thing and millions of other people aren’t like you, they’re morons. If a moron can write a book/make a human, you can too. And you’re well-read on the subject. You can tell me about Chekhov’s gun/proper placenta cooking methods.

Then comes the big day, the day the hellspawn bearing fowl drops off its package/the day you get, oh say, five thousand words in to your first draft. This is the first instance of PP for most people, and it usually requires a change of clothing on both fronts. All of the sudden, every. Single. Bit. Of research. Goes right out the fucking window. You officially know not one damn thing about infant raising/wordsmithing.

After days/months/years of PP (it depends on the length of the work/the difficulty of the hellspawn in question) you find a groove. You’ve read all the reading and taken tips from all those other “professional” parents/authors. All of the information has wormed its way in to your brain. At some point you will have the epiphany that every single word they said is BULLSHIT. It is true that some people raise really good children and some people write really good books, but what worked for them will almost certainly not work for you. The world just isn’t made like that. Especially the ‘no yell’ parenting people. Show me someone who says they haven’t flipped their lid on their kids because they were having a shit day and could only take hearing the same question repeated so many times and I’ll show you a liar, probably.

Back on task. You’ve been in your groove for a while and things are good. You’re children/characters are behaving mostly as they should and things seem to fall in to place. This is when things get dicey. Reviewers. You have put all of your palmflesh and vocal cords in to molding the perfect angel/work of art. Now you are forced to send it out to the world and see what other people think. Children get this in the form of teachers and authors get reviewers. There is nothing better than the feeling of being told your angel/art is really fun to be around, but it’s a very scary process either way.

The last part of the process is being finished. Finished? Yeah, it’s some more bullshit. You are never finished parenting/writing. You will always wish you could go back and change something you did in the beginning, but will have to settle with nudging what you have in the right direction and hoping for the best.

In closing, here is a thought on the matter from expert character-wrangler Danielle Shipley:

The similarities grow more starkly apparent when the characters are having toddler-like meltdowns. Character: Why do I have to suffer this plot?!

Author: Because I said so!

Character: YOU’RE NOT MY REAL MOM!

And then of course the author goes into the whole “I brought you into this world, I can take you right out again!” thing…

 

Well said, Ship, well said.