Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Shock is not Surprise

Spoilers, if you haven't caught up with Game of Thrones or Downton Abbey for the past year.

Aristotle said that the best endings are "Both surprising and inevitable,".  As are many plot turns.

The S4 premier of Game of Thrones is just eleven days away, which brought back the Red Wedding episode, which brought back the way Julian Fellowes had tried to have his own Red Wedding on Downton Abbey by having the best character of the show brutally raped as a shock device. Julian double-fridged: he raped Anna in order to create a revenge scenario for her husband Bates (that's fridging), then promised viewers a follow-up to "explore the damage" and blatantly did NOT follow up, creating the second fridge phenomenon, fridge logic, described this way: "By the time you figure out what was wrong with that, it won't matter anymore!

Some people waited till the end of the season to form an opinion about the rape and felt a delayed sense of disgust over it, because the follow-up never happened.  But by then most had forgotten the impact of it and wanted others to "Get over it,".  They wanted to pretend that rape is a romantic and dramatic plot turn rather than a life-eating, soul-shredding shit taken all over someone's humanity. Most viewers wanted to forget the event and move on to the important business of Rose's new frocks. Most reveled in the "drama" of the rape - the same species of blood-thirsty most who scurried to the front rows during the French Revolution, breathless with excitement, handkerchiefs at the ready.

The Red Wedding on Game of Thrones had to happen because a deal was broken with a very vengeful guy, and he took his vengeance.  We all saw it coming.  Like the family who were wiped out, we tried to tell ourselves it would be fine but we had a creeping sensation of danger which was fulfilled.  The ending to their lives was surprising, but also inevitable since it had been set up in the story structure.

Anna's rape was not inevitable; it was a shock. It was an open-handed slap from nowhere in one episode that served to reduce and denigrate the best character permanently and to change the characterization of her husband in one season just to create a plot device.  It was sloppy writing because it was not built into the story armature and because the rest of Anna's story was not told.  She was chained out on the rock and then just seemed to wander back home, a pale wraith of her former vibrant spunky self, with no depth or insights or reveals given to her character.  "There," the story seems to say, "Now we've done with her,"

Anna was fridged.

The very point of all this, of Anna's neutering, wasn't even used as a climax point; we didn't even get any vengeance for it.  The death of the rapist was referred to off-screen after the fact, robbing the audience of the climax scene which is the very point and satisfaction of a vengeance story.

The more I learn about story structure the more flaws I see with the Downton plot from last season and the more I admire the way Game of Thrones is being told.  But we'd best keep a sharp eye.

TV production companies like money, and shock makes money.  Therefore money trumps story.

And the mob loves bloodshed.

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