Friday, August 29, 2008

Ollie, Ollie, Oxen Free!!

Or --- Alle, alle auch sind frei - the suspected source of the hide and seek safety phrase which was used in Nazi Germany as a monstrous way to lure Holocaust victims to their deaths. Crazy, isn't it, how horrific words and phrases can evolve into something harmless?

Example: the N-word. It still makes my flesh crawl when my son and his black friend call each other the N-word as a salutation or a jest. I forbid them to use the N-word in my house. They laugh at me. Apparently, it's okay if you've been best friends your whole life.

Words morph.

My grandmother often sang this from West Side Story:

I feel pretty
Oh so pretty
I feel pretty and witty and gay
And I pity
Any girl who isn't me today

...much to the snickers of my cousin, who was, in fact, GAY! Oh sure. She knew he and his long term roommate were intimate partners but "gay" meant giddy, not homosexual, and nobody could convince her otherwise. Plus, as she frequently jibed, if they were REALLY homosexual (not gay), they would enjoy her showtunes. My grandmother was a hoot.

Point. Point. Oh, yes. Me.

Ollie, Ollie, Oxen Free! I have resumed my life after a long and nasty case of --- get this --- MONO!!! Oh yeah. That myth that you can't get Mono after your twenties was started by those guys that found Big Foot.

The doctor said I should have made out with more boys when I was a teenager and gotten this over with early like the other 95% of the population. He's right, of course. While I was in bed with a swollen spleen and every bone in my body crushing from the inside out, my fourteen year old, who came down with Mono at the same time, was out playing laser tag.

Stupid spleen.

How did I get Mono, you may ask? My son's nineteen year old friend moved in with us while he's going to college. With him came his Mono and an inability to remember which bottle of water is his.

The first few days of Mono are kind fuzzy now. I remember pain and fever. I remember hearing the "I Dream of Jeanie" theme song and thinking my Chihuahua was the mail lady. I remember feeling the cauliflower growing in my throat and I remember my four boys hanging around my bed talking about me.

D: You have Mono? Serious?
W: Stephen, you douchebag!
M: I have it, too and I'm not that sick.
S: Yeah well you're a tool.

Ah. The evolution of language.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Get Well, Morgan Freeman!

I'm a self proclaimed "fan of few" but have loved Morgan Freeman since his early days on The Electric Company. The Easy Reader was airlifted to Regional Medical Center in Tennessee after his car rolled several times somewhere in a Tallahatchie County, Mississippi where he has a home.

He's in serious condition.

Around here, when friends are hurt or undergo surgery, we bring them food, sew a personalized blankie or pillowcase for their hospital room, sneak them some goodies and sit next to the bed and read, sing, or pray. But with strangers admired from afar? There's nothing to do but pray.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Suspension of Disbelief

One of the very few negative comments I've heard (and read) about The Dark Knight is that it stretched the suspension of disbelief just a little too far. This puzzles me. Batman is a comic book. That's what comic books do. Suspend disbelief.

So, I pose this question - how far is too far? Where is the line? Is the line Stretch Armstrong far for animated films and slashers but only to the edge of your elbow for every other genre?

Perhaps it's an occupational hazard that screenwriters must analyze everything we watch, but really, this comment about the suspension of disbelief has never made sense to me - ever - because it's one of those things that writers control by the reality they establish in the story. As a screenwriter, I decide what the reality of my story is. You don't get to choose reality. I do.

What I really think is that when people talk about stretching the suspension of disbelief too far, they're really saying one two things: either the reality of the story doesn't sustain certain story elements which means somebody didn't do their job well enough OR a circumstance in the story would never happen in real life which is just plain silly.

  • The reality of the story doesn't support certain elements of the story. That doesn't mean the film suspended disbelief too far. It means the film didn't clearly establish its reality. It's still a development flaw but from the ground up. We wouldn't expect to see a duck lay golden eggs in a film like Liar Liar but we have no trouble believing that a little boy can make a birthday wish that supernaturally comes true. Why is that? Because the film firmly establishes the whimsical reality that the protagonist lives in.

  • That would never happen in real life. Of course, it wouldn't. We go to films to escape real life. I've never seen a single person laugh hysterically in the cemetery after burying a daughter but that's my favorite scene in Steel Magnolias. I doubt many people could get away with stealing their dead father from a hospital but Little Miss Sunshine pulled it off.

There may be a third possibility here, too. Maybe a role was miscast. The actor or actress gave a performance that was too subtle, too over the top, or they just didn't get their character at all and that weakened the credibility of the suspect story element.

Asking an audience to suspend disbelief is kind of what we're all about, isn't it? You've heard what I have to say so now I ask you -- how far is too far?