Monday, July 30, 2012

Hollywood, Can You Pass Me the New Stories and New Characters?

A recent theme has been appearing in TV shows and movies that is getting old very fast.  The theme in short is that mankind is nearly wiped from the face and the earth and now a few survivors must band together in an attempt to ensure the survival of the human species. 

The over arching story is as follows:  humanity is wiped near to destruction by disease, zombies, aliens, machines/robots, vampires, nuclear war/Government.  A show can even make combinations of two or more; The Walking Dead hinges on the disease that causes zombies.

For instance:
Day Breakers (movie): vampires/disease
Independence Day (movie): aliens
Battlestar Galactica (TV): Machines/Robots that act like aliens.
I Am Legend (Movie/novella): disease/vampires
12 monkeys (Movie): disease
28 Days Later (movie): disease/zombielike creatures
Falling Skies (TV): Aliens
The Terminator (Movie): Machines/robots
Dawn of the Dead (Movie): Zombies
Revolution (TV): Coming to NBC Fall of 2012.  Electricity stops running, don’t know why, don’t know who, how, or what.

Most of these stories are a rehashing and repackaging of the same story.  Even so much so that you have nearly the same stock characters.  For example:

The Leader:  The morally sound leader is fair and always tries to do what is right and best for the community.  He keeps the foolhardy warrior in check and encourages the weak coward to excel.  Commonly comes from a military background.  Incredibly optimistic and he has much hope for the survival of humanity.  The Leader is loyal and tries to keep the group of survivors together by serving as the voice of reason.  In modern film, he is constantly second-guessing himself.  The second-guessing is understandable when the writers of the character come from a society that despises truth and loves relativism and members of that society have never had to think about making a difficult choice.  The most difficult decision most of the writers is often limited to what toppings they want on their pizza and what flavor frapachino they want.
 The Mechanic:  Can be a master DIYer or an actually handy man and mechanic.  Whatever his background, he can make anything, fix anything, and is handier with a Swiss army knife than MacGyver.  Your only mode of transportation break down?  Give the Mechanic an episode or two and he will fide a way to build a forge, smelt metal, and construct for you an entirely new and incredibly bad-ass, post-apocalyptic, beast of a vehicle with mounted machine guns, GPS, and spikes.
 The Warrior:  Former hunter or military grunt.  This is the weapons expert in the group and can kill anyone and anything, and he can turn anything into a weapon of carnage destruction.  Turn to this guy if you need bombs made or need to learn how to fight with a sword, gun, knife, hand-to-hand, or a bouquet of daises.  The warrior wants to solve all problems with force.  You want him leading a military assault, but he always wants to be the hero, which commonly endangers the community.  He falls prey to the vice of foolhardiness.  Often this character thinks or appears to be invincible.  Big dumb men often like this character.
 If the Warrior happens to be a girl, she will likely be pencil thin and exceptionally hot.  Her real skill resides in her hotness, as in reality an average man would be able to snap her in two because she has no muscle and weighs a buck-oh-two.  Then again, she will conveniently know kung fu – which is the writers’ attempt to make her 102 lb frame seem dangerous.  She is basically a man, but is really there to satisfy the feminists and give guys some other hot tart to stare at when The Hot Chick isn’t on screen.  Big dumb men often like this version as well.
 The Hot chick:  Pure eye candy.  She is completely clueless to her surroundings and too often forgets she is living in a post-apocalyptic culture and should not wander from the larger group.  The enemy is able to sneak up on her with a complete marching band playing Stars and Stripes Forever and still take her by surprise, and she will be shocked because she didn’t know someone was sneaking up on her.  She is mainly there because the other characters need someone to rescue.  If it is a TV series, she will need rescuing multiple times.  If the characters were really interested in restoring the human race, a better use for her would be making babies – that way she won’t be running off getting into trouble and forcing other to rick their life to save her.
 The Coward:  Always wants to run away and hide in moments of heated action.  He never pulls his weight in a combat situation and as a result gets others injured and killed.  He is the character the audience likes to cheer against.  Always throwing The Leader’s decisions into question.  He is the quintessential pessimistic.
 The Tech Savvy Computer Nerd:  Usually Asian and usually is dressed more trendy than the average nerd -- no pocket protectors for this guy.  He can hack his way into any system at any moment.  If it is a programing language he doesn’t know, he’ll some how learn it in the 30 seconds he spends successfully hacking into the computer database.  His survival is based more on brain over brawn.  He could likely survive on his own, but lends his support to the community because all those years playing WoW has made him altruistic.

There have always been stock characters for writers to use in crafting a story.  However, in the case of some of these more modern rendition, the stock characters become more of a parody of themselves than an actual well developed character.  Also, with the stock characters being sentenced to a certain slot, the TV show or movie looks like it is modeled more on Role-Playing games (think-Final Fantasy) where the player assembles a cast of characters that have one speciality: fighter, mage, rogue, ninja. If The Warrior falls than the group must survive long enough to find a replacement -- which they will do with no doubt.  

Did I miss any characters?


TrumpetManLA said...

Perhaps the medical expert who somehow can remove bullets and help clean up wounds. Or the genius who knows everything but doesn't know how to do anything.

Paul Cat said...

Ah too true! Well, the genius will come in handy at least once. He'll find away to synthesize some chemical from the stinger of an ant and make a powerful anti-poison or cure or whatever is plaguing the community. Then he'll be useless again.

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