Today’s Lesson: Remember what a story is and what makes it resonate.
**Warning: mildly offensive language in this post (most of my posts are foul-language free so I am just letting you know…)**
In the remake of “Clash of the Titans” (the one from 2010 starring Sam Worthington), Perseus (our hero) is rallying his team to fight Medusa who, with one look, can turn a person to stone. He says at the end of a mildly moving speech, “Trust your senses… (dramatic pause)… and don’t look this bitch in the eye!” Cue big swell of music and team roaring in approval.
I imagine a room full of tee-shirt wearing, pimply writers practically ruining their frayed jeans when they laid that gem down. No doubt there were chest bumps all around and someone shouted, “Man, that is SO Badassss!”
But no. It is not. It is just bad writing.
It is supposed to add punch to the speech, but it pulls the viewer out of the film in a couple ways. I am not sure if the word “bitch” was around during the time Greek mythology was created, but it is a contemporary word nonetheless and immediately draws your attention to it and then to the context. “Trust your senses,” followed by, “…And don’t look (her) in the eye!” is terrible advice, considering vision is one of your senses. Not to mention, “trust your senses” is terrible leadership advice. It is like saying, “Okay, team. The situation is bad. Here is our strategy for success, though: do your best.”
Finally, most people in the movie’s target audience know the story of Medusa and Perseus and how it turns out (this is a remake of a movie that was a retelling of a story that is nearly a thousand years old and part of basic elementary school education). Those lines add no “punch” or value to the unnecessary foreshadowing of what is to come. Why not choose clever writing instead? Or just fair writing. Anything that is a step up from groan-inducing.
Apparently, in the 2010 version of the story, instead of having the power to turn people to stone, Medusa had the power to turn writers to Dumb.
When you tell a story (even if you are not a writer), keep in mind one thing that makes it compelling is that the hero faces increasingly challenging choices, with more at stake at each turn.
In fact, a story (if you ask me) is mostly a series of set-ups for bigger and bigger choices. Consider this: “I went to the store yesterday,” is not a compelling story. But, “I went to the store yesterday and saw the tattooed woman in line ahead of me had her hand in her torn denim jacket pocket, around the butt of a gun…”
That probably compels someone to say, “Oh, wow. What did you do?”
You would want to know what choice I made. Did I confront the woman with the gun? Did I pretend not to notice and walk away? Did I call for help?
“I waited until she was at the register and when she moved to pull her hand out of her pocket, I grabbed her elbow and pushed it back so she couldn’t actually extend her arm. Confused, she looked at me, and then looked directly at the cashier…”
Now, you have to know what happened. The stakes just went way up. What did I do? Did I try to subdue her? Did she succeed in pulling the gun anyway (and then what did I do)? When she looked at me, did I slowly shake my head, indicating she better not try anything? Did I call for security? What happened next?
Realizing that she and the cashier were now eye-to-eye, I did the only thing I could do. I shouted at the cashier, “Don’t look this bit*h in the eye!”
But it was too late. The story had already turned to Dumb.