Accentuate Writers Forum

Good vs. Forrest Gump Lucky

WNed - 2/23/2015 at 10:57 AM

So, I may have watched one or two action adventure and crime drama shows / movies over the years, and I've detected a bit of a pattern: the hero is *always* supposed to be a real badass, or the very best at what (s)he does.

The thing I've noticed most, though, is that the hero is actually the single luckiest sumbitch on the planet!

A truly marvelous opportunity in compare and contrast is the tandem pair of shows on ABC, Scandal and How To Get Away With Murder, (HTGAWM, how'd they get away with that long-assed title). Both were created by Shonda Rhimes, and both feature aggressive female lead characters. In Scandal, Olivia Pope is supposed to be a take-charge "fixer" in the fast-paced, cut-throat world of presidential politics. In HTGAWM, Annalise Keating is a top-notch defense attorney who also happens to teach at a local university.

While each show has its own entertainment value, I much prefer the one with the long title because the lead character actually is as good as she claims, and she proves it over and over. In stark contrast, whenever Olivia Pope, in Scandal snarls, "... because I'm that good!" I want to burst out laughing because you know in five minutes she will have misread someone, somebody is going to die, and her ass will need bailing out... and somebody always rides to her rescue.

Is anybody else out there as sick of luck over skill as I am? And do you think it really is necessary, for the sake of dramatic effect, to have your hero bumbling into and out of sticky situations?

Melanie - 2/24/2015 at 09:33 AM

I prefer not to have bumblers, but heroes who are crafty or intelligent enough to figure out a solution to whatever problem that hits them... eventually. Being too good at it would smack of Mary Sue, and no one wants her around.

Too much luck and too much coincidence don't (doesn't?) work in fiction. It's supposed to be the story of (part of) someone's life, not a big bucket of suspension of disbelief.

[Edited on 24-2-2015 by Melanie]

Michy - 2/25/2015 at 03:54 AM

I'm willing to bet HTGAWM is going to get the title shortened soon... they do that. It reminded me of Eight Simple Rules for Dating my Teenaged Daughter--which got reduced to 8 Simple Rules, in less than two seasons.

I have a bit of a problem with HTGAWM. The show set itself up to be self-limiting. With that title, and the story arc, the story/title will end soon.... They can't drag this arc on for 8 seasons, and if they did, the show would suck, and a new story arc will simply not be about how to get away with murder. Also self-limiting are the characters, who are all law students in her class. Once they are to graduate, then a new crop of students would have to come in, and we know that viewers aren't great at replacing main characters regularly and remaining loyal to a show. We don't like to get invested in folks who are just going to go away or get replaced. The other option would be to have them become junior attys when they graduate with her firm that is expanding now that Sam is dead... and keep them around. Or they could all fail several years at law school--but then, that would mean they weren't the best, which was why she picked them to be her students 'away' from class too.

I don't know... I just see the show as self-limiting.

As for Scandal......We watch it because: Jake.


Oh, wait.... I was distracted.... uhm, Scandal. Kerry Washington is a beautiful woman, and the first season, I really felt her. She was strong, powerful, confident, beautiful, sexy, and yet all woman. It was an awesome first season. But now? I don't know. If I see her quiver that lip one more time.... I might smack her my damned self.

She's predictable now. It's the same schtick, over and over again.

Still... shirtless Jake. Yum.

As for luck--luck has its place. But then again, there's 'bad' luck too, and it has its place, in good writing. Sometimes, heroes get lucky. But I don't think the luck should be the thing that saves the day. It might be a good luck that lets them get in somewhere they shouldn't or something like that small, but if luck is what makes the hero a hero--then the plot better be ABOUT the luck making them a hero, or else, I'm calling bullshit on that one.

There is absolutely nothing I hate more in a story--television or book--than watching it or reading it and the writer losing me on suspension of disbelief. I will literally scream BULLSHIT! at the television or throw the book (unless it's on my kindle, then I just scream at it too.)

Nancy G. - 2/25/2015 at 08:59 AM

I watch Scandal. Although I get irritated at times, it still has me hooked. I didn't like the extreme torture part--how some people were 'good', then 'evil', then good again without being really changed. I like the Huck character because of how he has to struggle to remain sane because of what he was. But the show, as a whole, keeps me watching.

Unlike 'Murder'. I tried to get into that one. I was ready to like it. But I just can't. I gave up. Don't like the plot. Don't like the characters. Just don't like it.

Nancy G. - 2/25/2015 at 09:08 AM

I've been thinking lately about the difference in "Soap Opera" type shows and those that wrap up the plot each week. And there are those that combine the two--sort of.

Some shows have one theme, or crime, or problem, each week, and they solve that by the end of the show. Think all sitcoms and most crime shows. Others (soap opera style) never complete an arc, so you have to keep coming back each week to see what happens. By the time that arc is completed, another has started, so you can never quit watching. Think Scandal, Nashville, Grey's Anatomy. Then there are those that combine the two, like The Medium, which used the Red John arc thru several seasons.

I have a friend who likes NCIS, but threatens to quit watching when they start carrying over a problem from week to week, even though they solve the main case. Books that do this irritate me no end, and I won't read them, but I do watch some TV shows that do this.


plntpolice - 2/25/2015 at 03:53 PM

I don't watch any of the shows you've mentioned but the characters on the shows and books I love the most have some common traits; they are fallible and have a mixture of weakness and strength, in other words, they are realistic humans.

For example, on Downton Abbey, Thomas Barrow, the footman, is manipulative and conniving, but yet we see why he grew up with a sour attitude toward others. As a gay man in early 20th Century England, he's been shunned and persecuted. On several occasions his better nature has triumphed, like when he risked his life to save Edith from the fire. Likewise with Lady Mary, we love her, she's one of the main protagonists, but she's such a haughty bitch towards Edith. All the characters are well rounded, good/bad people that to me, are the hallmark of good writing.

One of my favorite detectives, Kate Atkinson's Jackson Brodie, is so real and human that I'm in love with him. His life is filled with worry and stress, his lovers treat him badly, when a bad guy punches him, it hurts and he's put out of commission for a while. In the end, he solves the cases. He's capable, but it takes real work.

I hate, hate, hate books and shows where the women are gorgeous, brilliant goddesses and totally worshipped by their men. If the guy is a rich, powerful, nearly super human god/hunk, I find that incredibly boring. Sorry to go off on a rant, but I guess that kind of childish writing is a pet peeve.

Skwerly - 2/26/2015 at 01:23 PM

I like the actual prodigy type. To use chess as an example, the guy who works his ass off for fifteen years, studying and grinding out tournament time and studying some more and then, finally, attaining the grandmaster title isnít neeeearly as entertaining right off the bat as a seven year old kid who did so in his spare time, when he wasnít collecting Garbage Pail Kid cards or riding his Huffy to the ballpark.

So yes, I believe people in general need that extra something, the thing in prodigies and/or super talented folks that us regulars can't understand completely. You ever find that itís easier to picture yourself way smarter than it is to pretend seeing the world as a simpleton? We like to play up, and thatís why the Ďaverage Joe doing phenomenal thingsí doesnít always work. Lots of times, sure, but not always.

Iíll take the freak, thanks.