Friday, August 23, 2013
Let them die
I'm trying to remember the last time a character died in a drama and didn't come back to life. This isn't a new thing – nuts, nuts, nuts, I've got the name of the first time it happened. It's on the tip of my tongue but, Jesus Christ, I can't recall.
But anyway, I think it's happening in dramas more now. Certainly I'm loathing it more.
It's not as if I like a good bloodbath. If something is more violent than my regular benchmark movie, The Muppets Take Manhattan, then I'm not automatically drawn to it. I'm not automatically against it, I'm not recoiling in fear the way I am with even the mildest horror story, but I don't think cor, I must see that.
It's not even as if I'm against a happy ending necessarily or that there isn't a part of my head that knows Captain Kirk will always survive whatever the latest life-or-death crisis is.
But now I don't just know in my heart of hearts that Kirk will survive, I know in my fact of facts that he can't die. Cannot. Nobody can ever be killed again in Star Trek because that was all fixed in the latest film. No more dying.
Therefore no jeopardy.
The only interesting thing now for me is seeing how they cope when one of the cast doesn't want to come back for another sequel.
Writers tell other writers that they must kill their darlings: you must be willing to delete your absolute favourite bits of the book or the script if that will be better for the whole. But we don't listen any more. Or maybe it's producers who think that's a stupid idea: you've got this character who everyone loves, everyone is riveted to, why wouldn't you bring him or her back to life so we can keep on enjoying them?
Because sooner or later, we stop enjoying them and it's over. Forever. We stop enjoying them and we stop watching the show.
Example. A bit of an odd example, but here goes. One of the few times I've watched Coronation Street was when there was a big court case legal story and the kick was that we knew the person on trial was innocent. The nation watched. I watched.
And today I can't tell you which character or what the story was because I switched off and have never gone back.
Because in the week of the big reveal, the big climax to the story, the producers were quoted in newspapers as saying that they would never let an injustice happen in the show. They would never allow an innocent to be convicted.
I do think it was the absolutely most stupid time to tell us that. But, more, it erased Corrie for me. Not just this particular story that I'd been enjoying, but all stories. Ever. I want to say that phrase from Down the Line: "What is point Corrie?"
There is now no story in Corrie that won't work out happily. True, it was never very likely but now it's official. I get very tense in romcoms even though they always end well because there is always a pixel of a possibility that they won't. I give you Lost in Translation. Er. That's about it.
So it's not much of a pixel of a chance of a sad ending. Oh! One Day. There you go.
I will watch and enjoy a series where I know everyone will at least scrape by to next week. I've written Doctor Who and there's not a moment's doubt that's the Doctor will prevail. But I don't kill him and bring him back.
Actually, I did one where a character survives. Originally I had planned for her to die but it was honestly too upsetting. Not for me. But it wasn't going to get made if it were that bleak. And I like the compromise we made, I like where we went instead of her dying. I liked very much what new possibilities it have us in the characters if she didn't die.
But if she had died, she'd have stayed dead. I promise.
I'm fine with: have they died or haven't they? I'm not fine with dying and then coming back. Not even when I'm glad about it. Not even when I loved the character and it is bliss to see them sitting up, coming through the door or stepping out of a shower.
Because all they had and all they were died with them. A reborn character is a new character and we're starting again. We're starting again with a character who has had the most almightily improbable beginning. When you care enough about a character, it's as if they are real. If they come back from the dead, there is now zero reality to them.
I didn't want them to go yet now they have to prove their worth to me anew and they have to get me back to seeing them as real. And it doesn't happen.
It's not like you have to kill characters off. But if you want us engaged, if you want us caring at all, let them die.