Saturday, August 30, 2008

Changing "The Narrative"

I do my best to avoid topics that will likely turn off readers. I want everyone to feel welcome here, whether we agree or disagree. It's nothing more than a screenwriting blog, yo. My politics aren't the issue.

I have been thinking about starting a blog about how the fundamentals of drama are moving out into the broader world. Now that we're all connected by intertubes, it seems only natural that this tendency will grow. You can control how people see events and characters by framing their context. There are some extremely effective strategies for doing this, and they've been around for thousands of years. Who wouldn't access this knowledge?

This is why Republicans and Democrats are constantly screwing with each other's back stories. This is why they're always muddying each other's inciting events. On and on. And this is the only conceivable reason I can think for McCain choosing Sarah Palin.

Unless you're staunchly anti-abortion, you were probably scratching your head on this one. Google got a bit of a headache from everyone trying to figure out who she was. Apparently McCain met her once before this week, so he wasn't exactly sure who she was either. For that matter, she wasn't too clear on what the VP job entailed.

So even if you think she's a great pick, you have to ask yourself how she got picked.

From a screenwriting standpoint it does make sense.

Old screenwriters love to sit around and talk about 'setting traps'. How do you do this? McCain's rewriting the narrative to make it more difficult for Obama. He's setting traps. It's not how well known she is, or what she stands for. Her main asset as a trap has more to do with how powerless and out of her element she is, in a way.

To wit: Obama attacks her for being inexperienced. McCain keeps the 'inexperienced' meme in the narrative. Obama's slogging through sand here. It's not so much that he's defeating his own argument as making it harder for Obama to make his.

The Obama camp attacks her for getting her ex-brother-in-law fired -- i.e. allegations of corruption. McCain keeps the Tony Rezko issue in the debate.

Whenever Obama's surrogates reference the excitement at a first black president, they're now cutting against the excitement about a woman in the White House.

In other words, all the obvious attacks backfire. In other words, this is not a stupid or reckless choice. It's not a choice made from a position of power. But it is a crafty choice. When does a screenwriter make a choice like this?

A screenwriter builds a trap by giving the trap a number of analogous traits to the hero. And they give the trap to the opponent. The hero can't really attack the opponent without damaging someone like themselves. They have to find a way to get to their goal without endangering this person like them.

The trap is a hostage. And I think this may well lay at the base of McCain's thinking. This is Princess Leia captured by Darth Vader, in a way. It's Saddamn Hussein's 'human shields'.

Yes, I know. She's a gun-toting Christian hockey mom who appeals to the Republican base. I know. Could he really not come up with someone better to make his point? I don't think he's interested in having someone he views as an equal on the ticket. Yeah, she'll pull a couple Clinton voters. But I can't see them really crossing over in droves. No one can.

In my view, McCain's probably made a mistake here. He's basically reacting to the hero's plot. He's thinking like a villain. He's casting himself as the villain in Obama's narrative. And villains have a knack for not winning in the end.

Or maybe that's just in the movies.

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