We’ve been very positive here at Question of the Week so far, but being negative can be fun, too, if we don’t let it consume our souls!!!! With that in mind, my Question this week has to do with storytelling, and how stories get told. There’s a lot of content out there, and only so many ways to tell a story, so some ways are going to be overused and become annoying. Unless you have the memory of a walnut, you’re going to recognize these ways of telling a story and possibly get vexed that the writers go to that particular well so very often. Which leads me to my Question: What storytelling device is your least favorite? What makes you grate your teeth in frustration when you recognize that the writers are indulging in it? I’ll tell you mine if you tell me yours!
For me, it’s sex. Not people having sex, exactly – I’m not quite that much of a prude – but the context in which they have sex. Writers seem to think sex is all-consuming in characters’ brains, and unless I know the wrong group of people, it’s just not that paramount in the minds of most regular folk. Characters in fiction make ridiculously dumb choices just so they can have sex, and while I get it – it makes things more dramatic – it also seems like these people are complete idiots most of the time. I’m currently catching up on The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, because my wife watched it and thought I’d like it, and I do. But here’s Joel Maisel, who has a gorgeous wife who apparently does not mind getting a bit freaky in the bedroom (even though it’s 1958 and ladies didn’t do that sort of thing!), who supports his tepid stand-up career whole-heartedly, and who is utterly devoted to him … and he cheats on her with his secretary, who is quite the dim bulb. As the show has progressed, Joel has been shown to not really be that bad a guy, so why on earth did the writers have him cheat in such a stupid fashion? It’s just to break them up so Midge can become a stand-up (her first set is impromptu ranting about his cheating), but it’s just lazy. Joel seems to have a relatively busy life, so where does he even find time to cheat? It’s frustrating.
There’s also the idea that men and women can’t possibly be friends because they want to have sex with each other (the Billy Crystal Paradox?). Even if they don’t, they still want to. I’m friends with many women, and I don’t feel that sex is a factor in any of the relationships (I can’t speak for the ladies – I mean, I am quite the catch!). There are any number of factors that go into people wanting to have sex with each other, and if all of those aren’t present, it’s just not a consideration for most people, I think. Yet in fiction, it’s clear the only factor is if a man and a woman exist in close proximity and they’re both heterosexual. That’s all that matters! They don’t even have to like each other that much!
These things bother me because they’re lazy. Whenever I begin a show with a happily married couple or a man and a woman working together who aren’t a couple, I think, “Well, when is the man going to cheat?” or “When are they going to get together?” It’s the path of absolute least resistance, and it’s annoying because it feels like the writers think they’re being bold and daring when they’re just being lazy. I get that writers for television need to crank out content and writers for movies have a limited time to get to things, but it’s still annoying.
What do you say, good readers? What’s your least favorite storytelling trope? Don’t be shy about venting!!!