Film & Television Opinion

Be More Joey

Earlier this week a twitter thread by Claire Willett defending Rachel and Joey’s relationship in Friends went viral. Willett not only defended the broadly unpopular coupling, but made the case that Joey was a better, more supportive partner for Rachel than Ross was. I’d recommend reading the full thread (Buzzfeed has compiled the highlights).

When you’ve done that, I’ve a few thoughts on what writers can learn from Ross and Joey’s behaviour towards Rachel.

 

We often mistake epic romance with healthy romance

…in fiction at least. It’s easy to forget that – in the opening scene to Romeo and Juliet – Romeo is heartbroken over Rosaline, who had rejected him before he fell for Juliet. While Romeo and Juliet is a story of teenagers in love separated by an idiotic feud between families, it’s also the story of a double suicide for the sake of a romance between teenager who’ve only just met.

At the beginning of Friends Ross is recently divorced and Rachel has ran away from her wedding. You can see the foundations of a story they could later tell people about how this shows that they were ‘meant to be’. With Joey and Rachel, by contrast, the romance grew out of friendship while living together, at a time when Rachel was pregnant with another man’s baby, which doesn’t seem as romantic in a thirty second anecdote. But looked at in detail, it’s warmer, more human, messier, more relatable.

 

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Film & Television Opinion

Sex, Gender and the Thirteenth Doctor

The casting of Jodie Whittaker as the Thirteenth Doctor has predictably caused a venting of fury, and mocking of the furious. It’s sad, because it should have been a cause for excitement at casting such a talented actor.

I’m one of the few people in the UK not to have seen either Broadchurch or Downton Abbey, but I’ve been a fan of Whittaker since seeing her in Attack the Block and Venus. Her performance in Venus is probably one of my favourite ever performances – as a young, chavvy girl she has a weird quasi-romantic relationship with an elderly actor, played by Peter O’Toole. At various times Whittaker’s Jessie is warm-hearted, funny, sympathetic and vulnerable, exploitative, emotionally indifferent and tender. Taking aside the question of her sex, Whittaker is clearly qualified for the role. While there were justifiable questions around the lesser-known Matt Smith when he was cast, Whittaker clearly has the CV to take a major role like The Doctor, and I’m excited to see what she’ll bring – probably more so than any of the new era of Doctors.

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Film & Television Opinion, Opinion

Samuel L. Jackson and the Politics of Self-Representation

Recently Samuel L. Jackson made headlines by apparently arguing that black British actors shouldn’t take as many black American roles. This was inspired by Daniel Kaluuya being cast in the political horror-comedy Get Out, which premieres in the UK this week.

Speaking to the US radio station Hot 97, Jackson said that

“I tend to wonder what would that movie have been with an American brother who really understands that in a way. Because Daniel grew up in a country where they’ve been interracial dating for a hundred years. Britain, there’s only about eight real white people left in Britain… So what would a brother from America made of that role?”

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Opinion

Why is There not More Football Fiction?

What are the best novels written about football? If you’ve got a contender in mind, odds are that it’s either a little-known book from a little-known author, a novel which doesn’t centre on football but only features it, or The Damned United.

Understandably a fair amount of what’s out there is football fiction books for boys – which makes sense given that it can be an all-consuming interest at that age. I read and enjoyed a few of Michael Hardcastle’s novels when I was growing up, lightweight novels centring around junior boys’ teams that I remember enjoying reading, but which left no lasting impact on me.
There also seems to be a market for football hooligan books, but realistically that’s centring around a subculture tangentially related to football rather than the game itself.

The football fiction that break into wider awareness tends to receive more ridicule than praise. For example the football manager Steve Bruce self-published a series of novel starring a football manager (Steve Barnes) who keeps getting dragged into murder investigations. The ridicule they’ve received is is a little unfair. Not because the books are good, which doesn’t seem to be the case, but because they seem to have been written for the fun of writing them, completing a trilogy during 1999.
Bruce isn’t alone as a footballer dipping his toe into the world of fiction. Theo Walcott, Jimmy Greaves and Terry Venables have also written novels about football – the latter being the fantastically titled They Used to Play on Grass.

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Film & Television Opinion

Bryan Singer on Superman Returns

Bryan Singer made a few headlines last week when he blamed the box office failure of his film, Superman Returns, on the fact that it was targeted at a female audience – who didn’t turn out to watch it as highly as he’d hoped:

It was a movie made for a certain kind of audience. Perhaps more of a female audience. It wasn’t what it needed to be, I guess. I think I could lop the first quarter off and start the movie a bit more aggressively and maybe find a way to start the movie with the jet disaster sequence or something. I could have grabbed the audience a little more quickly. I don’t know what would have helped. Probably nothing.

Singer’s quotes have been taken out of context slightly, but the idea that the film was targeted at women is his most solid definition of the “certain kind of audience” he was chasing, and he thinks that there was “probably nothing” different he could have done.

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Film & Television Opinion

Christmas in Albert Square

This Christmas Day, British screens have been filled with scenes of people suffering.
TV Tropes calls this ‘Soapland Christmas’, which is a pretty generic term that perfectly describes how generic the attempts to outdo each other’s misery have become.
The trend famously began with Den and Angie Watts on Christmas Day 1986.
I’ve never been a big Eastenders fan, and I wasn’t old enough to properly follow the show at the time. But my understanding of how the story progressed is that the pair, who had an aggressive and wild on-off relationship which drove a lot of the drama on the show at the time, were on the verge of reconciliation. But Den, having discovered that his wife’s cancer was a lie to keep them together, suddenly and surprisingly hands over divorce papers to his wife.
That’s how drama should work – keeping the audience on tenterhooks, unsure of what will happen, before revealing a twist that’s both shocking, emotionally powerful, and true to the characters.
Film & Television Opinion, Storytelling Geekery

Beyond the Bechdel Test

You may be aware of the Bechdel test. If you’re not, it’s a pretty straight forward idea – it’s a form of criticism, primarily of movies but which can be applied to any other form of fiction. To pass the test, the story must

Include at least two women,
Who have at least one conversation,
About something other than a man or men.

The Bechdel Test isn’t an in depth test of how feminist or misogynist a piece of fiction is. But it’s a simple way to measure if female characters are seen, and have their own problems and personalities, rather than just being defined through their relationships to the male characters.
I bring this up, as I’ve recently come across two similar tests.

The head the idea first came out of
Alison Bechdel, writer of Dykes to Watch Out For

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