Welcome to the Fold: You Say Political, I Say Personal Dept.

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2013-11-21 15:00:00 No comments

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Turning yesterday's post over in my head left me with another issue: how interesting is it, really, to read about such a situation? I hearkened back to a criticism of Amadeus (the movie), which went "How interesting is Salieri's envy, anyway?" Meaning, can you really sustain a 2 1/2-hour film on no other fuel but a man's petty jealousy?

I imagine there's more to the film than just that alone, but those words did awaken within me a sense of how Welcome to the Fold has to be about more than just the mechanics of the frustrated politics of its players.

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I also remembered United Red Army, the staggeringly boring Koji Wakamatsu movie about the self-destructing politics of Japan's left circa the late '60s. Doubly staggering since I was already fascinated by the subject, so if the movie couldn't even enlist my interest, it didn't stand an icicle chance's in a magma pool with most anyone else.

But the most glaring problem with the movie wasn't the subject matter. It was how the filmmakers assumed just putting the central subject on display — the dysfunction of radical utopian politics — would be enough by itself.

Most political dysfunction is not by itself very interesting; if you've sat through one filibuster, you've sat through them all. People who are in the midst of political dysfunction, though, are interesting, but because they're people and not because of the politics itself. (See also Orwell and Koestler for more on that score.)

I worry often about whether the core conflict in a story is enough by itself, because there is a tendency to think about the struggle as if it were a living thing. Maybe such concepts are popular with the X-as-a-character set (setting as a character; situation as a character, etc.)? Those things always seem so much more enticing at arm's length, though; when you sit down and try to make a story out of them, they turn back into pumpkins.

People, first and last and always, are the story.

Tags: characters politics storytelling