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Synthesis - Columns

From 2008 to 2015 I wrote a weekly column for Synthesis Weekly under the name Zooey Mae. What started as an outlet to review graphic novels and comic books evolved over the years to cover everything from pop culture to whatever menial event was happening in my life. Looking back, I think I spent much too much time regaling Chico with tales of my allergies. 

The Comedy > The Notebook

Originally published in Synthesis Weekly: June 2013

There are certain rules in cinema that nearly always ring true. For example: if a character shows any kind of weakness, they will inevitably suffer a horrible fate. Cowardice, malice, fear and infidelity will guarantee something terrible—while acts of kindness, courage and strength are nearly always rewarded with some sort of happy ending. It’s human nature to want to see the just and virtuous rise to the top while the devious and petty are punished, but that’s unfortunately not true to life. Movie and television show plotlines have become so formulaic that when the viewers pick up on certain clues and markers, they automatically know what to expect. I find this kind of predictability boring, but obviously the same old formula still holds plenty of mass appeal, as proven by the overwhelming drivel available in theaters and on TV.

Deviation from the tried-and-true character reward-and-punishment system creates a hearty split between audiences who are still enraptured by the old formula, and others (like myself) who welcome a change in the way these cinematic stories are being told. A recent episode of Game Of Thrones has fans falling on either side of the divide, with some outraged at the deaths of several central characters, and others excited by the unexpected deviation. Part of what made it particularly shocking was the manner in which they… ahem… “exited” the show. Videos showing fans’ reactions to the scene in question have cropped up all over the Internet, as well as a number of parody videos—one even created by an actor from GoT.

Personally, I welcome a change in the way stories are being told. The old formula is boring. To me, when I see the hero schlepping his way from challenge to challenge and ultimately winning see also: getting the girl, the cash, the fame, blah blah blah, it’s so goddamn boring. Thankfully, there are movies and shows being created now that are breaking this mold. (Movies like The Comedy. It’s fantastic, and the soundtrack is phenomenal. See it immediately—unless your favorite movie is The Notebook, in which case, fuck right off; it’s not for you). Any fan of George R.R. Martin (author of the Game of Thrones series) knows not to get too attached to any character. For any and all of them, as the saying goes, winter is coming.

Movies and series that defy the usual method of storytelling are refreshing, as they portray characters that can actually be related to. I don’t think I’m alone when I say I can identify more with a chronically-depressed asshole than a clumsy, doe-eyed ingénue who dreams only of a man who’ll sweep her off her feet. Or maybe I actually am alone in that sentiment… I’m not sure. As members of the Trophy Generation (kids from the era of receiving awards even for mere participation), we do so adore constant praise; it stands to reason that we’d prefer stories that help fulfill our sense of undeserved accomplishments, rather than ones that challenge the reality of our unfulfilled lives… or maybe this stupid weather is just making me grumpy. Hang in there, you guys. We’ll get through this.

Arielle Mullen