the illusion of control

So lately I’ve been watching a lot of SONS OF ANARCHY, the hour tv drama about a fictional California biker gang.  It’s kind of a Hamlet story rolled out in slow motion as a soap opera with lots of murder and testosterone and leather.  It’s a good show.  Lots of great casting, if some of the beats start to wear on you, but hey, that’s what you get with tv anyway.

The thing that always bangs me around about watching the show is the question of “How is this possibly worth it?”.  Not the show itself but the life of the gang.  I’m not even through season two, and lots of them are dead, they’re constantly at each other’s throats, two guys are in the hospital, wives are murdered, and this is like, every single day.

The gang doesn’t make them rich, they’re always losing their gun running deals and having their businesses blown up over this or that.  I see how it gives them a sense of belonging and family, but there are other communities that provide that.  The thing I realized is that the club gives them a sense of purpose, and of control.  The nazis blow up your porn warehouse, you go execute a whole bunch of them.  There all lots of errands and meetings and ranks and gavel poundings.  It’s the adult version of the treehouse club you had with the other 12 year old boys, and in that way, it’s completely pointless and arbitrary.  To paraphrase an underrated and hilariously existential film by Terry Jones of Monty Python fame, ERIK THE VIKING:

Female Peasant:  So why all this raping and pillaging then?

Erik:  Well, we have to do the raping and pillaging to pay for the next raping and pillaging expedition. 

Female Peasant:  Well that’s just stupid, it’s a circular argument. 

Erik:  What? 

I just hatcheted that quote, but you try finding it online, please.  It’s worth it.  The point is that if you busy yourself with some activity, regardless of how you see it as a burden, for whatever reason, it’s obviously the burden you’re comfortable with, or you’d do something else.

It occurred to me today what kind of character arc I want my Dude to have.  I think the classic reluctant hero is an obvious starting point, and the imagery that occurs to me is that of SHAUN OF THE DEAD, and the scene where, coming home drunk, Shaun passes out in the kitchen, and wakes up having scrawled his very short to do list on the white board, finished by “Sort Life Out!” You have a youngish, complacent guy, who’s losing his girlfriend, unsatisfied, and not going anywhere, when an apocalyptic crisis pushes him into the role of hero.  This, the hero’s journey, is the most basic and universal of western film plots.  It’s also Star Wars, Indiana Jones, and Mad Max, Die Hard, Tremors, Alien, and every other awesome thing ever.

The downside of the hero’s journey, is you’re left with an awkward conclusion at the end of the film in a lot of cases.  As the character has broken through the ceiling on his own life, you often conclude with a slow motion barbecue kind of scene, recapping all the players of the story and how they have either triumphed over their personal demons, or received a sad and poignant burial.  This problem can be solved by turning the expectations of the audience on their head, a la the use of Ed being undead in the shed.  Ed, shed, dead.

Anyway, so I’m looking at this Dude having a stagnant, juvenile life, significantly less satisfying than Shaun’s.  He doesn’t even have a girl to lose, can’t make any money or get out of his Mom’s basement, spends all his cash on weed and games, but is kind of an incredible Rock Video Game savant.  He can shred a plastic 6 button guitar controller like crazy, and hit all of Judas Priest’s vocal notes, but this is truly like a thing he can only do in the basement with his friends, it doesn’t come as any advantage to him in life.

Then, pulled magically into the metal world, he has to conquer various allegorical villains (ie, thinly disguised) from his life sort of a la THE WIZARD OF OZ, which allows him to save the girl, become triumphant, and return to the normal world with the experience and confidence to be happy.  I’ll go ahead and say I’m already anxious about this plot in one main way…which is I take a lot of effort to make sure my female characters are 3 dimensional and real, so by using a traditional plot, I’m going to have to go out of my way to make sure she’s not a trophy or a theoretical girl.  I’d much rather have a Clementine from Spotless Mind, a Ripley, or a Ramona Flowers from Scott Pilgrim.  Hmmm, that’s my second Edgar Write inspiration in this post.  I’m going to have to consider letting him into the VIP room of ideas.

Oh, final thing, I finally found the old name I had attached to this idea when I had originally:


I’m not necessarily married to it.  Give me thoughts.

–Hess out


1 Comment

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One response to “the illusion of control

  1. “Electricity”

    “Metal Epic”

    “The Power and the Speed”


    “Andrew’s Absolutely Couldn’t be more Metal Adventure in Space and Time”

    –somebody stop me–

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