Thursday, September 08, 2005
THE ARMATURE Part 6
The success of There’s Something About Mary was a film that sent Hollywood rushing to produce toilet-humor comedies. But the Farelly Brothers had made other “shock-comedies,” why did this one become a mega-hit that almost everyone seemed to love? I thought the film was so good I saw it three times in the theater. If you knew me, you’d know that I like few films. And I certainly don’t like sophomoric humor. So again, why this film? It had an armature.
I don’t believe that audiences care much about the genre of a story; they just want to be moved in some way. And they respond over and over again to stories with an armature. In Something About Mary, Ben Stiller’s character is dishonest to Mary and to himself. He is a stalker, and until he realizes it, he is not worthy of Mary’s love.
A film like James Cameron’s Terminator would seem, on its surface, to have a flimsy armature, but it really has something meaningful to say. If you recall, Sarah Conner was an ordinary 20th-century woman with a stressful low-wage job at a burger joint. In the first act of the film, Sarah is having a particularly bad day at work when her coworker says to her, “Look at it this way, in a hundred years, who will care?”
As it turns out, Sarah’s life is about to be turned upside down. A robot from the future has been sent back in time to kill her, to prevent her from giving birth to her son, who is a threat to Skynet (the computer that rules the future earth). She is, according to the film, one of the most important people ever born. So, this mundane life that she lives does, indeed, matter. In a hundred years, everyone will care who Sarah Connor was.
In the Wizard of Oz the armature is stated: “There’s no place like home.” But it might more accurately be said: “You may already have what you are looking for.” How do we know that this is so? Is it because it is said? No, it’s because it is dramatized.
Remember that your armature is the foundation that holds up your story. Everything hangs on top of it. Every decision you make should be based on the idea of dramatizing your armature idea.