LLoyd Jenkins made this comment to my first post on “backstory” (I promise, I will get around to John Wick). Hollywood is in love with the idea that the Hero changes during the movie. I get tired of it. What about setting right what was made wrong? I admit the backstory affects the actions of the characters - but that is characterization in my book.
Hollywood isn’t the only one.
In the afterword to Stephen R. Donaldson’s The Gap into Conflict: The Real Story, he explains that what makes drama “drama” is that the characters change in nature. In that story specifically, he wanted the characters to change roles – that the bad guy be the victim, that the victim be revealed to be the good guy, and the good guy be revealed to be the villain.
But yes, it’s the standard script. One of the worst things you can do in literary circles is to disparage something as “melodrama.” There has to be transformation. Next, someone took Campbells “Hero of a Thousand Faces” and determined that every story had to not only be a transformative story, but be a story about growth of the protagonist. It has to be a D&D story about leveling up and not a Traveller story where you win some, you lose some, maybe you learn, maybe you don’t.
Yes, we have literary snobbery and need for “drama” (and what mental types need/crave constant drama to feel engaged? Narcissists and borderlines…) combined with the easiest possible formula for said drama.
I kid you not that it is everywhere, not just Hollywood. If you go back through the podcast Writing Excuses (even the better pre-Kowal episodes), the heroes journey and hollywood writing formula are explicitly discussed and promoted.
Of course, simply transforming the protagonist, letting him grow wasn’t enough. Combine that with post-modernism and nihilism, tearing everything down, and you get character arcs that either end in cynicism, or where all the work and effort are proven futile.
The latter is why, typical political jabs aside, I generally loathe zombie stories. Generally, all hope is transient and futile, wasted. Sometimes it’s funny – Shaun of the Dead, for example – but rarely outside of Ringo’s stories and the book version of World War Z, will you find a book on zeds I like.
I’m basically on board with the post on “The Girl with the Bitey Mask” at Castalia House. I’ll also add the following – teacher teaching zombie kids is not original. That was in a story I read shortly before giving up on a Zombie-themed anthology. And the title and concept of the movie? About as purely full of hatred for humanity as possible, to even in the title of the work state that the extinction and replacement of humanity was a good thing.