Movement, Action, and Trying to Signify Something

In fiction as in life, movement does not equal action.  Having your characters flop around and do things does not make them grow necessarily.  That should be the point of action in a story, to make and show your characters growing emotionally over the course of the first word to the last word.

One of my favorite television shows is often a victim of movement as non-action.  Since season 1 and certainly the end of season 2, the characters seem to have become static entities.  A lot of things have happened over the course of those seasons.  People have gone to jail, people have died, and new characters have come on the scene.  However, it seems the main characters are all in the same head space they have occupied since the beginning of the show.

I will say in the second episode of this season one of the characters did something I didn’t expect.  That is the thing about this show that keeps me coming back.  Each individual episode is always well written and exciting.  It is just that as a whole each season has the same arch as the season before with most of the characters filling the same roles as they had before with everyone ending up where they started.

I think this is main characteristic of most pulp or genre fiction.  Things happen to the characters, but nothing changes them.  They are always exciting and action packed, but the action has no meaning and little consequence.  Now this isn’t to say that all genre fiction has this problem or that all literary fiction aspires to something greater.  The best genre fiction is also just good literature, and there are certainly any number of books and short stories that aspire to being literature that have flat characters moving about just to move about.

The problem, especially in the show I’m talking about, is that movement especially violent movement is used to give the work a since of grave importance.  These characters live in a violent world and that makes everything that happens and every decision they make important.  Almost every season, there is a violent act that takes place near the beginning of the season as the table-setter and the show tries to use it in an attempt to show how the accumulated violence of these characters lives has affected them emotionally and psychologically.

However, at the end of each season it is as if a reset button is hit and the weight of whatever violence has occurred is erased, especially for the main character.  He seems to brush off this violence and pain after each season and move on with his life.  Another question is how do you show the compromising effects of violence on characters that are already compromised?

Maybe, this cumulative violence on people who see too much violence on a regular basis will just break them all completely in end.  At least, that is what I hope.  Otherwise, I’ve just wasted 7 seasons.

Yeah, I’m trying to work out reasons to keep watching this show regularly.  Again, each episode is well done and most of the acting performances in them are wonderful to watch.  It is just that the show seems to go in circles for large swaths of time getting no one anywhere fooling us with excitement meant to make us think it is important.

It seems the show wants the violent acts to be the centerpiece.  So, the showrunner sometimes delays and then telegraphs what the violent act will be in order to build excitement for that single moment.  Instead, those violent acts should be simple sign posts that you drive past on the highway showing you where the characters are going emotionally.

The titillating act should not be the goal, but the trigger.  By making the violent act the focus, you take away the importance of the effects that act have on the characters emotionally.  That is how movement does not become elevated to action.  The point of the shockingly violent act is the shockingly violent act itself and that doesn’t leave room for the emotional and psychological effects to be explored.

I’m not going to stop watching this show.  I’m too deep.  Like a few of the characters.  I in so deep I can’t turn back now.  I just hope the characters actually do something other than simply strut and fret across my television screen.


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