movies

I Just Don’t Care

I’m going to admit something today that will probably get me shunned. Something that some of you may have a hard time accepting. I fully understand if you want to unfollow my blog after this. Are you ready for this confession?

I really dislike Star Wars.

I was going to say I ‘hate’ Star Wars, but I realized I don’t have an intimate enough relationship with the franchise to actually hate it. I very much don’t find anything enjoyable or entertaining about it. I have an aversion to it, really. That sounds more reasonable, I guess. If you love Star Wars you probably shouldn’t read the rest of this post, because I’m not going to change my mind and give it any credit before the end.

Okay, for everyone who stayed:

Perhaps I don’t like Star Wars because, with a few exceptions, I don’t like sci-fi in general. I entirely don’t like space opera-y type stuff. Star Wars is just not my thing. I never even watched any of the first three (or whatever sequence they’re in, I really don’t know) movies until my mid-twenties when my ex-husband (who very much likes Star Wars) made me watch them. I found them so unremarkable I barely remember anything beyond the pop-culture references and that, like–some people were being squished in a room? Siblings kissed to make the space jock guy upset?

A few years later, a friend of mine (who also very much likes Star Wars) dragged took me to see Revenge of the Sith. I can confidently say until this very day, I have never seen a worse movie. From the wooden acting to the fact the ‘plot’ was just a vehicle for the special effects, I had never been so underwhelmed in my life. But here, we come to the actual writing point of this post!

One thing I still remember being driven home for me at the time, for I was a writer then too, is that they sort of foisted upon the audience that we’re supposed to identify with Anakin’s angst over Padme because for goodness sakes she’s his wife. Amongst all the other horrible tropes in the movie, we’re just supposed to implicitly feel emotional about it because they’re married. This sat so wrong with me then and underlined such an important rule of writing that even all these years later, I’m reminded of it everytime I see it in action.

The issue is this: Revenge of the Sith was not by far the only movie–or book–where the author(s) simply expect the viewer/reader to care about a relationship based on what it fundamentally is. “Of course you must understand/identify/have an emotional connection because character x is character y’s wife/husband/brother/sister/father/mother/best friend/cousin!” I mean, who can argue with that?

All well and good, but not all of us have the same life experiences. Some of us don’t have a wife/husband/brother/sister/father/mother/best friend/cousin, or we don’t love/care about our wife/husband/brother/sister/father/mother/best friend/cousin. Some of us don’t speak to those people or would like to see them buried in a pit. You’re not going to make me instantly identify with the connection characters have just because they have a socially-recognizable relationship. For example, I don’t understand anecdotes about the close relationship between cousins because I don’t actually have any cousins.

So how can you make sure your readers come to identify with a relationship they may not have–or that they may have, but are not going to readily accept because you say so? This is done by building character and by showing the relationship in action, and in peril. Saying ‘our bond is strong because we’re married/related!” is not enough to make us care. Show us why we should care. Show us the relationship, the emotions, the things they love about each other and how they connect and interact. Give us a reason to care beyond ‘because everyone cares about that person!’ Show us what they’ve been through and why their bond has survived it.

  • What mutual interests or concerns do they share?
  • What has their life been like together? What have they been through?
  • What do they tell each other–and what secrets do they keep?
  • How do they resemble each other? How are they different?
  • Why would it be hard for one to live without the other, beyond the formalities of their relationship?

I never cared about Anakin and Padme, mostly because they were little more than accesories in a CGI-fest, but also because I’m not going to feel their angst just because they’re married. If it makes you feel any better, I thought Mr. and Mrs. Smith was an awful movie too, and didn’t emotionally connect just because they were husband and wife.

I apologize to any Star Wars fans out there. Maybe the movies got better, but I don’t plan to find out. Thank you for not breaking my knees because I used it to make a writing point! Please don’t break my knees, I need them to walk.