4 sept. 2011

Gratuitously Flattering Character Detail

There ought to be a better name for this; a character has multiple talents or positive traits not necessary for the plot. In Clint Eastwood's "Absolute Power," for example, the burglar Luther (played by Eastwood himself) is a Harvard Graduate, a war hero, and an expert draughtsman. Maybe we could call it the "vanity package." (Especially when a director also stars in his own movie.) You know Eastwood the director would always give Eastwood the character good taste in jazz and a good SAT score. I can imagine a lower level producer telling the scriptwriter: "Hey, the boss wants a better vanity package."

In some ways, it's just Hollywoodization. It's just as easy to put the word Harvard in the script than Cornell. Easier, in fact. Interior decor can be overly elegant, except when it is meant to be deliberately run-down and seedy.

4 comentarios:

Vance Maverick dijo...

I like the term "vanity package". It's also basic to the romantic element of fiction -- part of the pleasure one gets (or is supposed to get) as a reader is admiring the characters.

I remember discussing it with my wife when we saw The Conversation -- I was irritated that we had to listen to people telling us that Hackman was "the best" in his line of work. She pointed out that in that story, it had a function -- he makes a mistake precisely because he thinks he's invulnerable.

Jonathan dijo...

Yes, making that character a technical genius is related to the plot. It is his lack of insight into character that makes him fail. A gratuitous flattering character trait for such a character would be to also make him a gourmet cook or a kareteda. The saxophone at the end comes close, but he is clearly an amateur at that.

John dijo...

Recently picked up a City Lights collection of translations of flamenco lyrics. "Gypsy Cante," Will Kirkland, ed. & tr. Enjoyed it. Do you know it, Jonathan? Thoughts?


Jonathan dijo...

Don't know the book. I'm going to see if my library has it.