Sunday, February 10, 2013

Deciphering What People Want

Yes, everyone has an opinion.

Let me start right off by saying I'm a huge Quentin Tarantino fan. Not only do I think the man is a great director, I believe he's one of the five greatest writers living today. Still, QT - as he's known by fanboys - brought something up during a recent  interview which got me thinking.

While discussing his latest film, Django Unchained, Tarantino got to talking about the classic miniseries Roots. Pointing to the end of the saga, where a black man spares a brutal white oppressor a whipping, Tarantino argued that the mercy shown onscreen disappointed millions of viewers. 

The question is, was Tarantino right?

In my own script, Hastings, a situation arises about two-thirds of the way into the story which is similar to the one at the end of Roots. Having routed the hideous Viking forces which have invaded their homeland, an angry crowd of Englishmen attempts to burn a Viking prisoner alive. This ruthless execution is halted, however, by the English king, who simply claims that "we aren't like them."

Tarantino might find such a scene disappointing, but would he be correct in doing so? While it could be argued that Hastings was rejected by a major management company, while Django Unchained has gone on to earn accolades (as well as a huge amount of money), success settles few arguments -  and personal tastes settle even fewer. 

I ultimately would opine there's no way of finding out how most people feel about scenes where mercy is shown to the unmerciful. Every fan sees things differently, after all. I would also argue that a lot depends on delivery. If the repulsive white man in Roots was whipped to within an inch of his life in the style of, say, a Saturday Night Live skit, well, audiences might not have been too happy. If, on the other hand, the same character were whipped Tarantino style...

One piece of advice, however, to those wishing to put acts of mercy into their creative works: be aware of the fact that such scenes have been done a thousand times before. Try not to insert it into the finale of your piece. If you must, then make sure you do it in a way no one has ever done before.

Who knows? Perhaps even Tarantino will become a fan. 

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