Victim plays and how you write pop songs (Genre Cheat 3/3)

This post is the final part about genre. I’ve written about the cancer of modern drama that is the victim narrative. I’ll talk briefly about gangsters and rom-coms how they are two sides of the same coin. I also write briefly about the meta-narrative and how to write a pop song.

Victim Play

This is an extension of the drama but it’s toxic, and you should avoid deliberately writing one. I’ll tell you what to watch out for. The most mainstream example of the victim play is the film Philadelphia. When people mention Philadelphia, they talk about how groundbreaking it was. It helped bring discussing the plight of people with AIDS into the mainstream. No one ever talks about the film and whether or not it’s any good. The film isn’t.

A man gets fired for being gay/having AIDS because his bosses hate gay people. A man hires a homophobic lawyer. A homophobic lawyer learns that gay people are people too. Court rules that gay people are people also. Gay guy dies.

The audience realises that gay people exist. I want to make it clear that the makers of the victim play have good intentions it’s that practically it’s a big “and” at the end. The people who need to watch Philadelphia and take the lesson from it never will. The victim play reduces people to morally simple cyphers. Gay people are living saints; everyone else is Satan.

With the victim play, there is also a degree of fetishising the injustice. If you make a film about the domestic abuse, you will have to have a scene where the wife beats the husband.

In Philadelphia, there’s a scene the homophobic lawyer uses all the slurs that come to mind. It’s a case of having your cake and eating it too.

Rom-com/ Gangster

The rom-com and gangster film are two sides of the same coin only one is feminine and the other masculine. They both deal with rules of behaviour in society. The only difference is the consequences. In the rom-com, you are undateable and lose your chance at love. In the gangster film if you snitch they will kill you. Both end in similar ways. There is usually a wedding at the end of the rom-com, the heroine leaves the dating world behind. In the gangster film, the hero leaves the life of crime behind. They leave “the life” through the witness protection programme or death.

Meta-narrative

If you can find a way to make a commentary on the nature of storytelling or filmmaking, there is a chance that you are a master storyteller. The most popular means of doing this is through the framing device, the voice over. Many times it’s forced and can seem cheap. The best example is The Ponderosa Wedding Massacre from It’s Always Sunny.

The Lord of The Rings has a meta-narrative with Frodo writing the story of the Lord of The Rings.

If you can do it subtly, then you are a master. Inception is as much about film as it is about dreams. Look at the scene in the cafe; they are talking about screenwriting.

Arrival is also a good example too. It deals with the distortion of time and our perception. You think that you are watching a flashback when you’re watching a flash forward. It’s a magical manipulation of time.

Briefly about pop songs

There’s no real another place that I will get to put this in so I’ll talk about it here.

With pop songs, you take an old cliche and put your spin on it. Let’s assume for example “A stitch in time saves nine”. You recognise the expression OK, so now what, you look for a word that rhymes with nine. “A stitch in time saves nine/ How come I’m eighth in line?” Not great but not terrible for thirty seconds of work. Those lyrics don’t make literal sense, but that doesn’t matter. Pop songs are better left vague.

As for chorus’ something repetitive and simple.

If you’re a man: Make it about either saying that you screwed up and are heartbroken.

If you’re a woman: Make it about how he didn’t do enough, and you’re irreplaceable.

Pop is all about selling a comfortable lie.

Conclusion

Hope that these three parts helped you gain some clarity when it comes to genre. I enjoyed writing about this and hope that you enjoyed reading up on the subject. Feels like I’ve only scratched the surface. I will return to this subject later.

If you liked reading about what genre and want to know more would you mind leaving a comment because I want to help you. Unless you want to write a victim play.

Thank you.

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