Thursday, June 21, 2012
Excuse me...Haven't we seen this plot before??
Standing in the grocery store line last night, I happened to glance at one of those soap opera magazines on the rack. You know the ones, smaller than the average periodical, like the TV Guide of soaps. Normally I glance over whatever tabloid seem the most sensational just to keep up on the headline news. I mean really, do we honestly have the right to judge every mom in Hollywood or gawk at what they look like in a bathing suit?
Anyway--I digress. The soap teaser that caught my eye was in the form of a question. "Who killed Stefano?"
For those of you who have NEVER followed Days of Our Lives- Stefano is a character who first appeared on Days in 1982 and was once named the all time best villain by Soap Opera Digest. Did you catch that? 1982!
The character Stefano DiMera has been played by three different actors over time but the first and last, Joseph Mascolo was born in 1929, started the role at 53 years old and was still going strong until this month when his character was shot...again... Now, I don't know how old the fictional character was, but Mascolo is 83.
My point with this trip down memory lane is to point out that repetitive plots are everywhere. As a writer, I'm forever trying to come up with fresh new ideas. New characters, new stories, new angles, new everything. And still, I am inevitably influenced by what I see, hear, read, or watch in entertainment and media.
Soap operas are a great example of this. They all recycle plots and characters. I've never been a follower myself, but my mother watched Days when I was a kid and I can remember playing with my dolls (yes, if you can imagine it- I had dolls) and listening to the evil Stefano being lost, found, shot, alive, dead, the father of numerous kids, scheming, lying, being reformed, shot again, dead but not dead, and the list goes on and on and on. He isn't the only bad guy to go through this either. That was twenty plus years ago. Given the latest plot and headline, I'm guessing not much has changed on the show. And that's okay. Because sometimes we like a little predictable unpredictability in our television shows.
So maybe the best plots aren't the ones that are so far out there we can't relate to them. Maybe the best ones are the ones that give us a familiar base and then something new and fresh to keep us guessing. Maybe the plot doesn't change, but the reaction does because social rules now aren't what they were in the eighties. Maybe the change is in the technology or the science, or even the galaxy if you're talking sci-fi.
Given this reasoning, it's easy to see why the vampire story fad comes in and out and then right back in. We love the familiarity of certain aspects of our cultural mythos, but we also love to see a new take on it. (Hence the Twilight Fever sweeping our teenage demographic)
So next time you pick up a book or see a trailer for an upcoming film, don't wave it off as "already done". Read and watch with an expectation of seeing a new twist on an old story. Because sometimes those are the ones that inevitably become our favorites.