Some Thoughts on Dialogue, Hybrids, and Disidentification

Not sure if I’ve ever made it this explicitly clear here on my blog just how much bad (amazing) TV I watch and how much I love it (hate it). After I finished Dark Matter, which I mentioned briefly here, I started The Vampire Diaries and then switched over to its spinoff The Originals. Both of these shows reminded me of having watched Being Human (probably mostly because of the hospital blood bags, lol, vamps today don’t have to bite anyone, they can just sip from a blood bag like it’s a Capri Sun). Anyway, my favorite part of The Originals is how the main characters alternate opening monologues. So, for instance, in one episode, Klaus catches up the audience by saying:

My siblings and I are the first vampires in all of history, the Originals. Three hundred years ago, we helped build New Orleans. Now, we have returned to find the city has a new king, who rules with the aid of a powerful girl. They’ve taken possession of my brother, Elijah. A coven of witches want this girl for themselves; they seek to enlist my help, using my unborn child as leverage, though I suspect they have ulterior motives. So, I’ve made a plan of my own: I will free my brother, and reclaim the city for my family. Then, I will be king.

But in the next episode’s opening monologue, Elijah says:

My siblings and I are the first vampires in history, the Originals. Three hundred years ago, we helped to build the city of New Orleans. We were happy here, a family. Recently, a coven of witches lured my brother back, using his unborn child as leverage. I tried to help him, but he betrayed me to his enemy, the vampire Marcel. Since then, I’ve been held prisoner by a powerful witch. My brother seeks to manipulate others to procure my release. But, I have my own plan. If this witch proves to be an enemy, I will stop her. By whatever means necessary.

So many plans!

But yeah, that’s what I like about these opening monologues, how the show rotates their different perspectives to set up the dramatic tension of the episode ahead, to some extent inviting us to watch the episode through that character’s quest/plan/frame of mind.

My next favorite part is how the dialogue in the opening scenes (which is so bad, but performed well enough by the actors to be slightly less ridiculous) also functions to catch up the audience. For instance, now that Elijah’s been released from the witch and the opening shot reveals both brothers sitting around at home, reading books, their sister Rebekah walks in and says, “So, this is what you do the first time we’re back together as a family? Vampire book club?”

Or, in another episode, Klaus yells at a witch: “We had a deal! You protect my unborn child, I dismantle Marcel’s army. And whilst I’ve been busy fulfilling my part of the bargain, you allowed Hayley to be attacked and almost killed by a gaggle of lunatic witches.”

LOLOLOL yess.

I mean, is this a lesson on how to write dialogue? Noooo, but it is delightful to watch how the actors manage, generally, to pull it off. Usually with much feigned boredom/amusement (book club?) or enraged violence/show of superhuman fury (we had a deal, witch!).

Which begs the question, a question I’ve been asking myself a lot lately: Why do I watch what I watch? And I think I kind of figured it out. First of all, you don’t have to pay much attention, since characters are always catching you up. And I’m usually reading or editing or grading while watching, so. And also because these characters — vampires, witches, werewolves — are marginals in society but central to the show that celebrates their power, their speed, their ability to take lives and save lives. And the extra layer that’s most interesting is how Klaus is a hybrid, a vampire/werewolf, who’s more powerful than either vampires or werewolves, whose werewolf bite can kill a vampire, whose vampire strength can kill werewolves, and whose hybrid blood can heal all. (And there’s a baby on the way, probably even more magical!?) So, here’s a marginal figure (in the world of humans) who’s been made central to this show. While he’s also an inferior species, a freak of nature, and the only one of his kind, who’s been made in this show to be far superior in speed and strength and invincibility.

And that’s it exactly, right? What we like and need in our nonhuman heroes? Outcasts who, despite the outright hate of humans, save humans anyway?

And that’s what I like about this show, that this outcast gives zero shits about anyone but his immediate family members, sort of, sometimes, but maybe not really since he’ll overpower them and lock them in coffins for centuries when they displease him.

He’s horrible. On the one hand, I hate everything about him. On another, he’s a powerful hero/villain/neither with whom an adoptee like me might positively disidentify — the werewolf part of him makes him unlike all his vampire family members; his biological werewolf father is a complete mystery and not (yet) part of his story; other werewolves are uncomfortable around him (if there exists an older Korean person in America who doesn’t express immediate sadness and deep shame for Korea, upon learning I am adopted, I’ve never met them). Also, he has zero interest in his baby, until he learns what his baby can do for him. So now I’m watching and waiting with somewhat morbid interest to find out what happens with this tribrid about to be born. . . .

20 Lines About Shonda Rhimes and Also My Phone
  1. I lost my phone/wallet yesterday, so if you need me email’s best for a while.

  2. Before I lost my phone/wallet, I started Shonda Rhimes’s MasterClass while getting ready in the morning.

  3. In the first or second video, she says something that reminded me of what it felt like a really, really long time ago, when I was still inspired by everything.

  4. She says pick a newspaper and read it every day, and then turn the stories into stories—imagine people, characters, in these stories and make the stories human.

  5. I feel like that’s the kind of advice that would’ve made me fill up multiple journals back when I identified as a young person who desperately wanted to grow up and be a writer.

  6. I think maybe that’s not exactly what she says, but it’s what I heard in the bathroom while brushing my teeth and curling my hair and staring at my phone that was propped on my wall-mounted soap dish that I never use for anything except watching stuff on my phone in the morning.

  7. I really miss my stupid phone.

  8. I had to cancel all my credit cards (Wells Fargo, your 24/7 automated customer service line does not work, I’ve been calling for like 12 hours now [but Google hangouts, thank you for existing so I can make any calls at all]).

  9. IDK how I’m going to replace my driver’s license, because the state of Utah only accepts one online printout of the various documents they’ll accept that prove your residency, and, um, all my banking and utilities and university records and etc are online, so.

  10. I tried to set an online alarm to get me up this morning but I didn’t set it right and slept in later than I wanted to, which started up a different set of stupid problems for me today.

  11. Anyway, Rhimes also says that if you want to write for television (I don’t, but I love her so I want to absorb everything she says) to watch and learn from your favorite pilots.

  12. She says she watched The West Wing and studied it.

  13. And then she says that we needed The West Wing during the Bush administration just as we needed Scandal during the Obama years, that these shows succeeded in part because they were able to give us what we needed, politically, wrt entertainment.

  14. Intelligent and articulate people who were smarter and more idealistic than us, and who were somewhat unrealistically optimistic on The West Wing.

  15. And a DC where everyone’s corrupt and terrible (but lol still smarter than us) on Scandal.

  16. It’s interesting, I think, and yesterday it made me wonder, what do I need when I watch TV?

  17. But then I lost my phone and during the day while doing work things I couldn’t check my email on my phone to find out if anyone had found my phone and tried to email me about finding it, which would be funny except it’s not.

  18. I think, mostly, I’ve been able to cancel and order replacements for most of the things (thankfully, I have phone insurance; losing the deductible kind of sucks but definitely not as much as it would have sucked to have to pay for a new phone in full).

  19. License and social security card are going to be tricky to replace, but I’ll figure it out, and I think I’ll finally update my passport too so I have some form of ID if this ever happens again.

  20. I lost my emergency cash stash, which really hurts, because until now my phone/wallet has been the safest place for me to keep such a stash, but yeah, cash is stupid and losing it sucks.

20 Lines Not Really About the Bal Masqué
  1. I’m sitting here nursing a glass of pinot noir, pretending to be a writer who enjoys a glass of something when they’re working. 

  2. But now I’m not really working.

  3. I’ve just spent over half an hour searching for images of heart-shaped fletchings on heart-tipped arrows, like for a Cupid costume—a good one, preferably, but a cheap Halloween one would do, too—which is the image I wanted for this post because tonight I’ve been working on the bal masqué scenes.

  4. What do you think—silk brocade?

  5. This morning I started Aaron Sorkin’s MasterClass, and I like that he immediately admits he’s better on paper because it makes his super-awkwardness less awkward. 

  6. I totally didn’t expect him to be at all awkward.

  7. I feel better about myself.

  8. A couple weeks ago after I finished all the seasons of GBBO, I needed something new to watch so started Dark Matter.

  9. I sent this clip from the groundhog day episode to all the people I know who might like the show.

  10. I love Android.

  11. God help me, for some reason after I finished that I started The Vampire Diaries.

  12. I’m on episode 30-something, having specifically chosen the show because it has 170-something episodes and I wouldn’t have to pick something else new anytime soon, but yeah, lol, what is this show even.

  13. I’m never going to get to 20 lines.

  14. I’m never going to finish this glass of wine.

  15. I can’t believe Reiny is still alive and seemingly happy and healthy and still jumping on the bed and running around and stuff.

  16. I mean, she’s really old, way older than Boo.

  17. Today J and I, full of ironic but real-enough angst and ennui, totally uninterested in our lifestyle blogger burglar-murderer novel, started a new story we actually like.

  18. It started out as a joke about how I’m a ghost that can’t shake vampires or zombies because they just keep coming, for years, decades even, but also there are boa constrictors, and a guy in a bison costume, and a cabin explosion. 

  19. We are winning at this writing thing.

  20. Cheers.