Film Courage: Is there an antagonist or a dark side to romantic comedies?
Pamela Jaye Smith, Author: An antagonist or a dark side? I think in romantic comedies, the antagonist is either within or usually just without, but not big. Okay, take three levels of opposition: there is internal, and then there is those around you (family, society, culture), and then on bigger levels of stories: there’s opposition from the big outside, you know bureaucracies, aliens, tsunamis. But in a romantic comedy you want an antagonist in opposition just at those two levels (the close to levels).
This is a small story. We’re not taking on the world. We’re not trying to throw kingdoms. So your opposition can be another person or a bunch of people (family, society, culture, sometimes religion but usually not because there can be problems in them trying to have a comedy. Trying to get into those deeper philosophical questions.
But so often, the main antagonist is within one’s own self. Take for instance MY BEST FRIEND’S WEDDING. Julia Robert’s main antagonist was herself and what she thought she should have and how she thought it should be. And that was enough opposition to carry that whole film because there was no one else against her. Now the situation was against her because the guy was engaged and he was getting married. But nobody was coming against her in particular. She was doing it all to herself.
In MY BIG FAT GREEK WEDDING, you had both those levels. The insecurity and the family saying “No! You’ve got to marry a nice Greek boy and be Greek-like…you’re a Greek person. Be a Greek person!”
So two levels for antagonist in opposition in a romantic comedy.
Film Courage: I know you said earlier that before starting this book, you weren’t a huge fan of romantic comedies but what film did you actually enjoy of this genre?
Pamela Jaye Smith: Well…I did have my favorites already and certainly LOVE ACTUALLY is my favorite because it’s got so many different love stories in it of so many different types and it’s so well-crafted. Every writer should watch and deconstruct LOVE ACTUALLY to see how you can create and sustain character arcs (many of them) over the course of a film and have what…7, 8, 10 storylines going on? And they all work together, they are all interconnected. And it’s brilliant, it’s brilliant writing and filmmaking. And the stories and the characters are so endearing. So LOVE ACTUALLY…I do like DOWN WITH LOVE and MAMMA MIA because it’s so much fun to sing to! Seriously, can you watch MAMMA MIA and not sing? No you can’t!
Question for the Viewers: Do you think of the levels of opposition in the stories you write?
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