Monday, December 10, 2012
Double O Iggy, Storyteller's Log 12-10-2012
In addition to Aristotle, the plot point theories and the hero's journey there are other approaches to try to understand how stories are put together. The structuralist school is once such approach. Today we're going to look at Umberto Eco's analysis of the James Bond movies.
Eco proposed that the characters basically serve functions in the plot, which he likened to a chess game.
Here are the chess moves of a typical James Bond movie according to Eco.
A. M moves and gives Bond his mission.
B. Villain moves and appears to Bond. Often very charming at first.
C. Bond "checks" villain. Or Villain checks Bond.
D. Woman moves and appears to Bond.
E. Bond moves to Woman.
F. Villain captures Bond. Sometimes Woman too.
G. Villain tortures Bond. This is usually frowned upon in chess.
H. Bond checkmates Villain.
I. Bond recovers with Woman. (He will lose the woman in time for the next installment.)
Eco goes on to show that by sometimes repeating elements this adds variety. Thus in one Bond movie Bond might be tortured twice or maybe get two women. The character of the villain, their sidekicks, their plan for world domination, Bond's gadgets and the method of torturing Bond also help to distinguish each Bond film from another. The Austin Powers series plays with these ideas.
The other thing to note in his approach is that the elements are arranged into binary pairs such as Bond/M, Bond/Villain, Bond/Woman, Free world/Bad guys, Love/Death, Loyalty/disloyalty. A very important theme explored in the Bond films is that of domination between dominators and dominated. This is expressed in relationships between Bond and his boss, the villain, the woman, the free world and the bad guys de jour. Originally the Bond series emerged during the cold war between the United States and the Soviet Union.
If you wish to read more on Eco's approach check out: The Law of Bond Richard Taulke-Johnson
The Bond films are about spying. This is perfect for cinema because it's two primitive conflict structures are peeping and chases. Can't get more fun than that.
This is great if you ever find yourself being asked to write the next 007 movie. Is it helpful for the rest of us mere mortals? Before we answer, next time we'll explore another structuralist thinker and examine the pros and cons of this approach. (I'm still finishing the artwork for that blog post. Shaken but not stirred...)