brian jacques, c.s. lewis, captain america: the first avenger, creative writing, cressida cowell, editing, harping on an eyesore syndrome, how to train your dragon, humor, john flanagan, kung fu panda, looney tunes: back in action, marvel, marvel superheroes, nanowrimo, nanowrimo 2014, national novel writing month, oocs, out of character syndrome, perelandra, ranger's apprentice, redwall, spontaneous expedient character defamation syndrome, star wars, story dynamics, the avengers, the chronicles of narnia, the lego movie, the space trilogy, who framed roger rabbit, writing
I know, I know, it’s been forever. :-S Sorry about the long hiatus. I really have no excuse.
On to the post…
I don’t like some animated movies.
Yeah, I know. BIG surprise. But seriously, I don’t. Why?
Because the humor doesn’t work. Well, at least not for me. (My dad tends to laugh in these movies, so maybe it’s really a subjective thing…? Anyway, I don’t find them awfully funny.) Who Framed Roger Rabbit is probably the best example of this. The humor doesn’t work. (And who among us wasn’t completely mentally scarred by that stupid movie in early childhood, anyway?!) It’s a mixture of slapstick, poking fun at the characters, and innuendo. Even without the innuendo, to me it would be offensive. I much prefer the wry humor Halt uses in the Ranger’s Apprentice books. And the fun word-play and occasional mild slapstick that appears in the Redwall books.
When a movie does that, I like to call it Harping On An Eyesore Syndrome.
Some movies are, to me, a mix of playful and painful. Normally the ones that are the least painful also have the most heart, probably because they’re the ones that the filmmakers either 1) actually love or 2) know what they’re doing with.
In Kung Fu Panda, I found myself actually laughing at some of the gags, though some of them still got a blank stare from me. Brave and Tangled, the same, though I think Tangled really takes itself a bit too seriously. (Come on, Disney! You can’t have it both ways. Either keep your trademark irreverent humor, or make a “serious movie”.) Cars… do not even get me started on this movie.
The Lego Movie? I thought it would be totally stupid, but win.
How To Train Your Dragon? Absolute win.
Loony Tunes: Back in Action? Okay movie. Not my favorite. It was a blatant rip-off of spy movies and Indiana Jones, but unlike The Lego Movie, it didn’t click. I think it was trying to do too much.
Prince of Egypt? Okay, some of the humor slipped up, but mostly it was good.
So, why does some humor work but other humor doesn’t?
I think that there are a number of factors.
First of all, does the movie have “heart”? What do I mean by this? Well, in my opinion, I think this means are the characters really relatable? They can’t be just punching bags (unlike Jar Jar Binks… seriously, guys, the reason you and/or other people hate on him? It’s because he has no character development. He’s a talking, walking cardboard-or-rubber-or-both stand-up. And yes, that was pun intended.)
This leads well into my first point. The humor must be acknowledged by the characters. They must reply realistically to it, whether it’s in hurt, gamely taking the hit, or pretending not to respond while inwardly being cut deeply by the jab, even if it wasn’t intended to be insulting.
Secondly, if the humor helps to acknowledge a point of the plot, so much the better. It helps it mesh better with the rest of the story, and doesn’t poke out like an eyesore.
Some of the humor in movies like Kung Fu Panda and Captain America: The First Avenger is like this. It acknowledges the pure sucking-ness of the main character before they become awesome. However, it should never be overdone, because then instead of being humorous, the result is laughable. They make too light of a matter that’s all too serious for the main character and lose the audience while they’re at it. (The First Avenger did a marvelous job using this type of humor; it made us want to both laugh and cry at the same time. Perfection.)
Thirdly, humor can be a character’s lifeline. Rather than going stark raving insane… um, was that an unintentional Avengers pun? Never mind. Anyway. Rather than losing it, entirely and permanently, they can deal with it by making a joke. Some of these jokes are sad, but some can be pretty darn witty. (The First Avenger again. Also How To Train Your Dragon–though that’s more sarcasm than actual humor–and Kung Fu Panda, which also made me want to cry in parts.)
Finally, sometimes the characters will just make a joke unintentionally, or crack one on the aside, to keep a plot moving, so the audience doesn’t get bored. (The First Avenger. Par excellence.) My absolute favorite line in Perelandra is when Dr. Ransom slips up:
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, here goes–I mean, Amen!
So, bottom line?
1. Humor can help keep characters sane.
2. Humor meshes well if it’s used to acknowledge something (as in lampshading a plot oversight and making it into a joke) in most cases, but don’t overdo it. (Cars. ‘Nough said.)
3. Do not poke fun at your main characters for no reason, or you may end up sacrificing character development and making your entire book into a bad joke.
4. Absolutely no spontaneous expedient character defamation or out of character syndrome. Because that is not funny. Most of the time, not even in what is referred to as “crackfic.”
5. Some characters are just pretty darn funny (like Halt, Major Montgomery, Bucky, Cap, Arven, Gobber, Gonff, Edmund Pevensie, Dr. Elwin Ransom, and Sir Percy Blakeney) without even trying.
So, that’s my post on humor and how to and how not to use it. Good luck, Nanoers. 😉
Thanks for reading, God bless, and have a great day. 😀