26 April


The writer places time, money and people at risk because his ambition has life-defining force. What’s true for the writer is true for every character he creates

In Robert McKee’s ‘The Substance of Story’, the substance is defined as the nucleus to the story: “alive but intangible”. This reading highly focused on the Protagonist in stories and their necessary qualities as characters who inspire and are well-regarded. According to McKee, Protagonists are evidently: wilful; have conscious desires; have self-contradictory unconscious desires; have a capacity to pursue their Object of Desire convincingly; have a chance to attain their desires; cause closure at the ‘end’ of the story; and are empathetic. I agree, I disagree; I am befuddled. In order to determine my level of agreement on the matter, I consulted the second reading – ‘Casablanca’ by Umberto Eco.

a cult movie must display some organic imperfections… To become cult, a movie should not display a central idea but many. It should not exhibit a coherent philosophy of composition.

Ah, yes. Finally some clarity. My mind’s hazed-cloud of opinion has been blown away (or has possibly slowly dripped and fallen during precipitation of the quote). By using Casablanca as a case study, Eco reveals how the cult film embodies five genres in the space of two minutes. Which leads me to my overarching perspective: intertextual referencing by postmodernity.

Yes, McKee’s Protagonist qualities are common and anticipated in cinema history and future respectively. My view, however, is that the manifest of these qualities is directly associated with the degree of ‘cult-ness’: the superfluous nature of these qualities intensifies dependent on the level of ‘cult’ – or postmodernity. This goes hand-in-hand with the “text based on text” and “cinema based on cinema” realisation. There is no true original text; they are inevitably influenced by predecessor texts and societal/cultural knowledges. My own example to support my perspective is Haruki Murakami’s Kafka on the Shore – arguably a text thats degree of postmodernity is almost unparalleled – with intertextual referencing to: Western and Eastern cultural texts; Western and Eastern music; Western and Eastern celebrities; Western and Eastern food… Basically Western and Eastern everything. The synthesis of Western and Eastern cultures and texts enforces a postmodern explosion of intertextuality. Through all of this, the Protagonist’s association to McKee’s qualities of a Protagonist is ostensibly variant. Reading Kafka, the Protagonist: is not wilful but random; has no conscious desires whatsoever; has unconscious desires that not even the reader knows upon the completion of the text; cannot pursue the Object of Desire convincingly as the Protagonist acknowledges ‘his’ unconvincing nature; attains minor desires through no force of his own; causes an opposition of ‘closure’ at the end of the text; and is neither empathetic or sympathetic to the readers. After this, you may think that Kafka on the Shore is probably a stupid fucking novel. It’s postmodernism and opposition to stereotypical Protagonist qualities, however, solidifies it as a cult text. Therefore, it is my view, that as McKee’s qualities of a Protagonist wane, the degree of postmodernism encourages the attribution of a text as part of cult-culture.


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