When Spoilers Wouldn't Matter, Ctd

A reader writes:

Posnaski wrote, "There is in some of us a capacity to not only like a predictable movie, but like it BECAUSE of it's predictable."

Isn't predictability the heart of tragedy? You know that Oedipus will kill his father and sleep with his mother, but you enjoy the ride. Do you know of any tragedies with a twist? It's not just vapid Hollywood fare that thrives on being predictable. Just sayin'.

Another writes:

Predictable plots are much, much older than Hollywood and are about much more than laziness or corporate profits.

Where would Western culture be without the Greek tragedies and comedies, the Roman farces and melodramas, the great theatrical traditions of the troubadours and the commedia dell'arte? All of these relied on stock characters ("types") and well-known traditional/mythological figures, and the ending was well-known to everyone in attendance before the play began. For the vast majority of the history of theater and storytelling, ingenuity in plot design was not of any concern; what mattered was in the telling.

Ever thought it strange that Shakespeare's plays were nearly all adaptations and histories? Human beings, deep in our souls, love repetition and ritual. The idea that innovative, unpredictable storylines are something to be desired is largely an invention of the last 150 years or so.


Me, I like classic Hollywood films.  The 1930s and 1940s - the Golden Age.  Once the Production Code was in place, for all its flaws, you knew that the good girl and good boy would get married; you knew the bad girl would lose everything; you knew the crooks would get caught; you knew that the cops or detective would be triumphant.  The template "Boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl again" doesn't exist without reason.

Sometimes you can tell from the first 10 minutes exactly what will happen. The fun is in seeing the execution.  Is the dialogue snappy?  Are the leads terrific stars?  Will there be dancing and music?  Sometimes a few good wisecracks and classic reaction shots can take the most mundane plot and turn it into a classic.