|A whole lot about tv tropes and Merlin
||[Aug. 15th, 2009|09:53 am]
Book five is done and ready to send in. Yay!|
The website tv tropes has eaten my brain. For those who don't know it, it is a website dedicated to certain common themes in books, movies and tv shows, describing them and giving examples. Some pages deal with a particular show or whatever and list the tropes within them. Other pages provide the description of the trope, and give examples of them. There are thousand of themes, it seems, and some of the descriptions are hilarious. The following is for the trope Bullying the Dragon, and it's my favourite:
"See that guy over there? The one that can make Your Head Asplode with his Psychic Powers? What a weirdo. Let's throw rocks at him!
This is the suicidal tendency of characters to bully, persecute, or in some other way provoke people or things they really shouldn't be messing with. That weird loner who sits in a corner reading? Fine. That sweet girl who can heal people? If you're that much of an asshole, go for it. The blind kid that somehow knows what you're about to do and is powerless to stop you? Yeah, jackass, whatever floats your boat. But the kid who can warp the fabric of reality who just wants to be left alone? Bad idea."
Though I'm not sure, I think I came across it through a reference to Taro, under Urban Legend Love Life, which is a guy who is rumoured to have women by the score, but you never actually see it "on screen", so is it really true. The page for my books - and hey, yeah, I have a page - includes tropes such as aristocrats are evil, emotions vs. stoicism, inadequate heir, perpetual poverty, and she cleans up nicely. As well, sometimes Lee and Taro are used as examples other tropes. For example, Heroes Adrift is used as an example of With This Herring (a reference to Monty Python and the Holy Grail,) another favourite of mine:
"So, you're a hero of destiny, summoned before the mighty king of this pastiche Tolkienesque fantasy kingdom and charged with saving the world from the terrible evil that has befallen it before it's The End Of The World As We Know It, we know you can pull it off. Because Destiny Says So.
Oh, did we mention that you've got five bucks and a butter knife to your name?"
That cracked me up.
Anyway, after finding this site, I, of course, had to search through every book, movie and tv show I've ever liked, and it's taken days out of my life. I'm such a loser.
On to other things:
Another thing that has eaten my brain is the show Merlin. THERE WILL BE SPOILERS. And I have no idea why. It's a British show that, in theory, is about Merlin and Arthur and Camelot and all that, only it takes all the accepted ideas about Arthurian legend and stomps all over them. With glee. In this version, Merlin and Arthur are both young men, Arthur a prince and Merlin a young hick from a tiny village who knows he's got magic but has no training and does it all by instinct. Camelot already exists, having been established before Arthur's father, Uther (played by GILES from Buffy the Vampire Slayer,)took it over. Uther has outlawed magic, and goes completely mental whenever the faintest suspicion of magic is raised, and executes anyone who is suspected of using magic. Or breathes the same air as someone suspected of using magic. Which causes some problems for Merlin.
Not being familiar with Arthurian legend myself, I'm not aware of all the ways the writers twist the legends. I do know that Guinivere isn't supposed to be a servant, and Lancelot isn't supposed to be a peasant. Arthur isn't supposed to be a jerk and Merlin isn't supposed to be his (incompetent) manservant. Merlin, apparently, is supposed to live backwards - how does that even work? And the dragon that lives under the castle was completely made up by the shows writers.
There are anachronisms by the score. A story that takes place in the Dark Ages is filmed in a fifteenth century castle. People eat tomatos and sandwiches. They all understand the concept of contagious diseases. One of the older characters wears glasses.
The servants are all pretty snippy with their bosses and don't get beaten for it.
I don't care about all of that. And I don't care about the bad CGI. It's not an American show, they don't have the same kind of budget. As long as I don't actually see the strings and the tennis balls, I'm happy.
My complaints are about the writing. Plot holes galore, oh my god. One enemy wants to get Merlin to drink poison, and goes about it in a ridiculously convoluted fashion that could go wrong in about a dozen different ways. Merlin, who's supposed to keep his magic a secret, talks about it and performs it in front of a slew of different people without getting caught. (Though now he might be covered after confessing to be a sorcerer to protect a friend and, ultimately, no one believed him.) And the show, perhaps because they only had 13 episodes and no knowledge whether there would be a second season, rushed the relationships.
Merlin and Arthur aren't supposed to like each other in the beginning, and are supposed to learn to trust each other over time. Yet in the second episode, Arthur believes an accusation Merlin makes against a knight despite all the reasons not to - like a servant's word doesn't mean much and the accusation sounds ridiculous if you don't know all the circumstances. In the forth episode, Merlin drinks poison he thinks is meant for Arthur, and Arthur goes against his father's orders and risks his life to get the antidote. Gaius, Merlin's mentor, calls Merlin "the son I never had" pretty quickly after meeting him for the first time. There is virtually no screen time between Arthur and Guinivere until the last few episodes, and it feels like the writers all of sudden looked at each other and said, "Oh yeah, aren't these two supposed to get married some time in the future?"
Some of the acting is a little dodgy. Anthony Head (Giles) is of course a glorious actor, but he's not given a lot to work with. Uther is, in most episodes, a pretty one-note character. And the actress playing Morgana, yikes. She was clearly chosen for her looks. The guy who plays Merlin varies from episode to episode.
So why do I like watching the show? It's hard to say. I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that fans are calling Arthur Lois Lane. How dumb is he? Merlin's done magic right in front of him but he still hasn't got a clue. So I want to see when/how he catches on and what his reaction will be. I like the idea that the show probably won't get to the point where everything goes to hell, it probably won't last that long, so it'll stay a happy little fantasy. I do like the occasional digs at the original (or however you want to say it) legend. For example, Lancelot shows up for an episode, and is of course gorgeous. Merlin asks Guinivere which she would choose, if she had to pick, Arthur or Lancelot. (Because Arthur is considered gorgeous, too, and they're both knights, blah blah blah.) And Guinivere says something to the effect that she'll never have to choose.
I love watching the behind the scenes videos on youtube, especially the ones dealing with buying strawberries for 15 pounds (only to go to another shop and find them significantly cheaper) and catching a spider that's gotten into the bathtub of one of the actors. It really appeals to me that while Arthur is impatient and a bit of a jerk and Merlin is always smiling and pretty laid back, the actor who plays Arthur is playful and seems to be always laughing and the actor who plays Merlin is reserved and takes a while to warm up to people.
So yeah, I like this show mostly because of what is happening behind the scenes. That's kind of weird.
Also, I love this:
Arthur: I've been trained to kill since birth.
Merlin: How long have you been training to be a prat?
Arthur: You can't address me like that.
Merlin: Sorry. How long have you been training to be a prat, my lord?