I occasionally watch a show with my husband called Mystery Science Theater 3000 (MST3K). It's a funny show that riffs old movies and shorts (you know, the kind shown in health class.) While watching a short lately (called A Young Man's Fancy) I decided to look up a slang term used by the mother. When I did, I realized there was more to the short than the MST3K episode showed. I'd like to share what this episode taught me about writing characters and how one little action or scene can change your outlook on the characters.
- The MST3K version
Judy tricks Alex into coming in to talk to her about electrical devices and time theory while they wait for dinner. After the fine meal, Alex can think of nothing more than going out dancing with Judy.
It's a sweet, though sexist and electrical-device-focused, little love story. Because she likes him so much, when she gets him, we're cheering.
- The original
Alex laughs, then we go to a scene where she's asking her mother if she can go to a dance with another boy because Alex is an intellectual bore. Since Judy has already agreed to go to the mushroom seminar with Alex, her mother says she has to go to the seminar. Then we go to a scene where Judy is visiting a friend and talking about how much of a loser Alex is while they do laundry, and this leads into the scene about her mother having the idea for Judy to make him dinner.
With the new scenes, the feel of the character is entirely changed. Instead of rooting for Judy while Alex talks to her about the electric devices, the audience is imagining her boredom. And at the end, when he chooses to forget the lecture to go dancing with her, it seems less like he is choosing her than that he's just changing the venue. It seems like less of a win, and she seems less worthy of the win. The audience winds up wondering how long the two will stay together, instead of imagining a lasting romance.
- What this taught me.
If you're interested in watching the MST3K and unedited Jam Handy version, you can find them both with Google. So tell me, has a character ever done something that made you completely change your mind about them?