Jun. 10th, 2017

dmilewski: (Default)
The idea of a woman as trophy continues to engage me, and I have a few thoughts.
 
What is a trophy? A trophy is an object commemorating a success or victory. In terms of a story, it’s the icing on the cake, the cherry on top, that little extra that adds to the euphoric feeling, an acknowledgement by others. Without the trophy, the victory would still be a victory.
 
What is a MacGuffin? A MacGuffin is a [Person/Place/Thing/Idea] that a story revolves around. Essentially, while a MacGuffin usually does nothing on its own, it’s the catalyst for everything that happens. Without a MacGuffin, the story makes no sense.
 
So when we look at a story where a woman appears to be a trophy, we need to ask, “Is she a trophy or a MacGuffin?” Where one is extra and extraneous, the other is the very gravitation center of a story.
 
When a man goes out, defeats the bad guy, and then the woman throws herself at the man, that woman is acting as a trophy. She’s the little extra acknowledging the victory. She is acting as a trophy. If you remove her from the story, the story still ends as expected.
 
When a woman is kidnapped and a man rescues her, the woman is acting as a MacGuffin. I you remove the woman from the story, the conflict in the story becomes meaningless. The woman here is acting as a MacGuffin, as the catalyst to a story.
 
The thing about a MacGuffin is that the MacGuffin doesn’t need to be a woman. The man could be rescuing his dog or his reputation. What matters is that the protagonist has something at stake, some unhappy result for failing. In contrast, a trophy woman needs to be a woman or a trophy. A trophy woman can’t be substituted with just anything, she can only be substituted with something that feels like a trophy. If a protagonist succeeds and gets a brick, that wouldn’t feel like a trophy, making the brick feel rather random in the story. On the other hand, you can make anything into a MacGuffin as long as you develop the context.
 
In the trope filled “man rescues woman” scenario, the woman is acting as a MacGuffin. She is acting as the catalyst to the story even when not present. Her affection, kisses, or love may act as a trophy at the end, but that doesn’t nullify her as a MacGuffin.
 
I think that there is a substantial difference between getting a woman and getting a woman’s affections. In almost all cases, getting a woman means getting her affections, not merely possessing her person. The villain possesses her person, that’s why he’s a villain. The whole point of a rescue is to remove a woman from a place where her affections are forced.
 
So, to reiterate, trophies are given for victories, even if they are affections, but MacGuffins are the gravitational center of stories. 
 
dmilewski: (Default)
The Phantom Tollbooth (1961) by Norton Juster is a charming morality play written as a boy’s improbable adventure. While often silly, descending into lexigraphic literalism with aplomb, the story engages that childish delight in bending, folding, and mutilating possibility, while at the same time using absurdism to show the natural limits of those possibilities. Written in a light and breezy style, the story rolls along at a steady pace, ready to engage minds with short attentions and big imaginations.

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