Tuesday, February 13, 2007

“The Reverse Arc”

I saw Barefoot in the Park the other night. It was okay. But something interesting happened in the Third Act that might be worth sharing.

We reach the point of the story where the characters have fully arc'd. Jane Fonda had felt that Robert Redford was “a stuffed shirt” who never allows himself to get drunk and go crazy, and Redford thinks Fonda’s nonsensical for walking barefoot in Central Park when it’s 17 degrees. They were separated and headed for divorce. And thus, we find ourselves full circle in Act Three with Redford drunk and barefoot in Central Park, and Jane, the free spirit, is behaving like any level-headed “stuffed shirt” by trying to keep Redford from going insane.

Now, had this been a contemporary film, the movie would have ended in Central Park with the celebration of their character arcs.

But Barefoot continued.

We found ourselves back in the apartment. Fonda and Redford discovered that they didn’t like the changes they were seeing in each other and they just want that same person they fell in love with when they got married. And in the end, they went right back to being the way they were. Clever. (Then again, this may have been common in Rom Coms back then.) But I don't believe that I've ever read about this type of character arc before. So I think I’ll call it “The Reverse Arc.” It’s where a character changes and then changes right back.

And it serves a purpose, I think.

It’s as if Neil Simon is saying, “If you’re going to put everything in your marriage on the line in order to change the other person, be careful what you wish for, because you just might get it.”


bob said...

It sounds like that is the result of getting what you wanted and then realizing that sometimes you better be careful what you wish for. Also its an excellent example of someone thinking that their internal and external goals were similar but then realizing that they couldn't have been more different.

GameArs said...

Maybe the arc doesn't really reverse. Perhaps the arc is supposed to take them to the point of realizing that they want the person they fell in love with.

The change they go through is realizing that they don't have to change.

I'll have to watch this agin. Haven't seen it since I was in the single digits. The reverse arc is an interesting concept.

Mim said...

This reminds me of The Monkey's Paw, even though it shouldn't.

I think Carl is right. They have to go through the change to realize they were just fine where they were. It's just as important to learn what's right about you as a person as to learn what's wrong and fix it.

Mystery Man said...

Those are great comments. And you're absolutely right, Carl. I would word it just slightly differently in this particular case, in the sense that they learned that they really didn't want the OTHER PERSON to change as much as they thought they did.

And of course, that IS change, because they learned something.

Is your head spinning yet?


I didn't mean to imply that they didn't change at all. They changed and then changed back and learned that they didn't really want the other person to change as much as they thought they did. And therefore, they changed.

Bwaaah ha ha ha ha!


I love writing.


GameArs said...

I'm with ya, MM. Going through a slow change so you can realize your spouse doesn't really want yout to change so you are changed - and in making this character arc you decide to change back.


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zafer said...

thanks for sharing
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