Friday, June 01, 2007

"The Senator's Wife" - Antag Question

Hey guys,

A question - is it essential in this story to have an Antagonist? If no, why? If yes, who would that character be and what role would that individual play in the story?



Laura Deerfield said...


It's not a story unless there is opposition. It's a character study, or a slice of life, or a piece of abstract art - but to be a story someone must want something, and something must get in the way of that.

However, this antagonist does not need to be a character. There are three types of conflict: man vs man, man vs nature, and man vs himself.

Man vs man is straightforward. There's another person in the way. A mother who disapproves of the wedding. A co-worker who tries to steal credit. A parent who wants the kid to get a job instead of skateboard full time. A killer who wants to take the cop out. A cop who wants to catch the thief. Etc, etc.

Man vs nature is also popular enough in the movies. The tornado or asteroid... but things such as "fate" as well. Or even "society." Anything that is a force beyond a specific individual or easily defined group. Of course, many films with nature as antagonist also employ the man vs man conflict in another plotline. (In Titanic, the ship versus the iceberg is essentially a subplot.) I suspect this is because we need a more human-sized problem to relate to.

Then there's man vs himself. Blue, for example, where the antagonist is Julie's own grief, which she attempts to keep away. Or Leaving Las Vegas and Nick Cage's alcoholism. These internal antagonists are the most difficult to portray on film, since we can't see them - only their effects.

Can you think of an example of a story with no antagonist? Some say Little Miss Sunshine qualifies. (Though my own interpretation is that the family as a whole is the protagonist, and the antagonist as well.)

Mim said...

Romcoms traditionally don't have a real antagonist. The format of the genre is that the male and female co-protags function as each other's antagonists until the third act, when they finally realize they're in love.

Just Like Heaven had an interesting twist on this. David and Lizzy fought over the apartment during the first half, then during the second half of the second act, he tried to help her find out why she was walking through walls. Finally they realized they were in love, but in saving her life he caused a situation where she wouldn't recognize him, so the problem become how to get them back together.

In How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days, both Ben and Andie had bosses who were kind of antags, but the central conflict was them against each other.

This is trying to be a romcom, so there is no antagonist. Joel is kind of an antag. But, like I said, it's not comedic enough. It's also not dramatic enough because the main source of conflice - the antagonist - has been removed.

Mim said...

BTW, good analysis of antags, Laura.

Laura Deerfield said...

You're right Mim - RomComs handle this a little differently, and it's a bit of them being antagonistic to one another plus a bit of internal conflict. (In Notting Hill, they aren't very opposed to one another, but he does have his hang ups to overcome.)

As a RomCom, the Senator's Wife fails completely. Aside from his initial approach and kidnapping, there are not sparks of disagreement between them - and there's no sign of them noticing things about one another and learning to appreciate them... (except for one comment that's in the description, and not clearly even about Donny's attraction to her.)

James said...

If you think Rosalind is the main character, then Joel is definitely the antagonist. He is the only force making Rosalind question her status quo.

As mentioned before, in RomComs the antagonist is always the love interest. There can be other forces of antagonism, but if the love interest in a RomCom simply said "Yes," there would be no movie. Hence, antagonist.

I think a lot of people are so used to the Disney and Action movie type villains that are so blatantly the "bad guy" that they tend to forget that an antagonist is simply a person who is the main obstacle, blocking the protagonist from their goals.

The problem with The Senator's Wife is that Rosalind really has no goals other than wanting to maintain her status quo. On top of that, she never even really fights for her status quo, either. She is just a really weak, under-developed protagonist. Thus, the antagonist(s) can push her around with very little effort or drama.

GimmeABreak said...

If there's no protag, why do you need an antag? hehe

Anonymous said...

Since conflict is the essence of drama, the simple answer to your question is yes. But antagonism doesn't necessarily have to manifest itself in the form of a specific character. It can be an antagonistic force that creates the obstacles to the protagonist achieving his/her goals

As I pointed out in my review, Ms. Fugate relied on such forces as tornadoes, redneck bikers, etc. to create obstacles. It didn't totally work here, but that's not to say it couldn't in a different context.

Think about "Castaway." The antagonist is nature, and what emerges from Tom Hanks' struggle for survival is a story about the evolution of mankind. It's pretty effective.

Mickey Lee said...

I'll just be glad when all this is over so I don't have to see Jennifer Aniston any more!

Bwhahaha -- I'm the antagonist

GimmeABreak said...

Yeah, the Mickster would rather look at Fred Thompson! >;-}

Mim said...

MM should do an analysis of The Tudors so we can look at Natalie Dormier all hot in a chemise.

Laura Deerfield said...

Mickey - I'm there with you.

I've been behaving though and not commented on her at all.

But then, perhaps all these pictures are for a reason aside from the script?
Mystery Man Caught!

Could it be??

Ann said...

The pics probably make it quite pleasant for MM to come in here with his morning coffee, and, er, other morning baggage.

For a while I had a Jeffrey Dean Morgan pic on my blog. It was such an evocative pic I couldn't go on my own blog without raising my heart rate. Eventually, that got tiresome and I was glad when he finally scrolled on into the archives.

Mim said...

My son thinks Jennifer is hot too. He really enjoys that one scene in The Break-Up.

Mystery Man said...

I'm not ignoring these thoughts. I'm just saving my own answer for my review. I loved every comment.