Right On Script, Everything’s Going To Be Terrible

For awhile, we here at MuseHack have been discussing the checklist issue of films, how films all seem alike and follow the same beats. We’re concerned what that means for Hollywood, writers, and media. We’re also feeling just a wee bit justified now that such concerns are mainstream and in fact may be traced back to one book and writing concept, Save the Cat.

(Serdar has more to say on “Save the Cat” in his own erudite way.)

It’s easy to point and laugh at Hollywood, people have been doing it for years. The thing is that going “on checklist” is actually not uncommon, and it’s something to watch out for. In fact it pairs with it’s dark twin, jumping on the bandwagon.

(When I say going “on checklist” by the way I mean following a predetermined list of activities and features without being concerned about the actual thing one is making. This list may be old or new, but either way you’re not thinking; you’re imitating and shoehorning.)

Step back for a moment, take a look at many industries – geeky industries – and ask how much of it is going by the checklist jumping on the bandwagon, and both.

We see it all the time.

Recently I noted my doubt about a smart watch, and part of that is because it’s people Checking Off The List: everyone’s doing this, let’s do it! It’s both bandwagon jumping and check listing, which you can see a lot of in technology; just look at how many people want to be “the next X.”

Television. Reality Television is a joke, and even reality shows have their own script that people are shoehorned into. There has to be a villain, there has to be this, there has to be that. I know a devotee of reality shows (as “junk food TV”) who can call the beats out perfectly. For that matter how many CSI and Law And Order shows have there been?

Or there’s video games, a truly bizarre industry to watch. We’re in a time of indie innovation, but there’s the complaints AAA titles are all the same and infested with sequelitis. Bioshock: Infinite was well reviewed, but one comment I heard that stood out to me was that it was a great game, but we’d seen it all before. The AAA games are looking a lot alike and don’t even start me on how we’re still making WWII games . . .

Let’s not even dive into pop literature where’ it’s the 50 Shades of The Twilight of Dan Brown. The cover art alone is getting to look all a lot alike. Remember how “I am Number 4” was basically manufactured? Just walk down some bookstore aisles.

When you look, you can notice checklists and bandwagon-jumping, hand-in hand, all over.

Of course this happens. People imitate what works. People automate things to make them easier. It’s just it can be taken too far.

I actually think some of this is the fact that though we may be information-age, we’re really rooted in an industrial culture. We’re used to thinking in manufacturing terms. We’re used to trying to get the safety and security of regularity and predictability. We’ve got ways of thinking that are decades old, and aren’t applicable to everything (if they ever were).

The other part, of course, is risk-phobia in many industries. We’ve lambasted Hollywood for this here, but keep your eyes open and you’ll see it elsewhere. Besides, who wants to take a chance when the machine does the work (for now).

So whatever industry you’re working in? Start looking for the checklists. Start looking for bandwagon-jumping. Start asking how much is really automated process no matter what really matters and what really is going on.

You might be quite surprised.

Then of course you can change it – if you dare . . .

– Steven