Thursday, April 18, 2013

Nothing New Under the Hollywood Sun

  I was watching the Magnificent Seven (one of my favorite movies) and I made the comment to my oldest, who is  almost 11, that this  movie always made me think of the Steve Martin movie ‘The Three Amigos’.  Robert had never seen The Three Amigos, and I tried to explain the plot to him.  Halfway through my explanation he said “oh, so it’s 'Galaxy Quest' set in the Wild West.”  I sat back and marveled at his brilliance.  Here I was, a supposedly educated person who had seen all 3 of the movies discussed who knows how many times, and I had never made the connection that Three Amigos and Galaxy Quest are the exact same movie!
  This is made all the more embarrassing by the fact that I have espoused a theory for years now that there are only about 30 plots in any movie, book or TV show, and these plots are tweaked,   scrambled, and recycled over and over again.  Most if not all of these plots have their precedent in  the Bible. Some  accomplish their ends by being the exact opposite of the Bible precedent. Despite rattling on about this theory at every opportunity (yeah, I’m one of those guys), I had never made any sort of attempt to catalog any of these plots and give specific examples.  I will now attempt to do so, as many as I can think of , and let my readers be the judge of whether or not I know what I’m talking about.
(Note: While composing this, somebody asked what I was doing, and when I told them, they informed me that such a list already exists.  One Google search later, I’m forced to concede a certain amount of ground in this area, but I still think my list will be more entertaining)
1) The best and the brightest of an organization betrays the organization and becomes their sworn enemy.  This shows up in everything from Star Wars  to The Last Starfighter to the fall of Lucifer in the Bible.
2) A fair maiden is threatened by the chief villain, and is rescued by the hero (who everybody thought was dead) at the last possible moment, usually on a white horse.  Think of almost every Western you’ve ever seen. This also shows up in the book of Revelation.
3) Two siblings are polar opposites in temperament, and their destinies collide, ending in a face-off some kind.  Jacob and Esau or Cain and Abel are the Bible examples.
4) A man shows his devotion to his bride by risking life and limb for her.  The story of the crucifixion is the original, almost every romantic comedy you've ever seen fits this  type to a lesser degree.
5) An innocent man  sufffers willfully for the guilty.  Charles Dickens took this plot device  for Tale of Two cities directly from the story of  Christ at Calvary
6) An enemy of an organization becomes its most fervent  convert.  Saul of Tarsus anyone?  Some would argue that this is simply a reversal of  #1, and my counterpoint would be: Leave me alone or write your own list.
7) A murder is commited and hidden, only to be revealed later. Moses did this
8) A female of modest  origins  marries a man of immense importance. This is an easy one.  Cinderalla is the   most obvious example, along with its scriptural parralel of  Christ the redeemer  taking lost sinners to himself to be his bride.
9) A female is rescued from self-inflicted damage by the true love of a prince or king. Snow White eats the poisoned apple, and  'dies', but is ressurected by her Prince.  Genesis  3.
10) A man kills another man (or somehow disposes of him) to hide an affair.  David did this to Uriah the Hiitite centuries before  the first murder mystery was written.
11) The novice becomes the  master , (and only hope) after the master dies or disappears.  Luke Skywalker took on Yoda's mantle just like Elisha took on Elijah's mantle. 

12)The bad guy steals from or defames the  good guy in order to promote himself, than later is exposed and punished.  Here the movie Big Fat Liar coincides with the  story of Haman and Mordecai in the book of Esther.

13) A creation turns on it's master and  has to be destroyed.  There are elements of this in the biblical story of man's fall and God's susequent dealings with  him. This plot  mirrors itself in everything from Frankenestein to Mimic

14)  A chosen one  dies or disappears and re-emerges exercising great power.  The life of Jesus Christ would be the precedent with movies like The Matrix borrowing from it.

15) Somebody gets the blame ( or credit) for something they did not do. Joseph goes to  prison in Genesis while Jimmy Stewart's character in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance gets accolades. Both become powerful political figures.

16) An unlikely champion vanquishes a larger opponent.  David and Golaith is the template for a  score of movies and books in this area, including  almost every 'feel-good' sports movie you've ever seen.

17) A cursed person is restored by the love of another.  Beauty and the Beast reversed the genders, but it's the Bible story of salvation in a nutshell.

18) A group of people ( usually 5)  goes on a quest.  I dont really have any  Biblical example here, but it happens  so often in everything from Scooby Doo and Star Wars to Lord of  the Rings that there must be something to it.

19)  A person violates their conscience and suffers the consequences. Let's see,  there's Pinnocchio for starters.  In some  works of fiction, the  guy that violates his conscience ends up in  a #13 scenario. the Bible example would be every person who ever lived.

20) The most unlikely  person arises as the champion.  The book Ender's Game  may be  my favorite non-biblical example of this plot stolen from the  life of David, Joseph,  and Jesus Christ.


Let's see, that's 20 so far. I now open the floor to contributions, with worthwhile ones being added to the list ( and full credit given) thanks to the miacle of the 'edit button'.
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