Writers Are Assholes

George R. R. Martin and Joss Whedon walk into a bar, and everyone you love DIES.

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This is the sad story of my complete and utter disillusionment with writers, in particular those who pen scripts for TV dramas.

When I met J, I was woefully behind on my television watching. I’d been all out and about, traveling the world and interacting with other humans, and he was like, “HEY. HONEY. Sit your butt down on this couch and become obsessed with characters who aren’t real,” and then I was like, “OK. I’ve had TOO MUCH of REAL LIFE anyway. Please pass the popcorn.” But I digress.

Shortly after we met, J introduced me to the glory that is Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The end of Season 2 caused me to have one of the top three ugliest cries of my life, and I’ve been through heartbreak and death and more… it was really that bad. I’ll never forget J saying (right after he comforted me by making a talking puppet out of a couch pillow): “Writers are assholes.”

I dare you to deny it. It isn’t just Games of Thrones and every series Joss Whedon ever touched. It’s true for the bulk of quality dramas. If you love a character, THEY WILL DIE. If two of your favorite characters finally fall in love, A HORRIBLE MISFORTUNE will befall them.

I’ve actually gotten so cynical that I can call these plot twists in advance, without any need for context. It’s horribly simple: If anyone is happy or peaceful for more than one episode, their life is about to get dragged straight to hell.

I’m watching True Blood now. (Really outdated spoilers ahead.) I just finished Season 1, and I called Adele’s death the moment she appeared on the screen. I shit you not! That little old grandmother was entirely too sweet and caring to live. I knew that Amy was going to die before it happened (Jason’s not allowed to be happy! Happiness is a boring quality in a main character!), and there was no doubt Tara’s newly-sober mother was going to disappoint her daughter yet again.

You can apply this theory to any popular show. Breaking Bad? OF COURSE Jane was going to die. Angel? There was never a SHRED of hope for Wesley and Fred’s happiness. It all boils down to writers working under the assumption that contentment makes for bad TV.

And who’s to say they’re wrong? I keep crawling back to Joss Whedon like a woman in an emotionally abusive relationship, asking him to break my heart one more time. This is why I watch TV: to have all the feelings that are too intense to be desirable in real life. The writers are just doing their job.

If I’m being honest, nothing gets me giddier than one of my readers telling me I made them cry. (Tears have been my goal in scribing every Mother’s Day card I ever wrote. If my mom doesn’t shed at least a few salty drops, I consider the celebration a failure.) So really, I’m as sick as anyone in the business.

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Tell me: what TV moments broke your heart? (As Aussa said today, it’s still TOO SOON to talk about Oberyn.) And have you become a cynical know-it-all like I have, predicting the worst for your favorite characters so it won’t sting quite as badly when they’re inevitably offed?

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65 responses to “Writers Are Assholes

  1. One of the deaths in the last season of Breaking Bad hit me hard.

    Colonel Blake on MASH was the first one I remember. I still tense up if I see the episode because you know what’s going to happen

    • Colonel Blake’s death brought the series more to life. Such thing happened in war.
      As much as I loved all the characters in “Cheers”, sometime towards the end of the finale season and the series, I think it would have raised the bar for ensemble comedies / dramas if Norm died from cirrhosis.
      Would have made him the Henry Blake of loveable drunks.

      • Oh, I agree about Blake’s death, it’s just the way they did it. But, in real life, it is just as sudden in those cases.

        • My understanding is that the ONLY cast member who knew it was coming was Gary Burghoff who played Radar. They just started shooting the OR scene, Radar came in and gave the news and Alan Alda, Wayne Rogers and the rest of the cast just reacted to it. Brilliant scene.

  2. Before you were born, there was a show. “30 Something.” A group of yuppies in Philly trying to deal with Growing Up.

    In the last season Nancy is dying of ovarian cancer.

    She actually survives. But in a cruel plot twist that NO ONE saw coming, Michael, in the hospital visiting her, receives a phone call that Gary, his best friend since childhood, just got killed in a car accident.

    What? GARY dies? No. Nooooo.

    That phone call. That fucking phone call. It was the most powerful thing I’d ever seen on television.

    You were 7, so I doubt you caught that one 🙂

    • Yeah, I’m a baby. 😉 And Growing Up with capital letters still takes some dealing with! Au revoir, Gary… We scarcely knew ye… Because we were into My Little Ponies instead.

    • I loved 30 Something but I missed that episode. Gary died??!!

      Working up the tears.

      Jennie, thanks for reminding us how much we need drama to remind us that we are alive.

    • I remember Gary’s death, but as I recall it was not a very well kept secret. Still worked, and they figured out a way to keep him on the show for a while as a presence in Michael’s life, not just a “ghost”.
      Tore me apart, thought, even knowing it was coming.

  3. 😦 I love Joss, just love him – but seriously I never thought about it like that. While I can’t stand the whole Game of Thrones, deaths. Martin likes to kill his characters… I have read an interview where he states that Aria will not die. So… there you can count on her to at least survive.
    Writers, publishers often say you need to kill your darlings. Just look at all the deaths in Harry Potter – and that was suposedly for children.

    The whole epic Buffy & Angel love drama 😦 . But just look at Romeo and Juliet?

    • Joss is famous for this! But he’s my absolute favorite. Still… WASH?!

      I read that Martin’s wife swore she would divorce him if he killed Arya – that’s why she’s safe!

  4. Even as a kid, I felt bad as soon as I saw a red shirt on Star Trek. You knew he was just in for a bad episode. And to this day I can’t watch the end of the the movie Titanic – it seems stupid but there was just no reason they had to make him die.

    • No, it’s not stupid! My family went to see that on Christmas Day when it came out, and I’ll never forget how hard I cried. I was actually more ripped apart by that one quick shot of the old couple lying down in bed to die together… But yes, Rose was an awful human being for hogging the raft.

      And the poor red shirts… You know it’s bad when there are entire memes about how often your characters die!

  5. This is so true! It is almost like a formula. And it’s not even limited to TV dramas. The whole Friends pilot was centered around Ross and Rachel getting together. Then in season 2, the connections finally happen! But then in the next episode, Ross does something stupid and she hates them. Lois and Clark (I think Dean Cane was the best superman), they are about to get married, and, whammo, she gets amnesia for 3 episodes. How I met your mother. The first time we want Ted and Robin to get together, he (in the Style of Friends) does something stupid just as they’re about to get started and it doesn’t happen. Writers are assholes.

  6. The original ‘Lonesome Dove . . . when Gus was dying he asked Woodrow to take his body back to Texas (horseback from Montana) Loved it! Kinda sad, kinda funny . . . pure in character Gus and how his love affair went with Woodrow. . .

    What we learn for today’s bunch is that men CAN love one another without the thought of having sex . . .

    • Oh, close friendships between men always make me feel especially tender. I think it’s because, as you said, they’re often implied but not focused on. I haven’t seen this one, but Spock and Kirk in The Wrath of Khan tore me up.

  7. The Red Wedding didn’t bother me (does that make me an asshole?) I spent the first book thinking he was bluffing about Ned, and then I was like, oh. So that’s how you’re going to be. That said, if Tyrion and Dany can walk away with a few remaining limbs by the end, I’ll be satisfied (and Arya, of course, but she’s supposedly safe…unless that’s just a well placed lie to make it all the more awful…)

    Anything that comes from the sadistic mind of Shonda Rhimes is almost guaranteed to leave you with a touch of PTSD. Even if it’s not a well known/beloved character, she’s just brutal.
    HIMYM pissed. me. off. It wasn’t clever, it wasn’t a good ending. They boxed themselves in, and then had to work around it. A better title would have been: How I Met Your Egg Donor Before Running Back To My Ex.
    Movie that I’ve seen a hundred times, and I still cry at: Little Women. When Beth gets the piano and when she dies. Always.
    Not a death, but…LOTR The Return of the King. When Aragorn bows to the Hobbits and everyone in the courtyard follows suit – ugh. My god.

    Book: HP and the Deathly Hallows. All the deaths, three in particular.

      • My tally was off. It was four.
        Which ones got to you the most?

        And I spent a very long time in denial about Sirius. I wasn’t ready for the pain, evidently.

    • When Dumbledore died, I felt like I’d just lost my grandfather. The funeral scene? I was gag-crying. I used to wish I could make myself feel LESS, but I’ve since decided its worth it.

      And thank you for including LotR! That is a tear-jerker, but in the best possible way. That helps balance things out.

      • The funeral. Awful. The loss of a grandfather, yes! I closed HBP feeling like I was adrift at sea without an anchor.

        And then she followed that up with Dobby. I had to close the book and sob before I could continue.

        I think the only benefit to feeling so much is it maybe prepares us in a small way for losses in our own lives, or provides an outlet? I’ve been fortunate (so far) and haven’t had many losses, so that’s how I choose to see it. Maybe it doesn’t help at all…I don’t know. :/

    • That was going to be the feature image for this post, but I couldn’t find a still that I liked. Every single time I think about it I hear Zoe saying, ” I want to meet that child someday,” and just sigh… Oh, Joss. Damn your sudden but inevitable betrayal.

  8. Surely, this means they’re great writers? Otherwise, you wouldn’t give a rats ass about these pretend prople they dream up. So enjoy the fact that you’ve got all this exposure to great writing. It’ll make you a better writer in the end!

    You’re welcome. No charge.

    • Oh yes, they’re the BEST! I worship at their altar. But, y’know, still with the “damn you for making me FEEL” angst. At least I can always reread the chapters when life was good.

  9. ALL OF IT! I just can’t handle the emotions anymore. Bones, they finally got married and now he’s probably going to prison. Castle, they’re just about to get married and now Castle appears to be dead (but he’s not, he’s just abducted–the show is called *Castle*). I’m so tired of being emotionally abused like this! Republic of Doyle is an awesome Canadian show that leaves me a wreck after every. single. season. finale. And then, I found this show called Hart of Dixie, and they wrapped each episode up in a happy ending…until the 15th, when they infused as much drama as possible into every moment.

    Apparently I have a lot of pent up feelings about this, so I could probably go on for awhile, but I’ll save you the pain. But seriously, I need some happy show recommendations. Life just isn’t the same without Psych.

    Maybe I just need to stop watching tv?

    • Does David Boreanez ever catch a break?! Happy shows, happy shows… I LOVED Pushing Daisies, although there was a lot of bittersweetness there, too. Girl Next Door is more up than down… Come to think of it, all the good ones have sad mixed with the happy.

    • I’m years behind on Bones, but…WUT? Prison? Sigh.
      If anyone is looking for funny with a minimum of heart wrenching drama, 2 Broke Girls is good. Funny, but a bit rude.

  10. Have you watched Homeland? The last season? I won’t say anything else in case you haven’t but it was UNTHINKABLE. And I haven’t watched the most recent season of Game of Thrones yet so “Lalalalala- don’t say anything!”

    But you’re right, that’s the cool thing to do in all these shows now apparently. Same with House of Cards and Sons of Anarchy. Me and my husband take bets on which main characters are going to be off’ed.

    And I’m laughing now because my goal with every Mother’s Day card is to make my Mom cry too! I have a one-sided competition with my sister and if I get a few tears (or anything close) out of my Mom I yell “I win, I win!”

    And the image of your husband making a puppet out of a pillow to cheer you up? Might be the sweetest thing I’ve ever heard.

    • I haven’t watched it, but now I might have to. All I’ll say about GoT is guard your heart, m’dear. *sigh* And oh, yeah! The reporter on House of Cards – I did NOT see that coming!

      J is really good with doing utterly ridiculous things to cheer me up. I can’t help it, I have to brag: once he went to my favorite local ice cream shop and bought one Popsicle in every single flavor.

      • Get thee to a tv and WATCH HOMELAND! It is soooo good! It’s just as good as Game of Thrones. The reporter on House of Cards, we both had to pick our jaws up off the floor when that happened. But I so love Kevin Spacey. On the last episode when he bangs his fist on the desk right before the screen goes black… omg, that was hot!

        J sounds like a total sweetheart! Was there a special occasion for this romantic gesture? Or just because? Either way, that’s pretty awesome.

        • I said they were my favorite, and I wanted to try every flavor. That’s all! He’s amazing.

          OK, and Homeland… I’ll get on it right after I finish my current True Blood kick! People have told me that Claire Danes is incandescently good in that role.

  11. OMG – I wouldn’t even know where to begin – SO many! Of course, I’m the girl that cries through tender commercials – so I may not be the best one to ask.

  12. I read this earlier today, and I’m coming back to be the contrarian commenter.

    I don’t have a television. It isn’t because I’m a snob. I just don’t know what I’d cut out of my life to watch a screen. I try to go to the movies, but I always choose weird. Wes Anderson used to be weird. I miss that.

    Anyway.

    I probably don’t connect with the mainstream because I don’t have a tv. When people talk about what they’re watching, they’re speaking a foreign language. I know who Joss Whedon is. I watched Buffy once upon a time. I guess I don’t like predictability. And I hate commercials.

    I’m a grouch. I’m sorry.

    • I’ve spent a good six years without TV, and didn’t mind it one bit. I don’t think you’re strange at all! These days, I do love the stories enough to have Netflix, but we don’t actually have TV either; it’s all through the computer. That way we avoid the commercials and get the series all in one blast, without having to wait a week between each cliff-hanger!

      Speaking of cliffs, I’m at the part in your book where Merry buys the bead and recalls almost falling off a sandstone cliff. You have completely swept me away.

  13. There is a scene near the end of Season 4 of “The Wire” where Dookie borrows money from his teacher under the pretense of enrolling in community college. The teacher sees through it and understands it is for drugs, nothing is said to that affect, but everyone in the scene and in the audience understands that the promise of this young has been irreparably snuffed out and that the streets have claimed him.

    The whole exchange is underplayed, and the outcome is forgone given the thesis of the series, but it still was emotionally crushing. I wandered around in a depressed fog for the rest of the day.

    • I couldn’t get into The Wire. One of my best friends adores it and lent me his DVDs, but I literally couldn’t understand the accents. I have no idea why it was so hard for me, and I felt pretty dumb, but after watching for a while with subtitles on, I just called it. I’m not sure if your comment makes me want to revisit it or stay the hell away!

  14. This is all true. But if you think about it from the writer’s perspective, how else is she going to pull an extreme emotional response from you if she doesn’t off someone you care about? If she offs someone you hate or don’t care about, you either stop watching because what you wanted to happen happened, or you stop watching because you don’t care anymore.

    • Oh, I’m not saying they shouldn’t use this tool. It’s effective, no doubt! But I do think there are other ways to build interest than killing characters off. Life is fascinating, and my loved ones don’t drop dead every time they have a happy spell, you know?

  15. “L O S T”.
    Everyone dies. Or did die. Or was already dead (Christian Shephard a/k/a Jesus Christ.)
    Or whatever.
    For the record, I thought it was a masterful finale.
    So to say Charlie shouldn’t have died would defeat my point..

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