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Stupid Characters/Interesting Stories

scarecrow
With American Horror Story: Asylum now ended (*sob*) and Downton Abbey also nearing its finale, I was looking for something to fill my leisure time (like I have any) and remembered an old miniseries I watched back in the eighties:

WINDS OF WAR, based on the Herman Wouk novel.

books winds of war

So far I've watched about 3 hours of it. It started out sloooooow, and I'm thinking, If this were a novel I'd give up by now.

(But wait. It is a novel, duh, and I read it and loved it. I remembered liking the miniseries, so I stuck with it.)

This story enhances my belief that characters with common sense do not an interesting story make.

Characters like Natalie Jastrow, who's almost beyond stupid. She's also mean. She treats poor Byron like so much canine fecal matter under her shoe. Byron, BTW, who is madly in love with her (why exactly????) ain't too bright himself, though at least he's likeable. Put these two together and all that's missing is Moe.

And yet...I keep watching.

For a supposedly smart person, Natalie makes Honey Boo Boo's kinfolk look like the guys in Big Bang.

Here are the reasons in Natalie's own "words" (supplied, of course, by me):

"OK, I’m an American Jew living in a relatively safe (so far) place in Italy at the cusp of a major war, and even though everyone is telling me to go back to the States, I’m not going to do it because I just don’t feel like it.

"Instead, even though it’s been ALL OVER THE NEWS that the Nazis are planning to bomb Poland at any given moment, I’m going to fly to Warsaw to visit my fiancé, a pretentious, pipe-smoking mucketymuck who’s working at the embassy. Because my uncle thinks it’s dangerous to go by myself, what with me being a Jew and a woman and, yanno...ALIVE and all...I enlist young Byron to go with me. He agrees because A. he has the hots for me, never mind that I'm ten years older than him and meaner than shit, and B. he doesn’t have the sense God gave a pile of rocks.

“So we go to Warsaw, because, you know, that’s exactly the place anyone, especially a Jew like me with Hitler looming nearby, would pick for impromptu vacation anyway. The beaches are beautiful. When we get there, we immediately get the feeling it might not have been the best idea. The German army is rapidly advancing, with, um, guns and stuff. But wait! I just learned that my Uncle Beryl’s son is getting married and I must attend the wedding!

"What? Of course they’re not expecting me. They don’t even know I exist.

“So Bryon (I call him “Briny” just to irritate viewers) and I go the wedding, and drink and dance with all my previously-unknown my peasant relatives. In the morning—oh-my-GOSH!—who would’ve guessed?


NAZIS ON THE HORIZON!

“The whole village packs up and heads off down the road, but of course the Nazis catch up and blow the hell out of everyone. Not Briny and me, though, although he gets a boo-boo on his head and I get to tell him how brave he is and rub my body all over his, etc.

“Anyhoo, we almost get out—but Rocks-for-Brains Briny has to mouth off to some Polish officer who confiscates his passport. We hole up at Pipe Dude’s pad, and I miraculously get a job as a nurse in a OB ward. Of course when Pipe Dude figures out a way to us get out of there, I INSIST I am not leaving all these poor screaming, hemorrhaging girls in active labor.

“Sadly, I’m overruled, but only because the smart head doctor kicks me out. Briny, Pipe Dude, myself, and a bunch of other Americans who (wisely, unlike me) are trying to get the hell out of Poland, are taken to a train station. The SS dudes on the platform start off kind of cool...and then one asks which ones of us in our group are Jewish. Yeah, rumor has it that Hitler’s not fond of Jews.

"By the way, did I mention I'm Jewish? (Vacationing) In Poland with Hitler in power? I did? Oh, well. The wedding was fun, though.

“Lots of back-and-forth discussion between Pipe Dude and the SS:

SS: Any Jews in this group?
PD: I can't tell you that. We treat everyone as equals.
SS: *snickers*

"Looks like my so-called fiance ain't too brilliant either. Why didn't he just say there were NO JEWS in the group and then stick to the story? Aside from two loud-mouth gentiles who nearly blew it (but backpedaled pretty quickly) everyone would go along with the no-Jews thing. Especially the Jews.

SS: Are there or are there not any Jews in this group?
PD: There are no Jews.
SS: No Jews at all in this biiiiig group of Americans?
PD: Nope, no Jews.
SS: You SURE no Jews?
 
"On and on. Eventually the SS guy comments on my complexion and asks what my heritage is. Snarkily--because I just can't be nice, and every word that's come out of my mouth since the start of the film has been snarky--I reply, ‘Italian.’

"‘Und vat is your name?’ he asks.

“Okay, this is tricky. I guess I could make up a Italian name. I’m brilliant and educated, which has been touched on multiple times in this story. Or I could just tell him my real name: Jastrow, a fairly generic European name. Not Jewish. Not even distinctly Polish. Sure, not Italian, but Mom could've been a Gambino or a Bonanno. I've been standing on this platform for at least 15 minutes. I've plenty of time to come up with a story.

“So what do I tell him when he asks my name? I look him squarely in the eye and say ‘Mona Lisa’.”


I’m not going to tell you what happens after that. But this is what I mean by Stupid Characters Make Interesting Stories. The catch is, you can’t make them too stupid (watch the movie “The Canyon” for an exercise in Ultimate Character Stupidity) or people will be rooting for their deaths.

As for Natalie, she's right on the verge…

Comments

( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Patrick Dilloway
Jan. 27th, 2013 06:39 pm (UTC)
It's probably something akin to why people have to rubberneck at accidents on the highway and why we watch reality TV shows. All I know about this miniseries is that it was the basis for a Family Guy episode.
onegrapeshy
Jan. 27th, 2013 06:59 pm (UTC)
Was it really?? Missed that one.
another_wip
Jan. 29th, 2013 10:49 pm (UTC)
So many characters I can think of have teetered over that edge from interestingly stupid to TSTL stupid. Oh yes. TOO many.
onegrapeshy
Jan. 30th, 2013 03:11 pm (UTC)
Oh, honey, how many times have we had this conversation, lol?
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )

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