Saturday, February 27, 2021

I cheated on James again

I cheated on James again! I appeared on a podcast a few weeks ago, but they never told me it had posted. This is a company I’ve consulted with and they wanted to talk to me about my notes process and various other things. It’s a fun conversation! They just sent me the book in the mail I’d consulted on with a note saying that the podcast had good feedback: I checked and saw it had posted on February 15th! So if you want to see me on another podcast, check it out! (They get to me at 20:30 and I go to about 1:00:30)

And check out the book we’re discussing “Hunted” by Antony Dunford. It’s got my stamp of approval!

Friday, February 26, 2021

Believe Care Invest: Transparent

Maura Pfefferman has been living as male her whole life but has decided at age 69 to come out as transgender. Her three grown children, Ali, Sarah, and Josh, are all neurotic and selfish, and Maura loses her nerve about telling them.

Why Maura might be hard to identify with: We always have a hard time identifying with depressed characters.

  • She has a reputation: “Dad’s not getting engaged, he’s too much of a pussyhound.” Her ex-wife says of her: “I wouldn’t believe a word your father says, nothing, not a word, nada, ninca, nein, nicht.”
  • She has a big secret.
  • Her exasperations with her children feel universal. “They are so selfish. I do not know how it is I raised three people who cannot see beyond themselves.”
  • We see how terrible her kids are to her before we’ve met her. In a nice pun, her “deadname” was “Mort” and indeed they see her as walking death.
    • Ali: Have you talked to daddy?
    • Josh: Yes.
    • Ali: And?
    • Josh: You think he has cancer?
    • Ali: Kind of.
    • Josh: Well, if he’s really sick, he should start gifting us $12 thou a year now.
    • Ali: Why?
    • Josh: Tax purposes.
    • We haven’t met Maura yet but we already feel for her.
  • Feigning okay: “Is Marcy coming?” “Oh no, Marcy and I broke up. I’m fine! I’m better, actually.”
  • Of course, they’re all misgendering her, but it’s hard to blame them for that, because they don’t know.
  • When they’re with her, they constantly complain about her parenting and infantilize her:
    • Sarah (to Maura): You have sauce right here (touches her own chin)
    • Ali: Oh my god, leave him alone, he’s mid-meal. This is the golden rule, let him be as messy as he wants, we’ll hose him down at the end.
    • Sarah: No! You clean up as you go along!
    • Josh (to Maura): You guys never taught us how to eat. You realize that, right?
    • Maura: Because we come from shtetl people. Your grandma Rose actually ate lettuce with her bare hands.
    • Finally, Sarah leans over and wipes the sauce off Maura’s face: “Oh, that’s cold!” She says “I’m sorry,” but keeps wiping.
  • She’s terrified of telling them:
    • Maura: Listen, I have, I, I need to talk to you about something, there’s a big change going on, and (starts to cry) Oh God, I love you kids, I love you kids, I love you kids, I love you kids…”
    • Sarah: It IS cancer!
  • Treating her like she’s dead: “Dad, you don’t need all this food, right?”
  • She’s always been depressed.
  • She’s about to do something very brave. Speaking to an LGBT support group: “I went to Target, and I just, I ‘took her out’, you know what I mean, and I got into, y’know, the checkout line, and the girl at the cash register said, ‘I need to see some ID with that credit card of yours’, and um, you know what that’s like, right, and I just knew, ‘this is gonna not be good, this is gonna get ugly,’ and so she just kept looking at me …and then she said, ‘…oh’. Like that, y’know? And she rung up the um, batteries or something. That was… That was a big victory. And I was like ‘do not cry in front of this woman, do not cry in front of this woman.’”
Strength / Flaw: Brave / But not brave enough to come out to her kids yet

Thursday, February 25, 2021

Believe Care Invest Blockbuster Week Concludes: Ghostbusters

A ghost attacks a librarian in the stacks of New York Public Library. At Columbia’s paranormal lab, Dr. Venkman is studying “the effect of negative reinforcement on ESP ability”. His friend Ray comes and summons him to the library. They meet their friend Egon there and the three confront the ghost, then flee in terror when it attacks them. They return to Columbia to find they’ve been fired. Venkman says they should start a ghost-busting business, so Ray takes out a third mortgage and they rent out a fire station.

Why Venkman might be hard to identify with: He’s electro-shocking a boy every time he gets an ESP guess wrong, then not shocking a cute girl for missing hers. When the boy complains, he says, “You only have 75 more to go.” Then he shocks the boy even though he got one right! “I’m getting a little tired of this!” “You volunteered, didn’t you? We’re paying you, aren’t we?” He’s a tremendous asshole!

  • We see a series of signs showing the setting: Columbia University, Weaver Hall, Department of Psychology, Paranormal Studies Laboratory. Under that someone has painted “Venkman burn in hell” (something that will literally almost happen to him)
  • Jargon: “Took PKE valances, went right off the top of the scale.” “If the ionization rate is constant for all ectoplasmic entities, we can really bust some heads! In a spiritual sense of course.”
  • Economic activity: “You’re never gonna regret this, Ray.” “My parents left me that house! I was born there!” “You’re not gonna lose the house. Everybody has three mortgages nowadays.”
  • Gets a costume and unique equipment. Good fire station headquarters.
  • They have to face a terrifying ghost.
  • Venkman gets gross goop on his hands and can’t get it off.
  • Fired and humiliated: “No, you are being moved off-campus. The board of regents has decided to terminate your grant. You are to vacate these premises immediately.” “This is preposterous. I demand an explanation.” “Fine. This university will no longer continue any funding of any kind for your group’s activities.” “But the kids love us.” “‘Doctor’ Venkman, we believe that the purpose of science is to serve mankind. You, however, seem to regard science as some kind of dodge, or hustle. Your theories are the worst kind of popular tripe, your methods are sloppy and your conclusions are highly questionable. You are a poor scientist, Dr. Venkman.” “I see.” “You have no place in this department, or in this university.”
  • Good at hitting on girl: “I have to go now Jennifer, but I’d like to work with you some more. Perhaps you could come back this evening, say at…” “…eight o’clock?” “I was just gonna say eight o’clock! You are a legitimate phenomenon!”
  • Takes charge, introduces everybody to head of library.
  • He’s the most skeptical. He asks the librarian: “Have you or any member of your family ever been diagnosed schizophrenic?” “My uncle thought he was Saint Jerome?” “I’d call that a big yes. Are you menstruating right now?” The head of the library asks, “What does that got to do with it?” Venkman barks, “Back off man, I’m a scientist.” Later he’s dubious when Ray sees a stack of books and assumes it was a ghost, “You’re right, no human being would stack books like this.”
  • Accepts it when he sees it. “So what do we do?” Ray: “One of us should actually try to speak to it.” They both look at Venkman. “Hi, I’m Peter, where are you from, originally?”
  • Witty: “Egon, I’m going to take back some of the things I’ve said about you.”
Strength / Flaw: Confident / asshole

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Believe Care Invest Blockbuster Week: Raiders of the Lost Ark

In “South America, 1936” Indiana Jones leads an expedition to find a golden icon in a lost temple. He gets it but triggers the cave’s defenses. He gets away, but a rival relic hunter named Belloq takes the idol from him. Indy runs away, finds his pilot, and takes off. Back at his university, his boss and friend Marcus Brody tells him the government has sent some men to talk with him.

Why Indy might be hard to identify with: The racial politics of the situation are a little uncomfortable. He’s in the business of stealing cultural treasures from their home countries, and killing the natives if they get in his way.

  • Specific time and place: South America, 1936
  • Stuff: Leather jacket, cowboy hat, whip, map in two pieces.
  • He has a friend, Marcus Brody, who doesn’t mind that he didn’t bring the idol back.
  • Has to watch his back, literally and figuratively. One of his own men tries to kill him. And later he has tarantulas on his back.
  • Booby traps trying to kill him. Sees the rotting corpse of his competitor Forestal.
  • Fails in a way that speaks to his flaw: Replaces the idol with a bag of sand that weighs the same, but the temple knows the difference and triggers lots of defenses. He doesn’t realize that the difference is God, which he doesn’t believe in.
  • Rival relic hunter Belloq and an army of Indians take the idol away from him: “Dr Jones, again we see that there is nothing you can possess that I cannot take away.”
  • Has to ride in a plane with a snake “I hate snakes! I hate ‘em!” “C’mon, show a little backbone, would you?”
  • Has to make sure he’s spelling the word Neolithic correctly on his chalkboard.
  • Uncomfortably hit on: Girl has written “Love You” on her eyelids.
  • Before we can see his face we can see that he’s leading this expedition. One of his men screams and runs away when he sees a stone head, but Indy’s unfazed. He also isn’t scared when he finds a poison dart stuck in a tree.
  • Man tries to shoot him in the back, but he cooly whips the gun out of the man’s hand.
  • “Nobody’s come out of there alive! Please!” He enters anyway.
  • Reaches back to get his whip when the door is closing.
  • Swings on a vine like Tarzan.
Strength / Flaw: Confident, manly and capable / Lacks humble faith in God

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Believe Care Invest Blockbuster Week: Toy Story

Co-written by Joss Whedon and John Lasseter, America’s two most beloved men!

Young boy Andy plays with his toys, having cowboy Woody arrest Mr. Potato Head. Then he leaves his toys alone in his room and they come to life. The toys realize Andy is having a birthday party and worry they’ll be replaced. Sure enough, Andy gets a Buzz Lightyear and puts it in Woody’s place on his bed.

Why Woody might be hard to identify with: Not much reason yet. He’ll be a jerk to Buzz later.

  • His world has mundane details: “Tuesday’s night’s plastic corrosion awareness meeting was, I think, a big success.”
  • We see how each toy has a personality based on its use.
  • The toys are minutely detailed. The army men have little plastic seams on their heads.
  • Claims he’s not worried that he’ll be replaced, but we can tell that he is as he tries and fails to reassure everyone. One of them gives voice to his worries, “Yes, sir, we’re next summer’s garage sale fodder for sure.”
  • Andy gives his place on the bed to Buzz. Andy pushes Woody aside and Woody falls off the bed, unnoticed.
  • His love interest is impressed with Buzz: “He’s got more gadgets on him than a Swiss Army knife.”
  • He’s a good manager of everybody. “Woody has never steered us wrong before.” Has his own team of commandos following his orders to spy on the birthday party.
  • Desirable: Little Bo Peep seemingly wants to have sex with him. “What do you say I get someone else to watch the sheep tonight?”
Strength / Flaw: Leader / Selfish about keeping power.

Monday, February 22, 2021

Believe Care Invest Blockbuster Week: Jaws

A girl slips off to the beach to go skinny-dipping with a boy, then gets eaten by a giant shark. We then meet the beach town’s sheriff Brody, waking up cranky. The girls body is found and Brody decides to close the beaches, but the mayor orders them re-opened.

Why Brody might be hard to identify with: He’s a little dour, a little cranky.

  • Distinct way of talking: New York: His wife asks, “Can you see the kids?” “They must be in the back yard.” “In Amity, you say ‘yahd.’” They’re in the yahd, not too fah from the cah. How’s that?” “Like you’re from New York.”
  • Unique backstory: New York cop becomes New England island sheriff.
  • Feels like he doesn’t belong: The sun’s too bright in this beach town. His first line, asking his wife: “How come the sun didn’t use to shine in here?” “We bought the house in the fall, this is summer.”
  • His son was injured on a swing he hasn’t gotten around to fixing.
  • Trying to deal with a death but he’s forced to deal with podunk problems: “We got a bunch of calls about that karate school. It seems the nine year olds from the school have been karate-ing the picket fences.”
  • Clumsy: He knocks over all the paint brushes.
  • Medical examiner changes his story on him, leaving him twisting in the wind.
  • Mayor has no respect for his decision to close the beaches. Told he doesn’t have the authority.
  • Soon, he’ll get slapped by a woman whose son died because he didn’t close the beaches.
  • He’s got a big police truck.
  • He takes charge with the kid. “You mean she ran out on you.” One of the cops breaks down, almost in tears, but Brody mans up to face the corpse.
  • He bravely tries to close the beaches immediately. No one has ever made “beach closed” signs before.
  • Strength / Flaw: Dedicated to his job / Cranky (And afraid of the water, as we’ll find out later)

Sunday, February 21, 2021

Believe Care Invest Blockbuster Week: Back to the Future

Marty visits Doc Brown’s house, but he and his dog are missing. Marty speaks on the phone with Doc who says all the clocks are set ahead, so Marty realizes he’s late for school. He goes to school and meets his girlfriend who tries to help him avoid the principal, but they get caught. The principal tells him he’s a loser like his father. That afternoon, Marty tries out for the battle of the bands, but he’s told that he’s too loud. His girlfriend tries to reassure him. Marty comes home and finds out that his dad’s asshole boss has borrowed the family car and wrecked it, so now Marty can’t take his girlfriend on a trip.

Why Marty might be hard to identify with: Not much reason. He scopes out other girls while with girlfriend is talking to him.

  • We see an elaborate ritual with Doc’s automated breakfast machinery.
  • We hear a news report establishing this world.
  • Marty has dreams: He sees a pick-up truck he’d like to buy and says, “Wouldn’t it be great?  Take that truck up to the lake?”
  • Odd details: Dad eats bowl of peanut brittle as breakfast cereal at night.
  • The detail that the time machine in a DeLorean is so weird.
  • Friendship with a mad scientist is a unique relationship.
  • Strums a guitar, blows himself backward, knocks over a shelf on his head.
  • Running late.
  • Insulted by principal: “You’re too much like your father, no McFly ever amounted to anything in the history of Hill Valley.”
  • Cut off in audition. “I’m afraid you’re just too darn loud.”
  • Worried what he’s becoming: “Jesus, I’m starting to sound like my old man.”
  • Biff has wrecked the car he was going to take. “I can’t believe you loaned me your car without telling me it had a blind spot!”
  • We first meet him, not seeing his face, as he cranks up every dial to practice his rock guitar. At the battle of the bands, we can see he’s good even though the judges can’t.
  • He lets a truck pull him along on his skateboard, which is pretty badass. Then he does it again with a police car!
  • He’s got a great girlfriend who’s super into him. She writes “I love you” on the clocktower flyer.
Strength / Flaw: Talented / Disrespected (which isn’t really a flaw. They had to invent a flaw in the next two movies, where he overreacts to being called “chicken”) I guess you could say his flaw in this movie is low self-esteem, in that he’s very worried people are right when they say he’s a loser like his father.

Saturday, February 20, 2021

Believe Care Invest Blockbuster Week: Pirates of the Caribbean

Well, guys, I feel we still haven’t found the perfect witty line from the first ten minutes uttered by the hero, so if you could keep those suggestions coming in, I’d appreciate it! In the meantime:

Young Elizabeth Swann sails from England to the Caribbean with her father. They come across a burning shipwreck and rescue a boy, Will Turner. Cut to ten years later. Will is now a swordmaker delivering a sword to Elizabeth’s father. Her father wants to gift both the sword and Elizabeth to the local Commodore. Meanwhile pirate Jack Sparrow arrives in town in a sinking ship. He tries to steal a new ship, but has to save Elizabeth, who has fainted and fallen in the water. Jack is caught as a result, but gets away. He goes to Will’s shop to steal a sword, and they end up having a sword fight.

Elizabeth Swann

Why Elizabeth might be hard to identify with: Looks pretty gorgeous in her sleep. And because it’s not clear who the hero is.

  • Distinctive piece of jewelry.
  • Beliefs: “I would like to meet a pirate.”
  • Secret: Only she knows Will was a pirate.
  • Forced to wear a corset. “I’m told it’s the latest fashion in London.” “Well women in London must have learned not to breathe.”
  • Unrequited love for Will. Father expects her to marry for social advancement instead of for love.
  • Only she spots Will floating in the sea, and only she spots the pirate ship
  • She can handle herself around pirates just because she’s booksmart about them. She knows to say “parler”
  • She’s snarky to her dad.
Strength Flaw: Booksmart about pirates / naïve about life, love, and the reality of pirates
Will Turner

Why Will might be hard to identify with: He’s pretty lovable, but again, we’re not sure if we should identify with him because we’re not sure who the hero is.

  • He speaks the jargon of his craft: “Perfectly balanced. The tang is nearly the full width of the blade.”
  • As he waits in Elizabeth’s house, he admires a light fixture on the wall, but breaks off a piece of it when he touches it. He hastily hides the broken piece when they’re approaching.
  • He has to hear his boss get credit for his work. When the Governor tells him to pass on his compliments about the bland, Will can only say “A craftsman is always pleased to hear his work is appreciated.”
  • He has unrequited love. He can see, though Elizabeth can’t, that they’re not equals. “Will, how many times must I ask you to call me Elizabeth?” “At least once more, Miss Swann. As always.” The governor says, “See? At least the boy has a sense of propriety.”
  • He’s a master swordmaker:
  • He does well in a sword fight.
  • He has secret honor: Makes the swords and let’s someone else take the credit.
Strength Flaw: Honorable and hard-working / Hesitant to go after what he wants.
Jack Sparrow

Why Jack might be hard to identify with: He’s almost too bizarre to be believable, and we’re not sure who the hero is.

  • A wonderfully unique look, including odd stuff in his beard.
  • Physical mark: He has a P brand, burned there by the East India Company to show he’s a pirate.
  • He has an odd object: A compass that doesn’t point north.
  • He has a fantasy that’s brought down to reality: We meet him standing atop a crows nest like a majestic pirate, then realize he’s on a tiny ship that’s sinking.
  • Worry: He sees bodies hung with “Pirates ye be warned” sign.
  • He’s ironically arrested. He never would have been caught if he hadn’t stopped stealing the ship to save the governor’s daughter’s life, and this is his reward.
  • He has confidence: He walks off the crow’s nest of his sinking ship onto the dock. “Hold up there,
  • It’s a shilling to tie up your boat at the dock. And I shall need to know your name.” “What do you say to three shillings, and we forget the name?” “Welcome to Port Royal, Mr. Smith” Then he steals the man’s changepurse to get his money back.
  • Again again with the men guarding another dock: “This dock is off limits to civilians.” “I’m terribly sorry, I didn’t know. If I see one, I shall inform you immediately.” He then gets them distracted and goes onto one of the boats:
    • “Hey! You! Get away from there! You don’t have permission to be about there, mate”
    • “I’m sorry, it’s just, it’s such a pretty boat.”
    • “What’s your name?”
    • “Smith. Or Smithie, if you like”
    • “What’s your purpose in Port Royal, Mr. Smith?”
    • “Yeah, and no lies.”
    • “All right then, I confess. It is my intention to commandeer one of these ships, pick up a crew in Tortuga, raid, pillage, plunder and otherwise pilfer my weasely black guts out.”
    • “I said no lies.”
    • “I think he’s telling the truth.”
    • “If he was telling the truth, he wouldn’t have told us.”
    • “Unless of course, he knew you wouldn’t believe the truth, even if he told it to you.”
  • He saves Elizabeth’s life even though it puts him in grave danger.
  • He has a reputation: Commodore says to him: “You are without a doubt the worst pirate I’ve ever heard of.” “But you have heard of me!”
  • And then shortly: “You will always remember this as the day you almost caught Captain Jack Sparrow
  • He does well in a sword fight.
Strength Flaw: Confidant / Scoundrel

Friday, February 19, 2021

Examples Needed: Have them be witty

Okay guys, this may be the last one.

I realize that yesterday it was fairly ridiculous that I couldn’t come up with any good examples of heroes being confident. Thank you so much for your excellent suggestions in the comments. Well, today, it’s even more ridiculous: I can’t think of any good examples of any hero being witty in the beginning of a story! This is insane. My brain has melted.

The two examples I have aren’t very good: After seducing the reporter that was trying to write a damning profile of him, Tony in Iron Man explains to Rhodey why he was late: “I was doing a piece for Vanity Fair”. That’s funny, but it’s also cruder than I’d prefer.

In the “Cheers” pilot. Sam has to endure Diane quoting a long poetry verse. She then smiles and says, “That’s Donne.” He smiles back and says, “I certainly hope so.” The problem with this is that I’m not sure whether Sam is making a joke or not. Does he know that Donne is the name of a poet, or does he actually think she’s just said “That’s done”? I don’t know! So that’s not a good example either.

Obviously there are thousands of examples of a witty line I can quote from when we first meet a character, but my brain is fried! Can you help me out?

Thursday, February 18, 2021

Seeking Examples: Have them show confidence

Alright, guys, thanks so much for your suggestions so far! Here’s one where there are hundreds of examples but I can’t think of good ones. This is actually a follow-up to one we’ve already looked, but I’m sick of talking about American Hustle. Can you guys help me with examples where heroes flex their confidence like it’s a super-power?

Give them confidence

In the Believe section, we saw how Irving’s elaborate combover ritual in American Hustle made him believable. In the Care section, we saw how his FBI handler then know that he can mess up Irving’s hair and hurt his hero in a way that would only hurt this hero. You would think, then that this guy is the opposite of bad-ass.

But, ironically, something that would seem to be proof of his insecurity winds up proving the opposite. A very attractive woman says of him in a voiceover: “He wasn’t necessarily in good shape and he had this combover that was rather …elaborate, but he had this air about him, and he had this confidence that drew me to him. He was who he was. He didn’t care.”

Cocky confidence is a superpower that can turn any liability into an asset.

More examples??

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Seeking Examples: Give them rituals

Okay guys, thank you so much for your suggestions yesterday! I think I’ve come up with a good one for that one, but feel free to offer more if they come to you.  In the meantime, here’s another:

Give them rituals

As we live our lives, we accumulate daily rituals, as surely as ships gather barnacles. We use them to soothe ourselves. Without realizing it, they come to define us.

American Hustle begins with the elaborate ritual by while Irving installs his toupee every morning. We linger on it for a full three minutes of screentime. The character thinks this hides his shameful secret from the world, but it actually defines him in the eyes of others, as we’ll see in the Care and Invest sections.

Young George Bailey in It’s a Wonderful Life has an odd little ritual: Every time he enters the drug store where he works, he stops off at the counter to use some sort of bizarre cigarette lighter contraption, which presumably fails a lot, so he says “I wish I had a million dollars”, and tries to light it. When it lights, he says: “Hot dog!” As you can tell from my confused explanation, the whole thing is unexplained and delightfully odd. It’s so clearly from real life.

Can you guys help me come up with at least one more example?

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Seeking Examples: Have them use language we only know from real life

Okay, guys, that was a lot of BCI, wasn’t it? So the book is due in 12 days, which is punishingly soon. The good news for you guys is that this book will be mostly new to you, as I’ve mostly had to write it from scratch. Most of the book will be in the form of pieces of advice that I’ve hinted at on the blog but never given their own blog post, followed by examples drawn from some BCI’s you’ve seen and some you haven’t.

But I’ve got eight or so that I like, but only have one or two examples for, so I figured I would spend the next several days asking you guys for more examples of each. I crowdsourced more examples for my last book, and you guys were a great, help, so I figured I would tap into that again, if I could.  Thanks!

Let’s start with one from the Believe section: Have them use language we only know from real life

Dramatic writers can’t easily describe tastes or smells that the audience hasn’t experienced since childhood, the way prose writers can, but we can easily use language we haven’t heard in a million years, which will instantly make this feel like real life and not a made-up story.

In the first scene of the pilot of “Community”, the dean loses one of the cards he’s reading from, accidentally turning his rah-rah speech into a harsh put-down. When he realizes this, he gets embarrassed and asks everyone to help him look for the missing card, saying, “Can we all look around our immediate areas?” As surely as if I’d eaten Proust’s madeleine, I flashed back to hearing this phrase many times as a child, but I hadn’t heard it since.

Here’s where I’d put in more examples!

Whenever you hear or recall a phrase from your youth that hasn’t been heard in a million stories, jot it down and cherish it. Look for ways to re-open doors in your reader’s mind.

Can you guys help me??  I know this happens in other places, and I’d like to include.  Worse comes to worst, I’ll just cut it, but I'd love to find some more examples. 

Thanks so much!

Monday, February 15, 2021

Believe Care Invest: The Fault in Our Stars

Hazel Grace Lancaster is dying of cancer and lugs an oxygen tank around. At cancer support group she meets a gorgeous boy named Augustus who is instantly smitten with her and invites her over to his house.

Why Hazel might be hard to identify with: She’s improbably profound. She’s so tragic that she’s sort of the parody of the YA genre. The ease with which this gorgeous boy falls for her is a little dubious.

  • She’s got a signature object that externalizes her internal weakness: The oxygen tank.
  • She’s got other physical manifestations of her illness like chubby cheeks from the treatment.
  • Every cancer in the group has different specifics.
  • She’s got personal preferences, like the book she’s obsessed with, which we get long quotes from.
  • She’s dying of cancer!
  • She’s self-conscious about all of her physical flaws when she realizes this boy is checking her out.
  • There’s clearly something about her that Augustus can see.
  • She’s charmingly witty.
  • She’s a profound thinker. We admire this even though we don’t quite buy it.
  • Though she hates the term, she’s a fighter: She insists on taking the stairs with her tank because taking the elevator is a sign you’re dying.
Strength / Flaw: Honest about herself / Depressed about her prospects, for both life and love.

Sunday, February 14, 2021

The Annotation Project: The Fault in Our Stars

Download this here.  BCI tomorrow.  Maybe the final BCI!

Saturday, February 13, 2021

Believe Care Invest: Angela's Ashes

Malachy McCourt Sr. flees Northern Ireland with a price on his head, supposedly for work with the IRA, shows up in America, impregnates Angela Sheehan and has to marry her. Cut to three years later, Frank gets off a see saw quickly, which makes his brother fall off and cut his lip. Frank is sent home where he sees a dog has been run over in the street and died. His brother and dog’s blood looks the same, causing him to fear he’s killed his brother.

Why we might find Frank hard to identify with: He says in the third paragraph: “People everywhere brag and whimper about the woes of their early years, but nothing can compare with the Irish version: the poverty; the shiftless loquacious alcoholic father; the pious defeated mother moaning by the fire; pompous priests; bullying schoolmasters; the English and the terrible things they did to us for eight hundred long years.” So here he’s confronting the book’s big problem: His is a rather familiar story. The father is a typical Irish drunk father and the mother is a typical Irish long-suffering mother. He’s saying, look, if you want a surprising story, don’t read this. This will be a typical story, albeit especially wretched. The only reason to read this will because it is well-written. It helps a lot that it eventually won the Pulitzer Prize, but those who read it before then just had to do it on word of mouth.

  • A fictional story would have the immigrants come to America, burn their ships, and have to survive a trial by fire. We don’t tend to like stories in which heroes retrace their steps. But that means you can do it a memoir and it’ll instantly feel real, because it’s the sort of the thing fiction wouldn’t do.
  • McCourt’s an Irish writer, so of course we’re awash in bodily fluids of all types. The “odor of piss” is never far away. We also get lots of odd tastes and sensations. Speaking of the coughs caused by River Shannon, he says “to ease the catarrh you boiled onions in milk blackened with pepper; for the congested passages you made a paste of boiled flour and nettles, wrapped it in a rag, and slapped it, sizzling, on the chest.”
  • Whenever their father stumbles home drunk, he wakes the boys and makes them swear to die for Ireland, then sings songs about Irish martyrs. We get song lyrics, which we always like.
  • Lots of interesting language and euphemisms: Franks mother and father have a “knee-trembler” which puts her in “an interesting condition.”
  • The poverty is crushing. At age five he doesn’t know what a bowl is because his family has never owned one.
  • McCourt the fact that his baby sister Margaret will die at some point, but not that her twin brothers will die also die as toddlers. He’s parceling out the misery as much as we can take at a time.
  • Shortly after this, he’ll start getting in fights, fighting to defend his own kid logic, like when someone else sings a song that he thinks belongs to his dad.
Strength / Flaw: Scrappy / Fights over things he shouldn’t fight about

Friday, February 12, 2021

The Annotation Project: Angela's Ashes

You can download this here. BCI tomorrow!


Thursday, February 11, 2021

Believe Care Invest: Rear Window

L. B. “Jeff” Jefferies has gotten himself hurt taking a photo in the middle of a race track. Now his leg is in a full cast and he’s cooped up at home, passing the time spying on several neighbors in across the courtyard. His insurance company nurse Stella visits and scolds him as a peeping tom

Why Jeff might be hard to identify with: He complains he’s turning into “a lonesome and bitter old man.” He doesn’t want to marry Grace Kelly! Who can identify with that?? “If she was only ordinary… I need a woman who’s willing to go anywhere, and do anything, and love it.”

  • Distinctive object: cast.
  • Stubborn. Doesn’t want to get married.
  • Photos turn his past into objects.
  • Stuck in a sweltering apartment: “Six weeks sitting in a two room apartment with nothing to do but look out the window at the neighbors”
  • He gets a tip about a great assignment he can’t have.
  • His nurse has a withering summation of his personality.
  • Distinctive tool: camera.
  • We see amazing photos he’s taken, putting him at the center of danger
  • Resourceful, figures out how to scratch his itch with a wooden spoon.
Strength / Flaw: Risk-taking and attentive / Commitment-phobic and disrespectful of other’s privacy

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Believe Care Invest: The Little Mermaid

Sailors on the sea tell a young man about the mermaids below. Then we meet some merpeople having a concert, but the one who is supposed to be making her debut isn’t there. Instead, we meet Ariel as she searches a shipwreck for human artifacts with her friend Flounder the fish. She finds a fork and a pipe. When a shark chases her, she goes back to get the objects, putting herself in more danger. She tricks the shark into getting its head stuck in an anchor. Then she shows her friend Scuttle the bird the objects, and he makes up lies about what they do. She remembers the concert and goes back to get yelled at by her father. Meanwhile, we meet Urusula the sea-witch who is plotting against her.

Why Ariel might be hard to identify with: No reason. She’s adorable.

  • We hear about the legend of her and her culture before we meet her.
  • She has predictable behavior. No one is that surprised when she doesn’t show up for her recital.
  • She naïve (and she has a limited perspective): She believes what Scuttle tells her about the objects she finds.
  • She has friends, Flounder and Scuttle.
  • She loves and collects objects: the fork and the pipe.
  • She has an “I want” song.
  • Her father is angry with her, and banishes her from doing the one thing she longs to do. “I am never, never to hear of you going to the surface again, is that clear??”
  • She feels terrible that she forgot about the concert.
  • An evil witch-octopus is plotting against her. “She may be the key to Triton’s undoing.”
  • She’s brave, facing off against a shark to get what she wants.
  • She’s the most talented of her singers, though she doesn’t care and doesn’t bother to show up. “She has the most beautiful voice, if only she’d show up for rehearsals once in a while.”
Strength / Flaw: Brave / Reckless

Tuesday, February 09, 2021

Believe Care Invest: Moana

Young Moana is told the story of the demigod Maui stealing the heart of Te Fiti then losing it to the sea, then she discovers she can control the water. She grows up and she’s trained to take over as chief. The fish are going away so Moana wants to go beyond the reef, but her dad won’t allow it. She considers putting a rock on a stack of rocks that will symbolize that she’s accepted her chiefdom, but instead she gets in a boat and tries to go beyond the reef.

Why Moana might be hard to identify with: She has no friends other than animals that don’t talk.

  • She has a complex culture and mythology, including songs and dances.
  • There’s a prophesy that someone will save their village, but it’s not necessarily about her.
  • We see the complex economy of the village, with 20 different jobs that have to get done.
  • She’s stubborn. Her grandmother sings, “You are your father’s daughter / Stubbornness and pride / Mind what he says, but remember / You may hear a voice inside / And if the voice starts to whisper / To follow the farthest star / Moana that voice inside is who you are.”
  • She’s got objects representing her choices: Putting stones on the stack represents becoming chief.
  • She’s not allowed to do what she was born to do. “We have one rule, a rule that keeps us safe.” She’s supposedly been made chief, but she can’t do what needs to be done. “There’s nothing beyond our reef but storms and rough seas.” “Motunui is paradise, who would want to go anywhere else?”
  • She says of her dad: “He doesn’t get me.”
  • She has superpowers. She can control the ocean water.
  • She’s got (limited) decision-making ability: “You are the next great chief of our people.”
  • She’s handy and resourceful: She can fix a leak in the ceiling of a hut.
  • She makes wise decisions on tree planting and fishing grounds.
  • She’s kind: She tries to protect a turtle trying to make it to the sea. 
 Strength / Flaw: Adventurous / Disobedient (Which isn’t really a flaw, so she’s not really flawed)

Monday, February 08, 2021

Believe Care Invest: Moonlight

Young Chiron is chased by kids trying to beat him with sticks and takes refuge in an empty apartment used by drug users. He’s found there by a drug dealer named Juan who tries to help him but Chiron won’t speak. Chiron stays with Juan overnight and then finally tells his him where he lives in the morning. Juan brings Chiron home to his mother, who works at a hospital. She’s glad to see he’s home. He then plays soccer with his friends. The next day, Juan teaches him to swim.

Why Chiron might be hard to identify with: His silence is like a super-power in some ways, but it does make him hard to get to know.

  • He has an appetite. “You don’t talk much but you damn sure can eat.”
  • He has big secrets. He won’t tell anybody anything.
  • He has a friend, Kevin.
  • Lots of kids try to beat him up.
  • His nickname is “Little”. He’s a little guy.
  • The neighborhood kids are so poor they play a soccer-like game with a ball made of paper.
  • We will eventually find out his mother is an addict.
  • He’s got the power of silence.
  • He’s wary.  He’s perceptive about Juan’s and his mother’s secrets.  
  • He does occasionally fight back (though he picks the wrong occasions to do so) 
Strength / Flaw: Resilience / Doesn’t accept help

Sunday, February 07, 2021

Believe Care Invest: Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

Riggan quit playing the superhero Birdman twenty years ago, now he’s on Broadway, writing, directing and starring in a play based on the stories of Raymond Carver. He seems to have telekinesis, but he may just be imagining it. He hates the performance of his co-star, then a light falls on the co-star’s head. Later, he’s being interviewed by jerk critics, then he finds out his dream co-star Mike is available.

Why Riggan might be hard to identify with: He’s sour. He’s weak. He’s a jerk.

  • He’s just in his tighty-whities when we meet him. He keeps it real.
  • He keeps a motto on his mirror: “A thing is a thing, not what is said of that thing.” But then we see he’s gotten a note from his assistant which ends up sitting next to it: “They didn’t have whatever you wanted.”
  • He’s got a Birdman poster on the wall, turning his past into an object. Later, he throws it out.
  • His doubts are personified as the voice of Birdman in his head.
  • It’s real time (with hidden time-jumps) so it feels real.
  • He’s got a toupee externalizing his insecurities.
  • He feels embarrassed that he gets a workman’s name wrong.
  • He’s running late.
  • All of the actors he wants for his co-star aren’t available because they’re off doing superhero movies.
  • A reporter asks him, “Are you at all afraid that people will say you’re doing this play to battle the impression that you’re a washed up superhero?”
  • At first he’s worried that a bad co-star will ruin his play, but when the co-star is replaced by a better actor, he worries the new actor will upstage him.
  • He seemingly has superpowers (though he may be imagining it). We first meet him levitating in his apartment. Later, he seems to mentally make a light fall on his fellow actor. He can turn off a TV with his mind.
  • He’s a perfectionist.
  • He follows his dreams: “Why would someone go from the playing the lead in a comic book franchise to adapting Raymond Carver for the stage?”
  • He’s ambitious: Mike says, “You wrote this adaptation? And you’re directing and starring in this adaptation? That’s ambitious.”
Strength / Flaw: Perfectionist / Riddled with doubts

Saturday, February 06, 2021

Believe Care Invest: Twin Peaks

In the first 34 minutes of this episode, one girl is found dead by the edge of a lake. After we’ve seen the whole town process this, another girl, unable to speak, enters town across a railroad bridge that crosses state lines. That brings in the FBI.

Why Agent Cooper might be hard to identify with: We don’t meet him until 34 minutes into the pilot! After that, he seems a little tetched.

  • He described his lunch into his ever-present tape recorder: “Tuna fish sandwich, slice of cherry pie and a cup of coffee: Damn good food! Diane, if you ever get up here, that cherry pie is worth a stop.” He also says, “I’ve to find out what kind of trees these are. They’re really something.”
  • His recorder is his talisman and it allows him to externalize his thoughts.
  • He’s tone deaf, which always indicates a strong personality (stronger than the tone in the room). He’s talking about the dead girl and the girl found alive, but he can’t hide his excitement about the trees while he’s talking about them. When Truman tries to bring him back to the gravity of the situation, Cooper still gets a big smile when he says, “We’ve got a lot to talk about.”
  • Not much. He’s enjoying himself immensely. I guess you feel a little bit for him in that he has to put up with the local hicks. The light in the autopsy room is flickering.
  • He takes charge right away. “You’ll be working for me.”
  • He knows what he’s looking for, knowing to examine the girls’ fingernails. He’s a total badass when he shoves the tweezers way up into the fingernail to pull out a typed letter “R”. This is a super-cop.
Strength / Flaw: Enthusiastic detective / Over-enthusiastic about everything, in an unsettling way.

Friday, February 05, 2021

Believe Care Invest: Modern Family

Okay, I’m addicted. I’m doing six a day now! I’ve gone insane.

We meet three branches of the Pritchett family, not realizing that it’s one big family. Phil and Claire are raising Haley, Alex and Luke. Haley has a boy named Dylan coming over, and Luke just shot Alex with a BB gun. Claire orders Phil to shoot Luke. He tries to back out, but ends up accidentally shooting Luke, Dylan and himself. Meanwhile, patriarch Jay has a passionate new wife named Gloria, and they’re raising a boy named Manny together, and have to deal his desire to submit a love poem to an older girl. Finally, Mitchell and his husband Cameron have adopted a baby girl from Vietnam, and Mitchell refuses to tell his family. Cameron invites the family over and they all advice Mitchell against adopting before they realize he already has, but then they’re all very loving to the baby.

Why Claire might be hard to identify with: When her son shoots her daughter with a BB gun, she says that her husband now has to shoot her son. She writes “Shoot Luke” on the calendar.

  • She’s got a compelling ironic backstory: She’s a strict mom because she used to be a bad girl. “I have, uh, seen this little show before: Lying on the bed with a tall senior. One minute you’re just friends, watching ‘Falcon Crest’, and the next you’re lying underneath the air hockey table with your bra in your pocket.”
  • She’s the only one taking charge of the kids. She tells the interviewer “If Haley never wakes up on a beach in Florida, half-naked, I’ve done my job.” Phil says “Our job”. She says, “Right. I’ve done our job.”
  • She’s perceptive about what her daughter’s up to.
  • She has to shoulder twice the responsibility because of her irresponsible husband.
Strength / Flaw: Responsible / Stick in the mud

Why Phil might be hard to identify with: He weakly goes along with the plan to shoot his son. A little racist: he says of his new Vietnamese niece: “Lily, isn’t that going to be hard for her to say?” Won’t let his much-smaller son score in basketball.

  • He’s bursting with personality like a big kid.
  • Not as cool as he thinks he is. “I’m the cool dad, that’s my thang. I’m hip. I surf the web.”
  • Tone deaf: Can’t help smiling even when he’s shooting his son.
  • His self-identity as the the cool dad is threatened: He is expected to shoot his son. “I thought you were my friend!”
  • His daughter is bringing over an older boy, and he tries to climb up the steps to intimidate him, but he slips and throws his back out. The boy must pick him up and set him down on the couch.
  • He accidentally shoots two people and himself.
  • Not really. We love him, but strictly as a lovable buffoon, not as someone whom we would invest any hopes that he would do anything right.
Strength / Flaw: Friendly / Irresponsible

Why Jay might be hard to identify with: Has no patience for his sensitive stepson, and he’s homophobic to his own son: “If Cam comes out here with boobs, I’m leaving.” A little racist: About his Asian granddaughter: “Let me see the little pot sticker.”

  • Believable situation we don’t see much of on screen: Wealthy man with inappropriately young wife.
  • Has to watch another man hit on his wife, then has a hard time getting up to confront him.
  • Has to listen to his wife talk about how much handsomer her previous husband was
  • Mistaken for a mall walker.
  • Loving in his own way towards his stepson. “The only reason I’m hard on Manny is just because I don’t wanna see him make a fool of himself.”
Strength / Flaw: Plainspoken / Homophobic and racist

Why Gloria might be hard to identify with: We’re used to being judgmental to women who seemingly partially married for money.

  • Her broken English is endearing: Stop being a gloomy goose.
  • She’s got a strong personality: She’s passionate.
  • She’s tone-deaf, going on about how much sex she had with her previous husband.
  • She loves her dreamy son unconditionally, but she’s frustrated that he isn’t as committed to soccer as she is.
  • She has to put up with being hit on and people not respecting her husband.
  • She’s a wise and loving mom.
Strength / Flaw: Passionate / inconsiderate of her husband’s feelings

Why Cameron might be hard to identify with: He’s prejudiced: He says they considered a lesbian surrogate, but “then we figured they’re already mean enough, can you imagine one of them pregnant? No thank you. Ick.”

  • Strong personality: When he plays music while announcing his baby, Mitchell says, “Just turn it off”. He says, “I can’t turn it off, it’s who I am.”
  • Husband is judgmental of his weight.
  • His father-in-law insults him. Assuming Mitchell and Cameron have broken up, he tells Mitchell, “He was a bit of a drama queen.”
  • Brave. Only he has the bravery to face Mitchell’s family.
  • His insistence on a sport-guy chest bump is shows that he’s manly in his own way.
Strength / Flaw: Emotional openness and bravery / Drama Queen

Why Mitchell might be hard to identify with: It can be a little off-putting when a character is oversensitive to non-existent slights.

  • Strong personality: Uptight
  • Gives a speech accusing people of prejudice that they weren’t guilty of, then feels awful.
  • Mortified by the mural of him that Cameron has had painted on the wall.
  • Before he can finish announcing that he has a daughter, his family tries to dissuade him: “You’re a little uptight, kids bring chaos, and you don’t handle it well.”
  • Social acuity: He’s figured out that his father always announces before he comes into a room to make sure he never sees Mitchell and Cameron kiss.
  • Concerned for his daughter.
Strength / Flaw: Witty / Judgmental

Thursday, February 04, 2021

Believe Care Invest: Supernatural

We see Sam and Dean’s mother get killed by a demon when Sam is a baby and Dean a little boy. 20 years later, Sam’s in college interviewing for law school while Dean hunts demons with their father. Their dad disappears, so Dean convinces Sam to come with him and try to find him.

Why Sam might be hard to identify with: He’s the stick in the mud who’s not sure if he should rescue his dad.

  • He has a legacy (demon hunting) that contrasts with his goal (law school), tearing him in two directions.
  • Watched his mother burn to death and his house burn down as a baby.
  • He has a problematic dad: “When I told dad I was scared of the thing in my closet, he gave me a .45”
  • He’s estranged from his brother and father (and his dad’s gone missing).
  • His brother hits on his girlfriend.
  • He has a deadline: “I have to get back first thing Monday.”
  • Just scored 174 on his LSAT
  • He’s able to hold his own against an intruder (who turns out to be his brother.)
Strength / Flaw: Smart / Unadventurous

Why Dean might be hard to identify with: He wants to take away Sam’s chance for a better life. He hits on Dean’s girlfriend in front of him.

  • He’s got a strong personality. “What, a job interview? Skip it!”
  • Mother murdered, had to raise baby brother.
  • His dad (and demon-hunting partner) is missing.
  • He feels abandoned by his smarter brother.
  • He’s able to hold his own in a fight vs. his brother.
  • He’s a hero. His brother complains about how they can’t find the demon that killed their mother, so they just “kill everything we can find.” Dean says, “Save a lot of people doing it, too.”
  • He’s got an awesome car with a trunk full of unique-looking weapons. 
 Strength / Flaw: Confident / Inconsiderate

Wednesday, February 03, 2021

Believe Care Invest: Avatar: The Last Airbender

Katara narrates a long montage of the history of the Avatar and the war. Sokka and Katara are fishing when icebergs smash their boat. Katara gets mad and her water-bending powers split open an iceberg. A magical boy is frozen inside. They realize he has air-bending powers but don’t realize yet he’s the avatar, capable of all four types of bending. They take him back to their village, where he goes penguin-sledding with Katara and avoids talking about his past. Then the fire nation attacks their village.

Why Aang might be hard to identify with: He’s a little careless: He doesn’t care that his flying bison covered Sokka in snot. He’s kind of a screw-up: He gets his tongue stuck to his flying stick.

  • He has an irrepressible personality. As soon as he wakes up he says to Katara, “I need to ask you something… Please… Come closer… Will you go penguin sledding with me?”
  • He has a complicated series of tattoos that individuate him.
  • He has a bizarre pet.
  • He has secrets that he’s keeping.
  • He’s lost everything.
  • We see brief flashbacks to some traumatic event.
  • He’s got even more superpowers than other characters with superpowers.
  • He’s got a cool glider thing.
Strength / Flaw: Irrepressible / Irresponsible

Why Katara might be hard to identify with: She’s less goofy and more serious than the boys, so she’s the least fun character.

  • She has a bizarre backstory and a unique culture.
  • She’s got an odd signature hairstyle
  • She has beliefs: “I still believe that, somehow the Avatar will return to save the world.”
  • She’s ignored: Her brother won’t look when she’s using her powers and he’s generally boorish toward her.
  • Her mother’s dead and her father’s been gone for two years.
  • Her boat gets smashed.
  • She’s got water bending powers.
Strength / Flaw: Responsible / No fun

Why Sokka might be hard to identify with: He’s sexist: “Leave it to a girl to screw things up.” He’s unadventurous: “I’m just saying that if I had weird powers, I’d keep it to myself.” He’s unsure if they should get involved with Aang.

  • Like Katara, he has a bizarre backstory and a unique culture.
  • Like Katara, he’s got an odd signature hairstyle.
  • A man of appetites: “Mmm… I can already smell it cooking.”
  • Classic ironic humiliation: “Watch and learn, Katara, this is how you catch a fish.” Then she gets one and he doesn’t.
  • “Why is it that every time you play with water, I get soaked?”
  • Like Katara, his mother’s dead and his father gone for two years
  • Every hero has superpowers but him, which understandably gives him a complex.
  • He gets called out on making muscles every time he sees his reflection in the water.
  • His boat gets smashed.
  • He gets covered in snot
  • The “men” he commands in the village are all little boys
  • He has adult responsibilities in the village.
  • He hunts food with a spear
  • He has a special war club
  • When they get attacked, we see he’s a natural leader.
Strength / Flaw: Leadership qualities / Jerky

Tuesday, February 02, 2021

Believe Care Invest: The Simpsons

How insatiable am I for these things? I’ve started looking at some pilots where the hero is not clear and doing BCI for multiple heroes. We’ll start looking at a few of those today…

In the “Simpsons” pilot, Homer and Marge Simpson attend a Christmas pageant where their daughter Lisa does a torch dance and their son Bart gets in trouble for singing “Jingle Bells Batman Smells”. At home the kids present their Christmas lists and Homer hangs lights outside. They’ve saved up money for Christmas, but Bart gets a tattoo and they have to spend all the money removing it. Homer is told at work he won’t get a bonus this year, so he takes work as a mall Santa to afford Christmas. He gets paid only $13 and takes it to the track.

Why Homer might be hard to identify with: He has no patience for his kids’ Christmas pageant. He’s interviewing to be a mall Santa and they ask if he likes children: “What do you mean? All the time? Even when they’re nuts?” Takes his kids’ Christmas money to the dog track.

  • He has secret honor: He won’t admit he’s not getting a Christmas bonus and tries to take care of the problem by earning the money in secret.
  • He has universal envy of his neighbor.
  • His kids don’t respect him.
  • His neighbor’s Christmas display is better than his.
  • He gets shot at when stealing a Christmas tree.
  • Works extra hard, dedicated to family
Strength / Flaw: (Not really flip-sides) Hard-working and loves family / Buffoonish screw-up

Why Bart might be hard to identify with: Not much reason. He’s pretty awesome.

  • He gets a distinctive marking: a tattoo (then loses it)
  • He has a distinctive way of talking: “I’m Bart Simpson, who the hell are you?”
  • His sisters keep touching his tattoo removal spot.
  • His cat died.
  • He has poor parents, has to watch neighbor kids with more presents.
  • He’s rebellious.
  • He’s resourceful. He talks his way into the tattoo parlor to get a tattoo.
  • He’s brave: He accepts a dare to be the one who takes off Santa’s beard.
Strength / Flaw: Rebellious / Lawless

Why Lisa might be hard to identify with: She’s a goody two shoes

  • She has things she wants: She wants a pony
  • She has things she loves: She loves kiddie cartoons
  • Her cat died.
  • She’s told she can’t get a pony
  • Homer is her model of manhood.
  • We first meet her doing a Polynesian dance while waving torches: She’s pretty badass.
  • She’s clearly the smartest.
Strength / Flaw: Precocious / annoying

Monday, February 01, 2021

Believe Care Invest: 30 Rock

Okay, guys, I know you’re thinking, “It’s nice that Matt’s posting every day, but damn there’s been a lot of these. When will it end?” The answer is “No time soon.” The book is due in 28 days. I’ve got a first draft done (which I won’t submit), but it just doesn’t have enough examples in it. I’m mentioning the same things over and over. I had thought about asking you guys to crowd-source some specific examples I need, but I figured that no, first I just need more examples, then I can crowd-source, possibly after the second draft has been sent in on March 1st. So you’ll get another month of BCIs, probably.

Liz Lemon is in line at a hot dog stand outside the titular building when a businessman breaks in line. She buys every hotdog so he can’t have one, then hands them out on the street. Most people who get one throw it away angrily. She then goes to work, meets with her writers, then gets called up along with her co-worker to Pete to meet their new boss Jack.

Why Liz might be hard to identify with: The first skit that we see that she wrote is making fun of a woman (played by Jenna in a fat suit) for being “overly confident and morbidly obese”! Then she’s told she’s in trouble because she said in a skit that Michael Jackson has a vagina. Her comedy hasn’t aged well!

  • Big personality: She buys every hot dog.
  • She has beliefs: You know how I hate it when people cheat or break rules?
  • Interestingly, she’s not wearing her glasses in most of the pilot, which takes away a key talisman of her character. One suspects that that was studio meddling.
  • Nobody of the tourists clap for her even when Kenneth the page asks them to.
  • Jack insults her clothes right away, then makes assumptions about her life: “New York, third wave feminist, college-educated, single and pretending to be happy about it. Overscheduled, under-sexed, you buy any magazine that says ‘healthy body image’ on the cover, and every two years you take up knitting for …a week.” Pete says, “That is dead on!”
  • He wants to apply the rules of ovens to TV. “I’m the new vice-president of East Coast television and microwave oven programming.” About his office, “sometimes you have to change things that are perfectly good just to make them your own.” She realizes this applies to her show as well.
  • She feels like the sky is falling, and then drywall falls on her head.
  • Outsmarts the businessman who broke in line.
  • Holds her own with Jack. He says, “I like you. You have the boldness of a much younger woman.”
Strength / Flaw: Strident / off-putting