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If I ever get a novel published, and it gets turned into a movie, I hope Sofia Coppola is on the short list of directors. I just watched Marie Antoinette and loved it. I gather it really didn't work for some people, putting '80s music to the glitz of the Versailles court, but to me it was something new, thank God, and anyway I loved the music, so I couldn't complain. The Cure's "Plainsong," finally in a film! And how can I not love a director who intentionally had a rakish character costumed to look like Adam Ant? (He did, too. Yum yum.) Also, refreshingly, no beheadings. It's enough to know they're on the horizon, really. No need to splash blood all over the gorgeous costumes. I say "refreshingly" because I also lately watched and enjoyed Elizabeth I, which again I was destined to love because of my softness for both Jeremy Irons and Hugh Dancy. But jeez, beheadings and drawn-and-quarterings much?

Anyway, well done, young Coppola. She seems to have taken the writing advice "Write the book you want to read," translated here to "the movie you want to see."

Speaking of writing--I'm going to veer off and rant a little about character naming conventions. My feminist streak may emerge. You may want to look away.

I read some writing advice somewhere (I wish I remembered where) that suggested giving your characters names that were easy to say, with no more than two or three total syllables for the men and four or five for the women. Neato, we get more syllables! Uh...why? Wait a sec, are multiple syllables "girly"? "Dirk Pitt" is an awfully manly and curt name, after all, while "Scarlett O'Hara" takes its pretty time to roll off the tongue. Hmmm.

Also, have you noticed that in certain types of novels--usually adventure novels, like Dan Brown's or Michael Crichton's among others--the men are always referred to by their last names, and the women by their first names? Why in the world is this the established style? When we have Dr. Jad Forke (you know, the ex-Navy SEAL who now teaches antiquities) and Dr. Tiffani Engelbright (you know, the 23-year-old nuclear physicist), why do we get usage like "Forke tossed the AK-47 to Tiffani"? (You know, I'm never gonna write adventure novels unless as farce or parody.)

Darn...I wish I had thought of these issues for my Linguistics thesis. Oh well. Someone else can take it and run with it.


( 14 comments — Leave a comment )
(Deleted comment)
Aug. 31st, 2007 07:22 pm (UTC)
Good point on the real life issues. Men do have a smaller array of first names, generally, so you get tons of Daves, Bobs, Jims, Tims, etc. It was similar where I used to work, though really almost everyone except the multiples were called by their first name only.

But writers almost never give two characters the same first name (Faulkner aside), and in any case it's only some types of novels that show this pattern. It seems--I hate to say it--to be the ones aimed for a male readership. More "literary" works and female-oriented fiction tend to go with all first names.

My linguistic theory is that using a first name implies familiarity. Usually it's okay for readers to feel familiar with the main characters--it's a good thing, in fact. But if you have a tough guy character, you don't want to give the impression that anyone gets too familiar with him. (Insert Chuck Norris joke here.) I may be way off, but I can't really think of any other good reason for the discrepancy.
Aug. 30th, 2007 11:05 pm (UTC)
I always assumed it had something to do with the military and sports conventions. Sports jerseys only have the last name on the back (and occasionally an initial); military uniforms also only show the last name.

Besides, since most people in the Western world get their last name from their father, it could be a way of perpetuating the paternalistic hierarchy, blah blah blah....
Aug. 31st, 2007 07:26 pm (UTC)
Female athletes and soldiers get called by their last names too, though, don't they? And anyway, in most types of fiction, it's more consistent: either all first or all last names, across the board.

My guess is that the use of the first name for a tough guy, in fiction aimed at men, would feel too "familiar," and for certain genres the publishers assume that their male readers want a Lone Ranger type who we can't get quite that close to. Women, though, are supposedly warmer and more approachable. Or something.
Aug. 30th, 2007 11:28 pm (UTC)
I adored Marie Antoinette.

Also, you simply have to see The Prestige if you haven't already. The Machinist was worth the watch just to see what Christian Bale is willing to do for a role. Beyond that Memento did it better. Zodiac was absolutely fantastic, but then again, it is a David Fincher film (Jake Gyllenhaal is at his Eagle Scout best while Robert Downey Jr. reaffirmed what I always believed about his acting chops). White Light/Black Rain is a documentary about the dropping of the Nuclear Bomb in Japan--it was by far the most horrifying thing I have watched in ages. It still haunts me.

Those are films I've seen lately that have left a lasting impression.

Aug. 31st, 2007 07:34 pm (UTC)
Thanks! I'll have to refresh the Netflix queue soon with some of those. I've always been soft on RD Jr too, for reasons I can seldom pinpoint.

I did see The Prestige recently, and began to understand why so many women swoon over Jackman and Bale. And Bowie as Tesla--got to love that! The plot was complex and original enough that I ended up reading movie message boards to make sure I had understood it right, after thinking it over for a few days. That's a good sign of quality writing.

I'll have to ask my dad if he's seen the bomb documentary. He's a retired prof of nuclear engineering, and did a special class once or twice about atomic energy as portrayed in films. (Pretty sure they showed Dr. Strangelove among more serious titles...)
Sep. 1st, 2007 12:25 am (UTC)
Jeepers! I didn't know that was Bowie as Tesla!

If you haven't read up on ole Nikki Tesla, he's a nifty subject. The "thing" with he and Edison that is used to underscore the conflict between the (Bale and Jackman) characters in the film is fascinating. I knew the widow of a fellow who did some research with Tesla in Colorado Springs, so I've always been interested in the "unusual" inventors of that time period.
Sep. 5th, 2007 05:43 am (UTC)
I thought of the film when I saw your mention of Russell in that post. :) I don't know many of the details of Tesla's work, but from that page, the movie came closer to the truth than I guessed. (Well, minus the "producing a clone" effect, of course...)
Aug. 31st, 2007 03:27 am (UTC)
YES. I've noticed that, and not just in adventure novels, either. Anywhere there are large groups of both men and women, the narrative voice will do that.

There was a Lisa Goldstein story (I forget the title, if you're interested it's the collection with the story about Sir Walter Raleigh) written with that in mind. "The real reason I wrote this story is because I wanted to call a female protagonist by her last name. In SF novels, the men are called Jones and Thompson and Hammerman, and the women are called Beth and Peggy Sue." She does it very well, too.

And don't even get me started on poetry anthologies that call male poets Whitman and Emerson and Lowell and call female poets Emily. *snarls* (There are no other female poets. If you only read major anthologies, you'd think Emily Dickinson was the only woman who wrote poetry ever.) "Miss Dickinson" I can just about handle. "Emily" makes me want to shout.
Aug. 31st, 2007 07:51 pm (UTC)
There are people who call Dickinson "Emily" in anthologies?? Ack. I move we start referring to Dickens as "Chuck". :)

To be fair, I usually see all characters being called by their first names in most types of fiction. But it seems like the stuff aimed at guys has the imbalanced pattern. Hmmm.
Aug. 31st, 2007 10:19 am (UTC)
In my 100k word (so far) would be novel, the two leads are both almost always referred to by their last names; but then, he's FBI and she's a detective, so it's sort of expected. No one ever refers to Scully as Dana.
Aug. 31st, 2007 07:52 pm (UTC)
True on Scully! Instinctively, I'd say that in certain more procedural-oriented fiction, like stories dealing with the FBI or police, it's all last names. Otherwise all first names. But then there's the imbalance in those few adventure type genres.
Sep. 1st, 2007 09:06 pm (UTC)
I'm so thrilled you liked Marie Antoinette! I thought it was fabulous, as well. Like a music video, almost. All the costumes were gorgeous and the sets were sumptuous (they actually filmed in Versailles a bit, I think!). And the desserts looked so yummy! I got pretty hungry while watching the movie. :-)
Sep. 11th, 2007 05:28 am (UTC)
Oh yes, forgot to mention the desserts! Scrumptious-looking. Mmm. I seem to recall that they did indeed film at Versailles and other significant locations. Got special permission. Very cool. Glad you share my esteem for this film!
Sep. 9th, 2007 07:38 pm (UTC)
Movie, director
Totally agree that it was a great film and covered the story very well--poor bored marie with nothing to do in that silly palace but play shepherdess. I'm looking forward to Sofia's next film. She's got an artist's eye for film, no doubt. Too bad the Austrians didn't rescue her. Nadine
( 14 comments — Leave a comment )