Not Your Goddamn Cannon Fodder B Plot, Or the Dangers of Narrative Symmetry

So I’ve talked a bit about how many longstanding contemporary Western story telling traditions need to go because they inevitably continue to erect systems of oppression with these various devices.

One of these structures is the A plot B plot you see in a lot of television (not all television, mind, but enough that it starts to grind my bones).

This is basically where you have your OverArching A Plot Where Big Important Things Happen, and then you have the secondary B which usually ends up being a metaphor for the Shiny Happenings of the A Plot.

This can take a couple forms — usually in filler episodes, the A plot will be the point of the episode whereas the B plot points towards the overarching theme of the season itself — Heart in SPN is a good example of this:

A plot: Werewolf killing people let’s go hunting.

B plot: oh no the werewolf is Madison and oh no she and sam have a connection because Sam is also a monster who does not want to die but oh no Dean might have to kill Sam just like Sam ends up killing Madison and suddenly, instead of being a person in her own right, Madison is suddenly a metaphor for what could happen to Sam.

She ultimately becomes Sam’s Narrative Accessory.

what’s the problem with this — beside the whole agency and personhood etc

a lot of the times, the players of the B plot are already marginalized in some way—their being cast as the players of the B plot only serve to continue that marginalization because they’re never good enough to actually be protagonists in their own right—their value is only seen in how they can make a point or demonstrate a drama of the main character’s lives.

Once their point has been made, they disappear literally never to be seen or heard from again except, maybe if they’re lucky, in passing reference to grace note, yet again, the main character’s life.

So Madison dies to provide fuel to up Sam’s angsty stakes, while Sam inevitably lives and continues be a protagonist in his own story These characters are literally erased for somebody else’s (the protagonist’s) personhood.

The A plot/B plot is so standard in a lot of story telling dynamics i’m not even sure how to begin uprooting it. But I think a good start would be to think twice about how you use your B plot.

Maybe, instead of having it be your B plot, you switch it up and make it the A plot instead. 

Hmmm. Think how different your stories would be.

06.04.13 /  15 notes
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