Casual Causality

Some unrelated recent incidents got me thinking about the nature of narratives and plot structure in life. Which I will tell you about in a rambling post, so apologies in advance.

Sunday evening, I had a crippling headache come out of nowhere and knock me out. It was so bad I thought I was going to be sick if I even moved. In between bouts of trying to breathe in a pain-free manner, it made me think about the fact that, if this were a film, this would be a sign that I was going to die by the end of the movie. It wouldn’t have to be a big headache in the film – just a little one every so often – and it would be a death certificate, probably due to a brain tumour, or a massive embolism. Obviously, this didn’t make me feel any better about the headache …

A method I use to try and distract my head from the pain is to watch a brainless action movie. In this case, War, with Jet Li and Jason Statham. I didn’t know it was rubbish – I like Jet Li but unfortunately he is no guarantee of quality – but I thought it would suffice. The most annoying aspect of the film was the action film cliché of ‘killing the wife/girlfriend/child as incentive for ensuing violence’. I have watched so many films that I have become inured to it, but watching them with my girlfriend – who quite rightly gets offended by this – has made me more sensitive to this. It reminded me of the Women In Refrigerators in comic books – the nature of dramatic plots requires the hero to have an inciting event to initiate the quest and, unfortunately, dead girlfriends are an ‘easy’ way for lazy writers. I don’t know about you, but I would be completely devastated if something so horrible was to happen – I wouldn’t, in the case of War (and I should notify SPOILER WARNING for a very average film that you won’t watch), have plastic surgery to make me look like a notorious assassin and develop preternatural martial arts and gun skills in order to exact revenge.

The final moment that got me thinking about story twists was a true story that you wouldn’t believe in a fiction. I was out the night after the headache with my girlfriend’s cousin (and my lovely girlfriend, of course), telling them about the fact that my mother only has the time to phone me when she comes over to visit my brothers (who have children, so I don’t bear a grudge towards a gran and her grandkids). At the exact moment the words ‘phone call’ have left my mouth, my mobile phone goes off. And it’s my mother. This is the honest truth. But only the people who were there will really believe it. Because such coincidences are not allowed to exist in a film or book or television programme. Or, at least, this is how I feel after consuming so many fictions. Anybody else have an episode that happened that nobody would believe?

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