Educated Characters

Stupid characters are fun to write.  They’re easy to write too, an easy target, they never really seem in on the joke.  It’s sort of a way for the audience to feel good about themselves.  At least we’re not as stupid as that!  But, putting aside the usual Pollack joke racism and dumb blond sexism, I think that anyone who cherishes the education that they got, owes it to the world to spread the word that education is good.

It’s not that hard to write a smart character.  I often write characters that are smarter than I am.  Characters, even dumb ones, are more articulate than me: they always know what to say because I wrote it for them.  An educated character uses the right word.  If I can’t think of that word, I have a thesaurus to help me.  I’m not above looking up a quote or a poem and have my character recite it from memory.  I know a few quotes and poems, so it’s not unnatural to me that someone might know more.

An educated character doesn’t have to be an intellectual.  A college degree doesn’t mean that you go around spouting Yeats.  But educated people think things through.  They have an idea of how the world functions and the history of events leading up to the present.  Educated people move this world forward, and I expect my characters to do some of that too.  When a dumb person, like Forest Gump, or a child, spouts off some little nugget of wisdom in a film, it is so phony it makes me sick.  Does anyone really believe that simple truths are discovered by simple people?  Apparently, uneducated people do think that, or at least they are willing to suspend their disbelief for two hours.

There are entire sectors of this country that have decided that educated people think they are better than them and are therefore worthy of their contempt.   Hollywood films have to reach across borders, not just educations, to get to the broadest audience possible.  They avoid anyone with intelligence for fear that a character like that might not appeal to the masses, or that the language won’t translate.

I’m not a person that believes that films are lessons for peoples’ lives – I don’t think drinking in a film makes anyone drink in real life, or violence in films makes people violent – so I’m not saying that the reason characters should be educated is to influence someone to get educated themselves, although that would be great if it did.  But I live in a world of educated people, and I’d like to see a little more of that reflected in the films I see.


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