Classic storylines & sources

The latest episode of Life With Althaar (which you should be listening to!) was at least in some part inspired by a comment I made when they made a “suggest something – we might use it” tweet.

I said “you should do a Rashomon episode.”

And they did.

I didn’t have to explain what I meant because, while it’s not as famous as some, the film Rashomon embodies a well-used and versatile storyline: An event happens and each character involved tells their own version, aggrandizing or changing their own part in it, and only after all sides have been seen can one unravel the truth. (Rashomon is a classic of Japanese cinema and well worth watching.)

I first noticed the use of the Rashomon plot in a sitcom in (le sigh) an episode of Diff’rent Strokes, of all places. The episode with Mister T guest starring, if I remember correctly.

So what are some other famous movie/play/story plots that get used a lot and can be identified by the original title alone? Easy to start with the classics:


Romeo & Juliet – perhaps the single most abused storyline ever (it wasn’t even original to old Billy). Two people whose respective families/gangs/cheerleading squads are opposed to one another fall in love and must fight against them to be together.
Spoiler alert – they usually die.

Twelfth Night – a girl dresses like a boy for protection, to infiltrate, or to prove a point, and a girl falls in love with “him”, much to his chagrin, as “he” is falling in love with his (male) boss/team leader/etc. The girl in boys’ clothes may or may not have a brother who looks a lot like her and who ends up with the other lovelorn girl.

The Comedy of Errors – even when we don’t really know what the story is, we often use this phrase to describe things, but CoE is all about two pairs of twins – 2 masters and their 2 identical servants – who don’t realize they’re in the same town, and keep getting entangled in crazy mishaps where a woman or a creditor thinks they have hold of the right one, when they don’t.

Macbeth – a man encounters a fortuneteller who predicts he will get a promotion – when it happens, he goes back for another prediction and his wife makes him do awful things to make the prediction come true.

Othello – a high powered man who suffers from imposter syndrome has a beautiful wife and a shithead best friend. The friend is jealous of the leader and the time he spends with his wife and sets out to break them up (and destroy his friend) through subtle (and deniable) lies and half truths.

Other classics:

Cyrano de Bergerac – a man who perceives himself as undesireable facilitates the romance of the woman he loves with another man, since he would rather see her happy than face her with his own love and take the damage of her rebuff. MUST involve letters written to her and a scene where the other man cannot manage to speak properly and the main must whisper in the darkness to the object of his love, thus having one chance to be true.

Another classic category that has been mined is CLASSIC FAIRY TALES:

Cinderella – a woman in disguise flees a party, leaving behind a clue of some kind that leads a man who has fallen in love with her to her home, where she is a servant or poor, and makes her a princess.

(not sure what to call it, but definitely a fairy tale of some kind) – where the main character is basically in fetch quest hell – he needs item A, but to get item A he has to talk to person A. Person A wants item B in trade, and the main must go to person B, who of course wants item C in trade for item B, and so on, until the cat has to take the nuts to the squirrel to get the apple for the duck to trade for the lily plant, or some such crap.

Other movie or story types that show up in many forms:

Rashomon (noted above)

Twelve Angry Men – A jury or group of people who are deciding the fate of an accused man begin with the assumption that the accused is guilty and slowly work their way to realizing that he is innocent, and they were ready to hang him just because of their prejudices.

The Monkey’s Paw – a story of three wishes, where the wishes go very, very wrong.

The Gift of the Magi – a poor couple at Christmas want to buy each other presents, and each sells something ironic to do so. In the original O. Henry story, the husband sells his watch to buy the wife a lovely hair comb, while she sells her hair to buy him a new watch chain. (In Emmet Otter’s Jug Band Christmas – the first place I noticed this plot variant – I think Emmet sold his guitar to buy his mother a new washboard and the mother sold her washtub to buy him some guitar strings, or something like that.)

And of course, one that’s almost as common as Romeo & Juliet:

A Christmas Carol – a miserly old man is visited on Christmas night by four ghosts who are determined to show him the error of his ways by showing him how much he used to like Christmas, and how he will die alone, if he doesn’t change.

and many many more…..

Published in: Uncategorized on September 25, 2020 at 7:08 pm  Leave a Comment  

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