Fighting in Fiction

April 9, 2017

I've noticed an evolution in fighting, whether it be fist-fights or fire-fights, on television and in movies. Gone are the days of a one-shot, awkward exchange of blows that one might've seen in the 1960's or 1970's. Of course, there is the exception of Kung Fu movies and some martial arts films with Jackie Chan or something boxing related where a full shot of the opponents doing their "dance" is portrayed with extreme accuracy. Besides them, in todays detective and FBI shows, I've noticed a masterful editing process of close ups, different angles, dark shadows, and split-second strikes that in reality would never take place. Half the time, you can't tell what the hell is happening. I try not laugh out loud when I see the good guy get the drop on the bad guy holding a gun on them from five feet away.


But if we're force-fed these bad fight scenes, these ridiculous shoot-outs where they can pin-point their aim when it suits their needs, but miss the target when it really counts, well, I guess we can just sigh and rationalize that everyone is cooking this way now.


Books are an entirely different story. As a reader, we can take in the author's scene, filter any minor implausibility into a working narrative. It is much different to view on the television a man getting the best of five other men in a bar fight than it is to read about it. Our imagination will fill in the fighting style, the punching, ducking and kicking. We are not imagining fifteen different angles of five inept brawlers getting the shit kicked out of them by a super fast ninja-style good guy.


I watched Huck from SCANDAL get shot three times in an apartment (one in shoulder, two in torso, I believe), get put in a trunk of a car, get driven into a quarry, then hold his breath, break a window while under water and swim up to the surface, then make his way to the shore, and oh, by the way, then pull the other body back to shore before finally lying down because he couldn't go on anymore. Jesus. But, hey, considering the other crap they pull off on that show and others, the suspension of disbelief is already off the charts.


Being devil's advocate, I have to admit that a novel can do many outrageous things, too, but in the novel, the author gets to explain so much more. Once you're "inside" the book, the world has been created and you trust the author to take you places. The author can paint the "Huck" scene in a more believable reality. Maybe it's the detail, maybe it's the reader's investment in the story, maybe it's explaining the biology of blood loss, bullet missing vital organs, adrenaline, I'm not sure I have an answer. Maybe someone reading this blog might have an idea (please comment if you do).


Ah, but in prose, in a paragraph, we can visual our protagonist doing something in one take - in one "mind-shot" and smile at his or her success instead of rolling your eyes. Maybe television and the big screen might evolve back to the fight scenes that happen in one take, showing the reality of a punch actually hurting the hand of the puncher. Maybe they'll show that a trained FBI agent will shoot someone they're aiming at before they manage to get tackled by a charging bad guy. I'm tired of saying to my wife, "There's no way that would happen."


Okay, I guess this was more of a bitch-session than anything else, and I think I might've pissed off some Scandal fans.

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