Thursday, May 3, 2012

TODAY'S NUGGET: The Americanization of Emily (1964) - Blow & Pop of Satire

[Quick Summary: A cowardly American Naval officer & "dog robber" falls for a patriotic, female British chauffeur but their opposing views on the war is problematic.]

Paddy Chayefsky came up with the idea of writing this as a black satirical comedy on a plane to NYC.

What is satire? Glad you asked.

Satire (n.): A literary work holding up human vices and follies to ridicule or scorn.
Easy enough, but how do you actually write satire?

Chayefsky did it by juxtaposing ridiculousness with reality.

Let's see how he ridicules the hype of war:

ex.  EMILY'S HOME, LIVING ROOM

MRS. BARHAM: Emily, well, I must warn you. Charlie's picture is in all the papers, and they're going to build a monument on his grave.

[Reality: Charlie, the coward, is being celebrated as a hero.]

EMILY (studying the Globe): What on earth for? All he did was die. Dear me, we shall be celebrating cancer and automobile smash-ups next.

[Ridiculousness: This is stupid.]

CUMMINGS: He didn't just die, Emily! He sacrificed his life!

[Reality: Charlie is the war's next poster boy.]

MRS. BARHAM: Well, that was very pagan of him.

[Ridiculousness:  Who does that help? Warmongers?]

CUMMINGS: He was the first American to die on Omaha Beach.

[Reality: This is a PR dream!]

EMILY: Was there a contest?

[Ridiculousness: What kind of contest are you running?]


WHAT I'VE LEARNED: One recipe for satire is to blow up a balloon with human vices, then pop it with ridicule.

The Americanization of Emily (1964)
by Paddy Chayefsky
Adapted from the novel by William Bradford Huie

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