Extracting the Signal from the Noise

Over on Twitter today, I linked to three of the seven parts of an analysis of the Phantom Menace that was posted over on YouTube, and which I initially found on /Film:  70-Minute Video Review of Star Wars: The Phantom Menace.

The reason I didn’t link to all seven videos? I didn’t want that to be the main thing I linked to today.

Some folks retweeted it and seemed to enjoy it… others were put off by the video’s… odd tone.

Which I totally understand.

How should I explain this tone?


Okay, you know the serial killer guy in Silence of the Lambs?

Not Hannibal Lector, but the other guy? The “It puts the lotion on its skin / or else it gets the hose again.” guy?

Yeah. Him. Imagine if that guy, in between skinning girls to make a woman-suit, sharply and insightfully analyzed all the (multiple) failings in Phantom Menace… and periodically went off his meds.

That’s the video. It even sounds just like him.

It’s not to everyone’s taste.

The problem is, the insight is really good. It’s really useful, from the point of view of story construction and character building and even the use and purpose of cool-ass fight scenes.

But can I legitimately recommend a video like this to someone when I know the humor might be distasteful?

Yeah, I probably can. I’m sorry if the humor is not funny to you, or it goes over the line, but dammit, the analysis is too sharp to ignore. I always knew I didn’t like Phantom Menace, but I’d never put a lot of brainsweat into why. Thanks to this guy – his fucked-up sense of humor notwithstanding – I understand why, and I take away tools I can use to make my own stories better.

I guess I just have to remind myself it’s a joke. It’s part of the ‘brand’, maybe, and that’s his choice, but it’s also his problem – I’m just focusing on the useful signal. Sometimes I have to ignore the joke.

I mean, we all know Chuck’s not actually gaining carnal knowledge of vegetable or animal produce, right? We know Warren Ellis isn’t boiling hookers and shooting their cerebral juices into his femoral artery, yes?

Maybe this guy jumps over the line here and there. Fine. Yes. Not every joke is funny. Fuck knows I scratch my head at some people’s idea of humor sometimes, and at the twitter retweets that link back to my site with a parenthetical “Warning: NSFW”.

Really? Where the fuck do you work? I’ve known pastors that swear more than me.


If you really can’t stomach the meat because of the seasoning, I’ll try to summarize the guy’s points, below.

But I still think you should check out the video.

  1. Keep people around who will push back on your work and force you to make it better… or just make sense.
  2. People need to care about your protagnist – someone you can identify with – especially if you’re writing genre stuff. Get really basic. People should be able to:

    “Describe the character without saying what they look like, what kind of costume they wore, or what their profession/job is.”

  3. ACTION: in part two of the video, the guy’s analysis of what the first scene of the original movie conveys is brilliant.
  4. You might be able to skip part three, because it’s JUST about the movie’s plot holes. So’s part four and five.
  5. “Welcome to Coruscant, Home of the Mid-air Collision.” Heh.
  6. Part Six: five minutes in. What Fight Scenes Do.

    “When you’re worked up with emotion […] you expose your humanity a little.”

    Temptation, revelation, anger, redemption.

    “Lightsaber duels have less to do with the fight, and more to do with the characters.”

    “We need a deeper meaning to things.”

  7. Part Seven: the Ending Multiplication Effect — the simpler endings have more force and interest because we can focus on the important elements and the story.

So… yeah. The summary doesn’t really do the points justice. Not really.

I completely agree if you found the noise ratio too high to get anything out of the signal. Okay. I respect that. This is, I suppose, simply my explanation of why I chose to to the recommend the thing anyway.

(Also: I’m a huge Star Wars fanboy. There’s that too.)