Shocking revelations

Let’s get something out in the open. The biggest revelation in this article was not that Tom Cruise wanted custom nickel-plating and cherry-red paint on his motorcycle. It was this:

Oscar-winning screenwriter Paul Haggis got his start writing scripts for Scooby-Doo and other classic musty old cartoons!

I know this is the second post wherein I’ve mentioned Scooby-Doo. Lest I start to seem like some demented closet fan, I should explain that my attempts to learn the craft of writing have oddly coincided with my 5-year-old daughter’s discovery of the beloved talking-dog detective.

And those two events, happening in concert with one another, have set up an echo in my head… a maddening echo that I want to share with everyone… an echo that sounds like this: “Oh no, my glasses! I can’t see without them!”

It’s not that I like Scooby-Doo, but it has a strange negative fascination for me. For starters I love talking animals, and I love amateur detectives, and I’ve always been flummoxed how a show that incorporates both of those things could go so awfully wrong.

But there’s something else, something that incorporates a whiff of dated slang, a dash of “As you know, Bob,” a pinch of Captain Obvious. It’s that groovy dialogue!

The dialogue in old cartoons is not just bad. It’s bad in a certain workmanlike way that feels strangely indulgent. It accomplishes things you’re not supposed to accomplish in dialogue while speeding merrily on its way without a backward glance.

Let’s call it Boneheaded Dialogue. I think I may have coined this term myself (said with a wink of course), so let’s define it. Boneheaded Dialogue must either state something obvious about the scene, or gleefully telegraph an emerging (and probably also obvious) plot point. Sometimes it can even do both. Like this:

“Oh no, my glasses! I can’t see without them!”

“Gee, what a spooky place to run out of gas.”

“What would a ghost from outer space be doing reading the newspaper?”

I’ll be honest and say that my desire to stamp out Boneheaded Dialogue is at war with my equally strong, albeit perverse, desire to promulgate even more Boneheaded Dialogue for the next generation to enjoy.

I’ve committed acts of Boneheaded Dialogue in real life as well (although I suppose then it would be called Boneheaded Conversation). For example, I wish I could share the chirpy remark I dropped into contented silence at a dinner party the night Arturo Gatti was found murdered. But this isn’t a boxing blog.

My point being, I guess, go Paul Haggis! For moving up from that hardworking Scooby Doo dialogue all the way to an Oscar.

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