Much Ado About Something

In which Amy Acker (and others) rocked Joss Whedon's kitchen
In which Amy Acker (and others) rocked Joss Whedon’s kitchen

My five blog readers might recall that I don’t get to the movies often, not as often as I’d like to.  Since I became a mother in 2007, I’ve been averaging fewer than one movie theatre trip per year.  (The last one I saw, I believe, was Beasts of the Southern Wild.)

Last night I saw Joss Whedon’s Much Ado About Nothing.  As a long time fan of all things Joss, I was expecting a lot.  But this film surpassed my high hopes.  I anticipated a romp, and plenty of Jossy humor.  I got those things, but what elevated the experience beyond my hopes was how stylish the production was, and how much depth it had.  The light and darkness of the story, illuminated in black and white filmmaking, were equally present and resonant.  I am not a purist about Shakespeare, nor am I a scholar, so I can’t catalog the liberties taken.  This in mind, I don’t mind adaptations, but please, let them make sense, and let them work.  This one did, and did.  Joss took liberties–gender-bending, reading sex into places that it might not naturally have been, but it worked.  The wine-at-all-hours, casual glitz garden party was such an escape, such a vacation from my everyday life which contains real things like gravity that I can still feel it in my bones as if I was there, hanging with that wit and language and drink, plot-twisting alongside those indie-iconic actors.  One layer of decadence for this fan was seeing where Joss lives–the film was shot at his home.  One imagines the proto-productions when King J. and his friends got together to read some Shakespeare.  (She typed, and swooned…)

(Ten years hence, one asks, Branaugh who?  Okay, that was a cheap shot.  Apologies.  I liked that film, too.)

On a larger level, I love how this film might introduce Shakespeare to people who haven’t gotten there yet.  It makes the play accessible, but not in a dumbed-down way.  To my eye, it makes the play sexy and relevant.  A shiny hipster debauch, once more, with feeling.  We could do much worse!  See if it you can.

One by one

Buffy made this when she was a kid.

A few years ago, Buffy said:

So here’s the part where you make a choice. What if you could have that power, now? In every generation, one Slayer is born, because a bunch of men who died thousands of years ago made up that rule. They were powerful men. This woman is more powerful than all of them combined. So I say we change the rule. I say my power, should be *our* power. Tomorrow, Willow will use the essence of this scythe to change our destiny. From now on, every girl in the world who might be a Slayer, will be a Slayer. Every girl who could have the power, will have the power. Can stand up, will stand up. Slayers, every one of us. Make your choice. Are you ready to be strong?

Cliches (Or why I don’t want to visualize beating a dead horse)

Although some people defend the use of well-worn metaphors (such as “beating a dead horse”) as common language we can all visualize and understand, clichés that turn up unintentionally in writing really bother me.

One of my goals in life is to scrub every cliché I encounter from my own writing, and from the writing of others.  I do use them in speech (when I talk) but even then, I try not to.  (It helps me not use them in writing if I avoid using them in speech; it’s a type of practice.)  There are exceptions, but in general: clichés are the lazy way.  It is HARD not to use clichés.  Clichés are like germs, or maybe viruses.  We read them everywhere, we hear them everywhere, and so they infect us and seep into our writing.  Work against this!  Join the fight to improve the written word!  Try to find better, more interesting ways to say things.  Or try simply omitting the clichés you find.  (There are usually too many words in most stories.)  Your reader will thank you.  I am always refreshed to read work that has few or no clichés.  It makes me know that the writer is taking the words (and the work) seriously.  If you use clichés, make sure you are CHOOSING them, that you are aware of them; make sure you are not just using them by default.  It’s possible to twist clichés around, which serves to illuminate the fact of using a cliché in a sort of ironic way.  For instance, Joss Whedon (creator of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”) performs this procedure regularly, and gets away with it well–but he is a sophisticated writer, and he is using the visual media of film and television, so he has an easier time indicating that he intends it to be ironic.  But in prose, why not choose something more interesting?

Here’s another thing to consider: Should your work some day be translated into another language, you show mercy to the translator by making your writing free of clichés.

How to recognize a cliché:  Usually, if there is a phrase or metaphor you have heard many times, it is a cliché.  When in doubt, go to:

CLICHÉ-SCRUBBING RESOURCES: Perhaps the largest collection of clichés online:

Grammar Girl: How to avoid using clichés:

According to Grammar Girl’s site:

“Good writers avoid clichés wherever they might lurk. Novelist and essayist Martin Amis said, “All writing is a campaign against cliché. Not just clichés of the pen but clichés of the mind and clichés of the heart.”

(I stole this excellent graphic from Wikipedia’s entry on cliches.)