Below, you will find links for the 12 blog posts from Antagonist April:
Antagonist April: Week #1 – What is an Antagonist? – Part One
Antagonist April: Week #1 – What is an Antagonist? – Part Two
Antagonist April: Week #1 – What is an Antagonist? – Part Three
Antagonist April: Week #2 – Developing An Antagonist – Part One
Antagonist April: Week #2 – Developing An Antagonist – Part Two
Antagonist April: Week #2 – Developing An Antagonist – Part Three
Antagonist April: Week #3 – Antagonist Case Study #1, Veronica Corningstone (Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy)
Antagonist April: Week #3 – Antagonist Case Study #2, Paul Dreyfus (Dante’s Peak)
Antagonist April: Week #3 – Antagonist Case Study #3, Colm Doherty (The Banshees of Inisherin)
Antagonist April: Week #4 – Antagonist Writing Exercise: Do Your Own Case Study
Antagonist April: Week #4 – Antagonist Writing Exercises, Part One
Antagonist April: Week #4 – Antagonist Writing Exercises, Part Two
In several posts, I referenced a variety of sources when discussing antagonists. Below is a list of those books:
- Abrams, M.H. A Glossary of Literary Terms. Harcourt Brace, 1999.
- Dancyger, Ken & Jeff Rush. Alternative Scriptwriting. Focal Press, 2007.
- Edson, Eric. The Story Solution. Michael Wiese Productions, 2011.
- Egri, Lajos. The Art of Dramatic Writing. Simon & Schuster, 2004.
- McKee, Robert. Story. Harper Collins, 1997.
- Truby, John. The Anatomy of Story. Faber and Faber, 2007.
- Vogler, Christopher. The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers. Michael Wiese Productions, 1998.
I hope you enjoyed this adventure into antagonists as much as I did. Happy Writing, and I’ll see you in June!
It’s Antagonist April, and all this month, I’ll be doing a deep dive into those characters that give our heroes and main characters opposition to their goals. This week, we’ll analyze the roles of three antagonists in the films. Today, it’s Dante’s Peak.
ANTAGONIST’S NAME: Dr. Paul Dreyfus
RELATIONSHIP TO PROTAGONIST: Paul is Harry Dalton’s boss at the United States Geological Survey. He sends Harry on the assignment to check out the seismic activity around Dante’s Peak.
THE ANTAGONIST’S ARC:
- We’re introduced to Paul via answering machine, asking Harry Dalton for his opinion about “something in the Northern Cascades.” He orders him to “get down here as soon as you get this message,” which tells us he’s the boss in this dynamic.
- Once in the office, Paul tells Harry about “activity around Dante’s Peak.”
- These two scenes are the only ones we get with Paul for some time in the film. Our protagonist is now sent on his mission to see if there’s any voracity to the activity and if Dante’s Peak is in danger of eruption.
- Paul leaves the story at the seven-minute mark and returns around the 21-minute mark.
- After Harry sees a number of potential issues regarding the volcano, he calls for a city council meeting. In the middle of the meeting, while Harry asks them to consider “the possibility of an evacuation,” Paul shows up and takes Harry aside. Paul asserts his authority: “I sent you up here to have a look around, not to scare the city council.” After Harry explains why he made the decision, Paul continues to push back: “There are dozens of reasons that would account for what happened. Anything from a mild earthquake to a slight seismic shift, and not one of those reasons means that the mountain will blow up next week or next month, or the next 100 years.”
- While the city council opposes Harry’s proposition, Mayor Wando is on his side, making her an ally. Since Paul is Harry’s boss, his authority is given more weight by the city council when he reassures them that “if the time comes to call for an alert, if the time comes, it will be based upon scientific evidence, and not upon anyone’s opinion.”
- Paul has now publicly embarrassed Harry, dismissing his initial views and opinions about Dante’s Peak, which makes them even more at odds with each other. Paul’s role is to be skeptical of Harry, which is why he’s the story’s antagonist. He even tells the city council about previous evacuations that have ruined cities, which makes them even more upset toward Harry and the Mayor.
- When Paul runs into Harry at the local bar, Paul further explains, “Until you understand that there are delicate politics involved, not to mention economics, you’re only going to do these people more harm than good.” Paul once again asserts his authority and makes it clear to Harry who’s in charge now.
- When Harry and some of his team members are up on the mountain, they experience an earthquake, and a rockslide injures one of them. Paul is back at home base. When he reconnects with Harry, Harry makes it clear that they should put the town on alert. Ever the skeptic, Paul rebuffs him, telling Harry that he doesn’t “want to cause a panic over minor tectonic quakes.” Paul doesn’t want to scare everyone “over guesswork and hunches,” he then tells Harry, “Another 48 hours will tell the tale, and you get a grip.”
- The conflict between our hero and the opposition escalates further, their views on handling the situation vary widely. It’s important to keep in mind that Paul is Harry’s boss, which is why Harry doesn’t try and override him.
- After a week of no major activity from Dante’s Peak, Paul says, “first thing in the morning, we are out of here.”
- Paul’s opinions quickly change that final night when Harry appears at his hotel room and shows him “scientific evidence” that the town’s water supply is now contaminated by sulfur dioxide, which is “the same thing [Harry] saw in the Philippines on Mount Pinatubo before she blew.”
- Now shown proof that Harry has been right all along, Paul now works in tandem with Harry to figure out what to do next when it comes to evacuating the town. He even tells Harry to “call the mayor. Have her put the town on alert.”
- It should be noted here that had he listened to Harry in the first place, they could have avoided the chaos that eventually occurs (but that would make the film less exciting).
- Once the chaos begins, Paul attempts to reach Harry via radio, where he tells him: “Harry, listen. For whatever it’s worth, you were right and I was wrong. I’m sorry.”
- This is the last conversation between the two characters, and the antagonist admits defeat. The skeptic is now a believer on the hero’s side.
- Ultimately, Dante’s Peak was what Paul was skeptical about, so the eruption and aftermath cause Paul’s demise.
THE ANTAGONIST’S FATE: Paul’s attempt to save the van as the bridge breaks apart cause his ability to escape to safety untenable, and he washes away downriver (listen closely, and you can hear the classic Wilhelm scream when he falls into the water).
COMMENTS: Paul’s role as a skeptic questioning Harry’s finding around Dante’s Peak makes him the antagonist. Unlike Harry, he has to work within the politics of the job, ensuring not to cause unneeded alarm to the citizens and bureaucrats of the community.
Ultimately, his skepticism is found to be incorrect, and the resulting eruption of the volcano leads to death, destruction, and Paul’s demise.
Come back Friday as we look at the antagonist for the film The Banshees of Inisherin! See you then!
It’s Antagonist April, and all this month, I’ll be doing a deep dive into those characters that give our heroes and main characters opposition to their goals. This week, we’ll analyze the roles of three antagonists in the films, starting with Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy.
Let’s get started!
ANTAGONIST’S NAME: Veronica Corningstone
RELATIONSHIP TO PROTAGONIST: Veronica is initially seen by Ron Burgundy as a potential love interest, but he quickly finds out that Veronica will be part of his news team, which is a no-no in Ron’s male-dominated new world.
THE ANTAGONIST’S ARC:
- Ron first meets Veronica at a pool party, where his attempts to hit on her are met with her being wholly unimpressed and walking away.
- This sets up an awkward and sexist dynamic between Ron and Veronica before her position at the TV station is revealed.
- When Veronica arrives at the station and is introduced to everyone, the men – especially Ron’s news team – are not happy (“It’s anchorman, not anchorlady, and that is a scientific fact!).
- What makes this film such an interesting cultural satire is that the sexist men are seen as the film’s protagonists. In contrast, the woman is seen as the Opposing Force there to upset their established dynamic. If this were a drama, we would probably be following Veronica’s journey, and Ron would be the story’s antagonist.
- Veronica gives us insight into her mindset dealing with the sexism she faces at each station: “Women ask me how I put up with it. Well, the truth is, I don’t really have a choice. This is definitely a man’s world. But while they’re laughing and grab-assing, I’m chasing down leads and practicing my nonregional diction. Because the only way to win is to be the best. The very best.”
- We now know what Veronica’s motivation is regarding her career and why she’s willing to deal with the sexism that dominates her chosen field. Along with that motivation, we are shown her goal: “to be the best. The very best.” We know that Ron and his team are already beloved by San Diego – especially Ron – so what will Veronica have to do to achieve the same level of respect and love from the community?
- After being ordered to cover the story of a cat fashion show, which she is opposed to doing, she runs a gauntlet of sexist pick-up attempts by Ron’s news team. She handles each sleazy attempt with ease and uniquely rebuffs each man.
- It’s a nice run of scenes that shows that Veronica isn’t a woman who is easily distracted by or privy to their usual chauvinistic tactics. Here she shows that she is not a woman to be messed with and demands a level of respect that the men seem incapable of showing to her.
- It is Ron’s attempt to hit on her that causes a visceral reaction from Veronica. She makes it clear to him: “You are pathetic. This has to be the feeblest pick-up attempt that I have ever encountered. I expected it from the rest of them but not from you.” But Ron turns things around and gets Veronica to take a tour of San Diego with him.
- Both Ron and Veronica have differing motivations for this outing together, Veronica making it clear that it’s not a date, while Ron clearly thinks otherwise.
- [While it’s not a scene with Veronica, it is a scene of foreshadowing of what’s to come involving her and Ron. At the end of a newscast, someone accidentally wrote a question mark at the end of Ron’s outro, making him say, “I’m Ron Burgundy?” The station head makes a point to tell the control booth (and the viewer), “For the last time, anything you put on that prompter, Burgundy will read.”]
- The next set of scenes shows us that Veronica is better educated and more aware of the world than Ron is.
- Since she is the antagonist, it is important that she be more skilled and better equipped than the hero, which she clearly is. But he has the skill of playing the jazz flute that impresses her.
- In this scene, Ron reveals his life’s goal: “To one day become a network anchor.” And it seems that he and Veronica “share the same dream.” Now we know that the protagonist and antagonist have a similar goal, which means they will both eventually end up in conflict to achieve this goal.
- In the end, Ron and Veronica wind up sleeping together and going to Pleasure Town. Veronica clarifies afterward that “it’s very important that I be viewed as a professional” and that “we should keep it fairly quiet around the station.”
- Ron, of course, yells at the top of his lungs at the station the next day that “Veronica Corningstone and I had sex, and now we are in love!” and on the air when he tells the viewers, “we are currently dating and that she is quite a handful in the bedroom.”
- Both moments tee up Veronica’s anger toward Ron in the following scene, where she is upset about his declaration on the air. She is concerned about this hurting her goal to become a network anchor, fearing that people will only see her as Ron’s “bimbo gal pal.”
- Ron woos her back and earn her forgiveness. They remain a couple.
- In Ron’s sudden absence at the station, Veronica makes her case to the station head and demands to anchor the news. She gets her chance and nails it, resulting in a rift between her and Ron when he finds out. In his mind, her goal of becoming an anchor “was a joke,” which leads to their break up.
- This is a big moment in the story and when the conflict between Ron and Veronica really heats up. Now, they are at war with each other.
- Veronica is announced as co-anchor of the news, which infuriates Ron even more, causing his childish behavior to escalate against her. Luckily, Veronica overcomes his immaturity and continues to thrive.
- Veronica’s oppositional behavior toward the sexism in the office has a strong effect on the other women working there, which causes the men to become more frustrated with her. Veronica is not just an Oppositional Force in Ron’s life but a Change Agent against societal norms. Neither bodes well for our chauvinist hero.
- When Veronica demands to use the tape machine Ron uses to watch his Emmy acceptance speech, the two get into a fight in front of the entire newsroom. Her final insult against Ron telling him his hair looks stupid leads to a literal fight between the two.
- In the next scene, Helen asks Veronica if she’s ever considered “fighting fire with fire.” Then she proceeds to tell Veronica that Ron “will read anything that is put on that Teleprompter.”
- As we discussed, this was foreshadowed earlier to establish that this was true. Now, we see this insight possibly being used as a weapon by our antagonist against the hero.
- And that’s what Veronica does, sabotaging this Teleprompter and causing Ron to say, “Go fuck yourself, San Diego” instead of “You stay classy, San Diego.”
- It’s a huge blow against the protagonist by the antagonist, resulting in his immediate firing from the station and destroying his reputation in the city. For the time being, it looks like the antagonist has won.
- Veronica does regret what she did afterward. However, her sabotage still gets her to her goal of being the lead news anchor for the station.
- When the panda, Ling Wong, goes into labor at the zoo, Veronica goes to cover the story and ends up being pushed into the Kodiak bear paddock by a rival news anchor. Trapped and unable to yell for help out of fear of waking the hibernating bears, Veronica is eventually rescued by Ron, his news team, and Ron’s dog Baxter.
THE ANTAGONIST’S FATE: Veronica and Ron end up a couple once again, and she winds up co-anchoring the network news with him. Both achieve their goals.
COMMENTS: Veronica’s role as the antagonist in the story is clever. She’s not evil; she’s the opposition primarily because she’s a woman in a male-dominated field. This helps add to the conflict between her and Ron due to their office romance and her desire to anchor the network news.
Their fates ending up in the same place – as a couple and as co-anchors – shows the protagonist’s growth as a character and also shows that the antagonist has reached their goal as well. Both are happy at the story’s end.
Come back Wednesday as we look at the antagonist for the film Dante’s Peak! See you then!