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Unfortunate Events in a Series

Last week was a series of unfortunate events.
Also, I watched A Series of Unfortunate Events on Netflix.
My personal set of unfortunate events were primarily due to jury duty. Despite being number 55 in the jury pool, I still ended up on the jury for the entire week. To make matters worse, the case was aggravated sexual assault against a child. To make it even worse, I was the alternate juror.
Alternate juror = worst job in the world. It means you have to sit through the entire trial with the jury, but then when the jury goes to deliberate, you have to sit outside and wait. You have no voice, no input. Unless, of course, one of the “real” jurors has a sudden heart attack, or something.
Because I’m self-employed and my work is deadline-based, I also had to keep up with my regular work every evening after jury duty. As I said, it was a series of unfortunate events.
And that brings me back to Netflix. I don’t know why I chose to start watching A Series of Unfortunate Events, but as it turned out, it was the perfect antidote to the real-life ugliness I was being forced to hear about during the day.
lemonysnicket-01112017.jpgI had not read the books and knew very little about this series prior to the Netflix show. Some, I know, have criticized it for being too dark, especially for a children’s story. But Patrick Warburton is narrating, and Neil Patrick Harris is the villain. I could watch it just for those two reasons.
In this story, for those who don’t know, a trio of children go through a continuing saga of bad things happening to them and those around them. The humor is dry and dark throughout, beginning with the theme song, in which Harris warns everyone to go watch something else.
As a writer, I have to make one big observation about this series. It’s really no different from what all fiction writers do… just more honest about it. Face it. As fiction writers, we put our characters through horrible things to see how they come through it, what it says about their character, etc. And because it creates drama. In stories that continue over long arcs, whether a book series, or comic book title, or “long-form television” (as Count Olaf describes it, while glancing at the camera), the protagonists experience a continuing series of bad things. When has anything of lasting good ever happened to Peter Parker, for example? How often has Batman had to fight the Joker? How many times does Hiccup have to fight bad dragons or Vikings? How many murders take place in Santa Barbara?
All fiction is a series of unfortunate events. Most of the time, of course, there are some good things that sort of resolve the bad things. Count Olaf’s repeated defeats are good things, even if they don’t last.
The big key to all of this, usually, is the happy ending. But that’s a topic for another blog post.
I’ve never read any literary commentary on A Series of Unfortunate Events, but I can’t help feeling that the author, in addition to all the other humor, is subtly mocking fiction writing at large. That is quite all right. We could use it. And for me, this week, it was exactly what I needed.


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1 Comment

  1. Great post and well written! Mind dropping a follow at http://www.tvandcity.com ? We’re a new site trying to gain traction.

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