Friday, May 18, 2007

Funny pathos vs cheap trick pathos- Ralph has remorse

If there's one thing I can't tolerate in movies and TV it's fake forced contrived pathos.

Animation features and some live action directors use the cheapest methods to make you cry. Sad music, gloomy staging, a certain cutting technique and contrived story points. ET for Christs's sake.

Disney had the best method: shoot or torture your Mom. What kid won't cry if they see the main character's Mother get gunned down? What a dirty trick to play on kids!

Using cheap tricks like these gets you critical acclaim: "Wow that cartoon made me cry! It must be brilliant! Much better than those shitty little funny cartoons that make you feel good."

I purposely made a cartoon that used some filmic tricks to make people cry just to show that it's not hard to do it.
And I didn't have to shoot anyone's Mom either. I made people cry over the fact that Stimpy couldn't fart for a second time. I went out of my way to make the story have the most preposterous plot events in it-everything to undermine the seriousness of Stimpy's depression.

Besides the mood tricks, I relied heavily on Stimpy and Ren's acting-the drawings of their expressions and their interactions. A lot of films will ignore this part of the pathos recipe. They rely on the filmic tricks and contrived story points.

I'm all for funny pathos. Jackie Gleason was a master at funny pathos. He would soften his character by showing Kramden in remorse after he spent the rest of the show being a complete asshole-like every real guy!

Remorse is the funniest man emotion. All men do bad things, even good men. But the sign of a good man is that he feels guilty about it afterwards and that's when man is at his most vulnerable and funniest.

Jackie Gleason doesn't need sleazy films tricks to get his pathos across. He does it all with his great acting. He makes you laugh at the same time you have a lump in your throat.

"Pardon My Glove" (1956)


Mr. Semaj said...

I purposely made a cartoon that used some filmic tricks to make people cry just to show that it's not hard to do it. And I didn't have to shoot anyone's Mom either. I made people cry over the fact that Stimpy couldn't fart for a second time. I went out of my way to make the story have the most preposterous plot events in it-everything to undermine the seriousness of Stimpy's depression.

It obviously worked. Son of Stimpy earned the show its second Emmy nomination.

Besides, it was a better Christmas tale than the Yaksmas episode.

PCUnfunny said...

I have felt more sorrow for Daffy Duck losing at the end of "Duck,Rabbit,Duck" or Ralph Cramden missing the first question on "The $99,000 Answer" then Bambi's mother getting shot ro Mufasa being killed. I can't feel sorry for characters who don't have a single shred of personality.

Robert Pope said...

Hands down, the finest example of Kramden pathos is in "Pal O' Mine," when Ralph gets told that Norton was hurt in the sewer. Gleason's subdued anxiety and remorse are subtle and sledgehammer at the same time.

Jeff Read said...

I have just 3 words to say:

"Feed the Kitty"

JohnK said...

That's a great cartoon!

murrayb said...

lots of pathos in chuck jones' "feed the kitty".The facial expressions are genius!

It really tugs the heart strings when the mom hands marc anthony that pussyfoot shaped cookie. I wonder how many kids chuck made cry with this one?

Kali Fontecchio said...

Ren's attempt at making Stimpy feel better makes me tear up. YUP, that's right, I'm a pussy.

Anonymous said...

I'm surprised John likes "Feed The Kitty.

Sometimes I think John sneaks lies into his comments to see if we're critically viewing things for ourselves or just parroting what he says without thinking about the logic behind it. Like a test.

But I like Feed The Kitty, too. I also like Fantasia, even the "simpllistic" morality of Night on Bare Mountian/Ave Maria

When I first saw "Son of Stimpy" two weeks ago, it never occurred to me that it was a parody of pathos. I thought it was supposed to be a genuine story with a gross twist. But I must admit, the scene where the fart says he has to go off by himself felt unsincere to me, almost ironic.

Roberto González said...

I agree with pcunfunny. I felt more sorrow for those characters who have a certain personality. I don't really mind tricky pathos too much if the characters are good. I totally bought Son Of Stimpy as sincere and not as a parody (and the "tricks" you used reminded me more of a classic movie than the Spielberg-like-blockbuster emotional scenes, anyway). Actually Son Of Stimpy is one of the best Ren and Stimpy eps ever IMO.

In The Simpsons or Futurama they eventually have really good emotion combined with some funny dialogue. Sometimes they have this cheap tricks, similar to Disney's, but I buy it cause I already like the characters.

There are stories in which the dramatic part seems more natural, though, I think the last scenes in The Iron Giant were not really "filler", it was something related to the plot and it was an action-scene climax as well.

But yeah, there's nothing like a character you can relate to, like Looney Tunes characters, to understand their emotions and feel sorrow for them. That's why I never understood why Disney uses the secondaries as a comic relief to the prince and princess, I wouldn't mind if somebody kills the main characters, but I would feel more sorrow if they do something to the comic animal. That's another reason why I like The Great Mouse Detective, the main character was not perfect and was a little comical in its own way, he had a personality and you could relate to him.

Now, Pixar and others are using comic animals or creatures as main characters. At first I thought this was a progress. However the comic characters eventually inherited the prince/princess' characteristics and they will act like them in the dramatic/romantic situations, something you will never buy. Shrek is perfect example of this, it's supossed to be a nasty, ugly jerkass character, then he is totally gay and polite when he's in love with the princess. Yeah, they add a couple of dirty jokes in a desperate attempt of keeping him in character, but most of his lines are totally Disney's hero dialogue.

I still think it's a progress, though. Even in the old Disney movies, I usually prefer the ones in which the main characters are not the typical prince and princess. That's another thing, 90s Disney would use prince and princess formula for every story, some of the old Disney movies, like Dumbo, Pinocchio, Song Of The South, Alice In Wonderland...didn't have prince and princess there, and they don't have a romance either. And those are usually my favourite ones. In the 90s it was the prince/princess formula (I might be wrong but I recall versions of Aladdin's tale that didn't mention a romance between Aladdin and the princess?). Now, it's the buddy movie formula. They did it in Toy Story, so everybody is doing that now.

smackmonkey said...

I loved the acting in Son of Stimpy. (Preface - I hope I'm not confusing this with a different R&S cartoon. Short term memory loss is a practiced art and necessary defense mechanism when working in this business.) When Ren tries to wheedle a smile out of Stimpy and he responds with a hunched shoulder and a plaintive "Ehhhh..." I nearly crapped myself. While I had never seen anyone actually respond that way to anything I instantly new what Stimpy was feeling. It was as if he was a hundred years old and even Ren's hot breath caused him pain. Sort of a self indulgent malaise where he couldn't even muster the strength to off himself when all he really wanted was some tender sympathy. Genius.

Good acting, like all other important aspects of the animation medium, is both difficult and costly. It's a shame all the money gets spent on crappy writing and doodad encrusted "realistic" characters who end up lifeless and devoid of humanity once on screen. Thanks for the great entertainment, John.

Anonymous said...

HA! "Feed The Kitty" IS great! Marc Anthony's tears always choked me up as a kid. fake pathos belongs in bad cop shows where just before going to commercial, they reveal a crappy plot twist and we get a close-up of the main characters fake, supposedly emotion-filled, eyes.

Jeff Read said...

Damn straight it was a great cartoon. Back when TNT showed old Warner toons (instead of The Terminator over and over and over), I saw "Feed the Kitty" and it broke my heart. I must have been 12 years old. All these years later it still makes my lip tremble to think of it.

About the same time Full House was on. Every episode seemed to end with the direct antithesis of that lovely Honeymooners scene. The special, "touching" music plays as Bob Saget goes into a sappy monologue about how he really loves Stephanie and worries about her and that's why he overreacted. And the sign in front of the studio audience that says "AWWWWWW" lights up and they go "Awwwwwww!" on cue. And then one of the Olsen monsters says something cute like "Me want owse cream!" Laughter and applause to credits roll.

Mr. Semaj said...

John might want to sight Shrek's Puss in Boots as another example of fake pathos. (The green ogre rises from the swamp tomorrow!)

NateBear said...

I think fake-thos may be the only sin greater than 'tude.

BTW I really love the painting ins this background:
It's brilliant the way the painter got that energetic swirling effect with that somewhat complex arrangement of figures.

John, do you know who drew/painted that one?

Ryan G. said...

I like the little bouncy mouse Ren uses to try and cheer up Stimpy with.

Thom said...

Great stuff, John! That Honeymooners clip is classic. Wish the directors would allow funny pathos like this in our movies. They only want melodramatic pathos, which is a lot less entertaining as you say. Thanks for demonstrating the difference.

A lot of animators also go on pathos binges and make insufferable short films on heavy subjects which earn them loads of kudos and even awards. It's almost as if we're embarrassed to be entertaining! We're so silly! Thanks, and keep up the good work.

Jim Rockford said...

I liked the scene where Stimpy is sitting in dark room vacantly staring into his reflection in the blank picture tube,that whole setup was great,the subdued colors and gloomy backgrounds as well as music,but the real genius was the facial expressions!
Ren coming in and trying to pull his pal out of his dark state,trying one thing after the other,(the litter box and catnip mouse were hilarious!)only to have Stimpy sullenly decline.
Oh,the funniest moment had to be when Stimpy shouted "IS THAT ALL YOU CAN THINK OFF"! at Ren.That had me in tears!

Eddie Fitzgerald said...

Good point! And the Gleason and R&S grabs were terrific!

Jim Rockford said...

There are very few comic actors that can pull the pathos thing off like Gleason,usually it just sucks the life right out of the show and drags on far too long.
As John K. had pointed out Jerry Lewiscouldnt do pathos,but he had a chaplin complex and felt he had to inject it into his act to add dimension to his characters in an attempt to be taken more seriously as an actor.(ego again)
A perfect example of this is his first solo film after the breakup with Dean "the delicate delinquent",the pathos and singing killed the show,he should have just focused on what he did best..comedy,but every film he did after that had the same tear jerker scenes and the audience had to sit through it to get to the good stuff.The disorderly orderly had some really funny sight gags but you had to put up with his constant emotional undertone and flip flop between the crazed nut and the poor boy who just wants to do good but is always downtrodden no matter how good his intentions.
Again,I am not saying that pathos when done correctly doesnt have its place,but generally speaking most cant pull it off skillfully and its added for no other reason that filler,or as a bid to earn
the audiences or critics sympathy
and be taken more seriously.
Soldier in the rain is an example of such a comedy with pathos that was very skillfully pulled off,but then it did have Gleason and McQueen in it!

The GagaMan(n) said...

My all time favorite R&S episode, without a doubt. The getting-people-to-cry-elements certainly worked here, despite the ridiculous concept! The acting in this short was up there with that classic scene in Sven Hoek episode as the absolute high points in the series for me.

fandumb said...

Your episodes have the most powerful scenes of pathos I've ever seen, and those scenes come from situations that we can all relate to.