In a couple conversations which have come up now with my compatriot and co-Grimey, Nick, we’ve talked about what I think captures the essence of the difference between the underlying ‘dramatic’ concention and the underlying ‘comic’ convention.
It came up as we were discussing a movie–exactly which one it was escapes me now–which he had read a critic pan, not because of the merits of the story but because he didn’t like how the movie took characters and put them into situations instead of letting the situations evolve out of the characters. And that’s when I realized that the problem wasn’t that the movie was mature, necessarily, but rather that it was put together like a comedy instead of a drama.
And that’s just it. The comic convention is very typically to create a set of more or less rigid characters and put them in situations designed to exploit or contrast certain elements of their personalities. In a dramatic convention, however, the tendency is to let the characters make their own choices, and have the story be more dictated by those results.
Now, I don’t think either of those is actually a ‘correct’ choice. They are, as one of my professors would have said, what they are. They’re tools that when used, especially knowingly, create certain effects. That my generation seems to wildly prefer associating this ‘dramatic’ convention with quality to the point where they become almost exclusively correlative is something that I at once can’t deny and can’t entirely understand. I may not be a roaring fan of the Will Ferrell / Ben Stiller comic aesthetic, but I also think there are plenty of works that prove the validity of the comic convention as being every bit as respectable as the dramatic (Tom Robbins and Terry Pratchett both spring to mind as authors who frequently use the comedic convention in very mature and satisfying ways.).
It is what it is. Like with so many topics I can think of, I think that’s all you can say at the end. It is what it is.