On Absurd People Saying Absurd Things
Curiosity got the best of me today and I watched two episodes from the third season of the show Succession. It had been well over a year since I had seen the show and about five minutes into my first episode today I had the same thought as the last time I saw the show: the dialogue is completely absurd. It's nonsensical, disgusting, confusing, and unlike anything I've heard in film and TV. A significant amount of what is said between the characters is at best meaningless and at worst repulsive.
And so I wrestle with myself for a while wondering why this absolutely absurd show is so popular and what the writers are trying to do with it. And I stew. And I watch another episode.
Towards the end of my second episode I realized the obvious. All the characters in Succession are absolutely absurd. They're self-consumed, spiteful, and evil. Which in part makes them great and exciting characters to watch. When I was soliciting advice from an experienced person in my field recently I heard a phrase that at first seems obvious but we commonly need to be reminded of: "reasonable people come to reasonable conclusions". Now I give a corollary to the phrase. Absurd people say absurd things.
Writers have always made film and TV dialogue so well-posed and elegant. As if everyone in real life knows exactly the smart thing to say on the spot in any given instance. I've always wanted to respond to every comment like James Bond would but that is simply not possible. Writers have all the time in the world to decide how a conversation should unfold and how characters should reply to every comment. They have the ability to craft the perfect response to everything which inhibits their capacity to capture the spontaneity of authentic conversations. In real life we do not have that luxury. Responses are expected fast thus we think incompletely and reply as such. That's why I fumble and don't sound like James Bond in my conversations.
It seems as if the writers of Succession are aware of this gap. Many conversations in real life contain lots of meaningless and nonsensical dialogue. People fumble thoughts and commonly say rash things while on the spot. Moreover, absurd people say absolutely absurd things all the time. Succession's writers understand that if they want to make a show about absurd people, the dialogue has to reflect that core absurdity of the characters. They have to give all those nonsensical, disgusting replies that contribute absolutely nothing to the conversation and the story if they want to effectively communicate the ridiculousness to the audience.
I'm not sure if Succession is a good show or not yet. I do however respect it for and am intrigued by its completely unorthodox dialogue. It's this dialogue that simultaneously makes the show feel very authentic while effectively communicating the absurdity of the characters to the audience. I think I'll have another episode.