SUPERBAD: The Rules of the Genre
By Jacob Krueger
In parts 1, 2 and 3 of this series, we’ve looked at The Lincoln Lawyer, Win Win, and Away From Her to explore the way real world and imagined rules function in creating the reality of a movie. But, this is just the beginning of understanding how rules work in a script. Because each kind of movie also has its own rules, defined by the audience’s experiences with other movies of its genre.
The Rules of the Genre
Rules In Comedy
I’ve explored these concepts in terms of “serious” movies because these are the films where writers most often feel constrained in creating the rules of their world. But of course in comedies, the rules also matter, and you still have to sell them. You just have zanier ways of doing so.
For example, in Superbad, we all know the rules of how cops behave. And we know that a kid with a fake ID that says McLovin isn’t going to fool anyone. So when McLovin gets caught by the cops, the writers, Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, get to have their cake and eat it too! They not only make him (and the audience) squirm about what’s going to happen to him. They also get to surprise everyone’s expectations when the cops seem to accept the ID as real, and sweep McLovin off for the joy ride of his life. This sequence with McLovin not only sets up the rules for the cops– it sets up the comic rules for the whole movie– a world where absolutely anything can happen: where Jonah Hill can get run over five times without getting hurt, where women don’t know basic feminine hygiene, and where cops can end up setting their own car on fire.
As in other comedies like The Proposal, What Happens in Vegas, and I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry, writers create the rules that serve their movies, not by ignoring the “laws” of the real world, but by selling their own rules dramatically in relation to those laws. Give yourself permission to do the same in your own writing.