Before I begin, to all those in the path of Hurricane Sandy: I hope you stay safe and my thoughts are with you as the storm runs its course.
It’s the week of Halloween. So I am dedicating this Media Monday to my favorite Halloween episode of a TV show straight out of my childhood…
“Boy Meets World: And then there was Shawn.”
Watch it on YouTube in three parts:
Great stuff in my opinion. It’s classic “Boy Meets World.”
If you skipped the videos, here’s the gist. Cory and Topanga have broken up, and Shawn’s taking it pretty hard. The episode centers around the class (plus Eric—Cory’s older brother—Eric’s roommate, and a random girl named Jennifer) trapped in the school—transformed into a house of horrors with a loose killer. In traditional “Boy Meets World” comedic fashion, the group works their way through the mystery, trying to figure out who is the killer and why the killer is…well…killing people. They finally come face to face with their masked murderer in the library and end up with a surprise no one expected.
We all know how much I hate to ruin endings, but the killer…
Dun dun dun
Is a double of Shawn.
This week, what can be taken from the media is the central part of the post. The videos and what happens is for fun mainly.
So what can be taken?
-Understand how rifts in your world will affect your characters.
I’m going to take this and run with it. Shawn as both a participant in the hunt for the killer and as the killer is full of both literary and psychological relevance.
Coming from a literary standpoint, Shawn plays two roles. Since this episode defines most clearly with mystery (with a healthy helping of horror) it is important to have suspects that are eliminated and clues and red herrings. The red herrings point first to Mr. Feeny, who (in typical mystery fashion) is murdered. Thus, he’s not the killer. The second set of red herrings point to the janitor. He too is killed.
So who does that leave? The red herrings for Feeny are alluded to until Feeny dies. The class believes the entire thing is a setup by their infamous teacher to teach them a lesson and scare them into understanding (something detention can no longer accomplish now that they’re older). The janitor is just creepy. Also, he has the keys (all the doors are locked) and he’s the only other person in the building (or so the crew thinks) until he’s killed.
At this point, Shawn states that the killer must be one of them. And it is. And the clues are there if you re-watch the portion of the episode before the murders start. Cory and Topanga have broken up. Shawn is divided. He’s still friends with both of them, but he’s hurt deeply. He explains his feelings at the end.
When people are hurting, they’ll do things that are out of character. Now because this is “Boy Meets World,” “out of character” is over the top. But it’s the idea that counts. The murderer in a mystery novel almost always has a reason for his behavior that makes perfect sense to him but is absolute lunacy to everyone else.
We’ve all heard of bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and DID (dissociative identity disorder, formally multiple personalities). All are diseases of the mind that make people act in ways very different from the standard that is “normal.” With Shawn in this episode, we’re not dealing with anything so complex as one of these.
As I said above, Shawn is hurting. He’s almost in a state of grief. His world has come crashing down around him—his faith in Cory and Topanga’s relationship meant more to him than even he realized—and he’s trying to cope. Psychologically, he’s a teen going through a rough time.
Symbolically, Shawn as both a participant and the murderer represents a personal rift. He’s torn. He wants to give the appearance of “normalcy,” but he can’t. Something is very wrong. That comes off (in “Boy Meets World” language) as Shawn being the killer. He’s working both with and against his best friends. The fact that he keeps pointing the blame for the killings at others throughout the episode, shows his own inability to accept how he feels—the rift.
For a TV comedy, it’s pretty deep.
So as I said above, before introducing a rift into your characters’ lives, really consider it from all angles. How will your characters react to the rift? People are not rational. Neither are our characters if they are realistic. Make them act as any normal person would.
See you out of the box,