Over the holidays, I watched quite a few movies and tv series. Of the many things about story telling that came to mind as I watched, I found one in particular really striking.
I was watching a 1960s TV series called Callan, which is about a secret service operative whose job is to eliminate – usually by killing them – the enemies of the State. A familiar storyline to us in the twenty-teens, but the character of Callan is not one you would see in a 2011 version of this series.
He’s a killer. Yes he questions his missions sometimes, but mostly he’s a mean, scary guy who freely acknowledges that he does what he does because he’s good at it. His life isn’t sexy. His job is grim and dangerous.
If they made this series today, Callan would almost certainly:
- be suave and/or sexy
- seem superhuman
- know martial arts
- not ever fall in love because once ‘they’ killed the love of his life
- be a really nice guy despite the fact he’s a killer
- probably always be wanting to get out of the game
- live in a wonderful loft apartment somewhere surrounded by nice things
It was refreshing to see a guy who kills with his hands or a gun in a believably messy way. Who has to break into buildings in like any burglar. Who lives in a tiny trashy looking flat. Who’s best mate is a smelly burglar.
On the same theme, I was discussing recently with a friend that the wonderful thing about the recent BBC production of Sherlock Holmes, was that they didn’t try to make Holmes likeable. Most adaptions make Watson a bit ‘wet’ and Holmes either distant and unknowable or improbably likeable.
It stands out in a wilderness of both adaptions and of modern ‘heroes’ but I’d be surprised if it starts a trend.