The other day The Distraction, er, my husband, and I watched the movie Casablanca. I’ve seen it before, but didn’t remember a whole lot. We were discussing it afterward, and came up with a few interesting observations.
Here’s the tag for the show:
Set in unoccupied Africa during the early days of World War II: An American expatriate meets a former lover, with unforeseen complications.
Rick is our main character. He owns a club that everyone loves, all around him people are trying to get to America, and he doesn’t really care who stays and who goes. He seems to be a decent guy, but not entirely trustworthy.
Then his past walks in.
Just before the German’s marched on Paris, Rick and this woman were lovers. They were supposed to leave together, but she didn’t show up at the train station. She left a note saying she loved him but couldn’t be with him.
He was devastated. He’s still heartbroken. She walks into his club, and suddenly this character we’ve established gets wishy-washy.
You see, Rick has the means (quite literally dropped in his lap) to get this woman and her husband (long story, watch the movie) who is one of the leaders of the underground movement out of Casablanca and to America. Rick is the only person who has papers that can get them out.
By all rights Rick should let them be arrested. This woman broke his heart. This man is married to the woman Rick still loves. Helping them is going to mess up the bubble of “immunity” he’s built up between him and the local authorities.
This is all very mean.
As an author, tossing a past that the character can’t get over or get away from is a great tool for making their lives miserable. In this case, it actually gets Rick to act out of character (at least the character he’s been hiding behind for years) and do something he doesn’t really want to do.
He confronts his past, and then leaves it behind him. (Sorry, spoilers. It’s a great movie, watch it anyway.)
This is one way to use the past as a tool to #BeMeanToCharacters. Try it! We’ll talk about another way to use the past next time.
Go forth, be cruel.