In Blake Snyder’s wonderful book on screenwriting, Save the Cat, there’s a break into act 2 that he describes as entering “the upside down world,” the antithesis of act 1. And since our lives, globally and personally, are stories, trump has brought us into that upside world, where the old world falls away.
None of the usual norms apply. Our president is a racist, misogynistic, homophobic idiot who breaks laws, protocol, alienates allies, doesn’t read or listen, and whose entire life seems to be about – well, himself and his adoration of autocrats. Act 2 challenges the hero (US, the people) to fix the problem.
At first, we go about it the wrong way. Snyder calls this the “fun and games section,” 30-55 minutes into a movie, TV show, script, the heart of the movie, the story. ” This section ideally answers the question: Why did I come to this movie?”
For the first years of his presidency, the media hoped trump would act more presidential, that he would shock everyone by becoming The President. They went soft on him, reporting on his antics like it was business as usual. Then we hit a lot of moments that led up to the midpoint of the trump movie. In Die Hard, it’s where Bruce Willis outwits the terrorist. In Bruce Almighty, it’s where Jim Carey gets to act like God. In the trump story it’s where he fired FBI director Jim Comey and the Mueller investigation was launched.
I would like to believe we have transitioned into Act 3, where the hero figures out the solution, the bad guys are done away with, and all the loose ends are tied up. But I think we’re still in the section of the story that Snyder calls All Is Lost. It occurs about 75 minutes into a movie – the rock bottom. In 1984, it’s where the totalitarian government arrests the hero. In The DaVinci Code, it’s where the hero is betrayed by someone he/she trusts. In our universe, it should be the point where trump supporters realize they’ve been conned.
Instead, we have the prez dude doing photo ops with an infant orphaned in the El Paso shootings because none of the survivors wanted to appear with him. Instead, we have a prez expressing an interest in buying Greenland, in weakening the endangered species list, in suing the supreme court to allow discrimination against transgenders. In our collective story we seem to be locked into the ALL IS LOST point. It’s extending well beyond the 75 minutes of the movie.
Or maybe this is the dark night of the soul beat that happens between 75-85 minutes into a film. In a movie, Snyder says, it can last five seconds or five minutes. In real life, it may seem like forever. As Snyder puts it, it’s the “Oh Lord, why hast thou forsaken me? beat. It’s primal. We’ve all been there…And thank God, because by page 85, when the hero finally figures it out, we get to see him realize “the world of synthesis is at hand.”
And this is the break into Act 3.
We’re definitely not there yet with this trump story. Maybe we’ve made it to page 75, one minute past the All Is Lost beat, where the media actively calls trump out on his lies, where some people are waking up to what is happening to democracy. I just hope our cut to Act 3 happens before the 2020 election. That cut to the third act is supposed to be, according to Snyder: “…the turning over of the old world and a creation of the new world order…” If he is re-elected, there may not be any Act 3 for the heroes.