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The Role of Humor in Adaptation

AnnaP's picture

In Anne Dalke’s discussion section, we discussed the role of humor in Adaptation and in evolution as a whole. We started off with the idea that maybe Adaptation is telling us that humor is key in evolution because it makes us more resilient. Charlie Kaufman is depicted as anxiety-ridden, miserable, constantly suffering from an existential crisis, and unsuccessful. He is obsessed with creating the perfect movie and drives himself nuts with it. Donald Kaufman is depicted as a much more carefree, fly-by-the-seat-of-his-pants guy, and (ironically?) it is his ridiculous screenplay that is successful. Perhaps it is Donald’s humor that helps him be so much happier and more resilient than his brother.

On the whole, Adaptation can also be read as a parody, which we also discussed. It is self-referential and shows how absurd the world and “rules” of moviemaking can be. Some of us found that the film was closing down possibilities, and saying that certain types of stories can’t or shouldn’t be told through film, whereas other classmates thought that it opened up possibilities. Putting Adaptation in conversation with Richard Powers’ Generosity, is film the medium of the future? Does the self-referential film we watched give us the same feeling as did our self-referential novel, or did they have vastly different effects?



jhercher's picture

To go back to Dennett, this

To go back to Dennett, this is a clip where he hypothesizes how things like humor could have been a part of human evolution.  I think it's pretty interesting.

tangerines's picture

 I think that Adaptation was

 I think that Adaptation was similar to Generosity in that it showed us "the man behind the curtain" so to speak. However, I think that the two works are similar on another level: each piece attempts to make its audience think about the conventions of its medium, whether it's narration and dialog in Generosity or car chases and murders in Adaptation. I think a message I took from both stories was that it's important to pay attention to our own evolution. Without being aware of how we have changed and where we've come from, we can't do anything new. I agree that Adaptation feels like a parody; but I think rather than just poking fun at Hollywood favorites, it functions on a deeper level. It shows us many Hollywood stereotypes and one writer's struggle to fight against them, yes, but in doing so, it forces us to see what works despite the cliche, what doesn't work, what reactions these tropes spark. All of this is important to know if you want to go in a new direction.

alexandrakg's picture

Re: Role of Humor...

I think perhaps the role of humor was to highlight the inherent absurdity of Hollywood films.  This film appears original, and in fact, in the beginning, it is fairly unique.  I personally cannot recall many films I've watched about orchids.  However, it devolved into almost every Hollywood stereotype one can think of.  The most obvious ones of course is the sudden and violent ending, the secret affair, the drugs, and the final chase scene.  Basically every action movie I've ever seen ends with a chase and final confrontation with the 'bad guy'.  However, there are many other typical parts.  There is the loser constantly putting himself down but somehow only ever attracting beautiful, extremely accomplished and/or intelligent women who are in love with him despite his flaws (see Woody Allen, Seth Rogen), the minority stereotyping, and even the sibling rivalry.  Basically, most of us have seen this all before.  Perhaps its a parody of movies trying not to be Hollywood.  The harder you try the worse it gets.  The humor and the obvious absurdity of turning the Orchid Thief into another Hollywood thriller is of course apparent, but within it is a greater statement on the film industry.  Charlie tried so hard to reject typical Hollywood screenwriting, but he was a screenwriter in Hollywood, hired by major producers.  If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck....

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