So, given that we've all written the equivalent of a book debating these questions now, am I right to think that this is a very challenging movie to analyze?
Truthfully–having done this for over twenty years and preparing the hundreds of storyforms found on Dramatica.com and my own site–I found it one of the easiest to analyze. That’s why I was getting so frustrated in the beginning because it’s one of the more common and prevalent storyforms in Western culture.
Problems of Avoidance and Solutions of Pursuit play out everywhere–more so, in films and stories from the mid 20th-century.
One corollary that I wonder if you'd agree with is that a failure on the part of the writer to make problematic within the story that which is problematic to audiences in our world can create an inability for them to become immersed in the story. Write about drunk driving, sexual violence, racism, or other issues pertinent to the audience as if they aren't problems and you get in all kinds of trouble.
It depends on the skill level of the writer—you can make anything palatable if you tell a convincing enough argument. History is full of examples of people taking advantage of and subjugating others through telling a compelling and convincing story.
That said, you’ll probably sell more books and more tickets and more subscriptions to Netflix the more socially acceptable your story.
It all depends on your purpose in telling a story.
Am I correct that there's often both a set of problems unique to each throughline (e.g. OS might be about a war while the MC might be dealing with their own leg wound) as well as a perspective on the OS itself? In other words, in the classic Dramatica example of seeing a war (OS: from the top of the hill, MC: from the soldier's POV, IC: from their opponent's POV, RS: from the relationship between the two) we're really looking at "a war" (the OS) from four different perspectives.
The “war” is the inequity at the center of it all. The four Throughlines are what that war looks like from different points of view.
Think of it this way—the real inequity of a narrative sits at the center of all four Throughlines. It can’t be described accurately because an inequity is not a real thing—it’s an imbalance between things. So the four perspectives draw a clear enough picture of the inequity that the mind appreciates the meaning of the problem solving and justification going on around the inequity.
Right, but if Cap's throughline isn't about Tony, then why would him withholding the fact that Winter Soldier killed Tony's parents violate the "I know what I know" principle? Or am I reading this backwards, and what you're saying is that because Cap withholding knowledge of the death of Tony's parents isn't central to Cap's throughline, therefore Cap can't be the MC?
I would say closer to your “backwards” example. Cap withholding knowledge isn’t central to Cap’s Throughline so it’s not endemic of a problematic personal perspective for him. It does however reinforce the idea of Tony as I because of the guilt he feels around his parent’s death.
And Cap’s Throughline is not about Tony—it’s about impacting and challenging others because of a Fixed Attitude about how the world should work.
what's a simple way of expressing the Dramatica principle on what a Main Character is allowed to withhold from the audience while still being the Main Character?
If withholding plays into the perspective of their Throughline (like the examples above), then by all means do it. Personally, I think the less you do this the better as it by definition isolates your Audience from a point-of-view you want them to take. But if it can amplify the inequity in question, then I would say go for it.
I’ll address the idea of the OS in Manipulation as others have suggested the same here and in email. In short, the problems of the narrative pursue the characters as they would in either a Stop/Good story or a Start/Bad Story—the odds being overwhelming rather than surmountable if they were chasing the problems—as described in my article How to Tell If Your Main Character Faces Overwhelming or Surmountable Odds. In addition, the manipulations are not problematic in and of themselves, the activities are.
The problem with Cap as a Main Character is that I have yet to hear a convincing and sound argument (concerning all four other Throughlines) about any personal problems that warrant a different storyform. There might be pieces of storyforms from previous films or setup for future storyforms or we may be passing through his storyform–but we’re not talking about those storyforms–we’re discussing the complete one that was presented in the film.
To correct some of the inaccuracies above:
I wouldn't confuse setup with Storyform. During this initial time we're getting all the warnings and debate over what will happen if they do or don't sign. That conflict (and it is a conflict: the avengers are breaking up over whether to sign)
This is not Dramatica’s definition of conflict, this is your definition of conflict. Breaking up is not a problem–there is no actual inequity in deciding what will happen if they sign or not sign. I can see a writer thinking that is the definition of conflict because it helps them subjectively understand what each character is thinking–but from a Dramatica perspective there is no inequity there, no conflict as portrayed within the Dramatica storyform.
Only clearing that up because you use the word Storyform, but then use it incorrectly.
As to Zemo, the argument for him being the protagonist is the same as the argument that every single Bond villain is the protagonist, along with the villains in all Dan Brown novels and movies, and almost all horror films. It's the villain who's got the plan, who's trying to move the story forward towards a particular end, and everyone else trying to stop them. I don't think that's a compelling argument when the story goal seems to be to stop the evil plan in all those cases.
It’s not the same argument that every single Bond villain is the Protagonist. You’re confusing villain for Protagonist and Antagonist and you’re making broad sweeping statements that simply aren’t true when it comes to Dramatica. My article The Tragedy of James Bond the Antagonist addresses Melanie’s inaccuracy in regards to a practical application of Protagonist and Antagonist.
Melanie is the only one putting forth the idea that every single Bond villain is the Protagonist. No one who has actively worked with Dramatica for two decades agrees with this notion. I don’t. Chris Huntley, the co-creator of Dramatica, doesn’t. No one does. And the reason why is because Melanie is making a blanket statement of motivation without even looking at the context of the actual narrative. She’s simply looking at the motivation to pursue–or Initiative–as seen from the context of theory creator–not within the context of the story being analyzed or created.
You identify the Goal of a story by looking towards the initial inequity. In Captain America: Civil War this is Scarlett Witch’s inadvertent killing of humanitarian workers. The pursuit to resolve that inequity by Stopping the Avengers is led by Zemo. There are other people leading the charge for the Accords and so on, but the true driver to resolve the issue of superheroes doing whatever they want is Zemo.
That is why he is the Protagonist from an objective Overall Story Throughline perspective.
Not entirely certain I agree with @jhull 's assessment that Zemo is the Protagonist but he does seem to be the only one to have the Pursue characteristic. It would explain why the Russos wanted you to be able to switch sides and side with either character with regards to what is the best course of action by having the villain push the story forward. Thus depending on which side you believe in will determine how you believe the Zemo threat could have been observed, stopped and how similar scenarios could be prevented.
It’s not what side you believe in, it’s all about the inequity of the Overall Story Throughline and who is working towards resolving that inequity and who is working to prevent it.
The drive to prevent Stopping the Avengers from doing whatever they want and for everyone to reconsider is Captain America. The entire scene of him fighting against German SAS in the stairwell is nothing but Prevent/Avoid. Everything he is doing is to prevent Bucky’s capture while preventing loss of life for the police. While I was watching it I was thinking this is an AWESOME display of “good guy” Antagonism. It’s 100% Avoid from an objective point-of-view. It’s nothing near Pursuit in context of the inequity driving the story.
I’ll try move this over to the discussion about Protagonist and Antagonist within the film as well as moving the bottom into a discussion about the Relationship Story Throughline, so we can stay on track with the discussion regarding the Main Character Throughline. I realize discussing this occasionally requires looking at other areas of the storyform, but it will keep down on the mileage for each post if we can stick to the topic at hand.
I could be wrong about this, but my reasoning is that both Steve and Tony suddenly find themselves in the uncomfortable position of being forced to represent the two sides of the conflict. Neither asked to be the leader (Steve doesn't want to lead the opposition – he just wants to go find Bucky, and Tony doesn't ask to lead the pro-accord side – Ross forces him into the position or threatens to have Steve imprisoned/killed).
This is not a Relationship Story Throughline of Situation. There is no problematic external situation described here within their friendship. “Representing two side of the conflict” does not describe Situation, it describes the Main Character Throughline perspective and the Influence Character Throughline perspective which is already accounted for in the Dramatica model.
This is again looking at the word Situation as something the characters discuss and think about–“Neither asked to be the leader”–rather than understanding how Situation works as an inequity within a story. The very best way to understand a problematic Situation in context of a Relationship Story Throughline is to observe the several analyses online at Dramatica.com and my own site, Narrative First, that describe this dynamic in greater detail.
Circling back to the idea that there are “two” storyforms within Captain America: Civil War, it’s really clear what the storyform is around Tony as the Main Character with his personal issues, everyone with their own drive to prevent (Avoid) the Avengers continuing on, Cap with his influential attitude driven by his feelings for Bucky, and the dysfunctional friendship going on between Tony and Steve.
If there is a second complete storyform between Steve and Bucky, what is the nature of both their perspectives, who changes to adopt the other’s point-of-view, how do these individual perspectives differ from the Overall Story Throughline perspective, and what is it about their friendship that is problematic that exists outside of the Overall Story Throughline perspective?
Harsylka: Steve is a very clear Be-er to me so Tony must be a Do-er.
Seb: I can't see how to defend this proposition. Steve reacts to every problem by running out and trying to fix it externally. He even says to us early on: "If I see a situation go south, I have to deal with it. Sometimes I wish I could just sit back" Tony then says, "No you don't", to which Steve smiles. "No, I guess I don't."
It’s easy to defend because Steve’s reaction to running out and trying to fix problems externally is problematic to everyone, so therefore it doesn’t apply to either a Main Character or Influence Character Throughline perspective. His comment “No, I guess I don’t” is a problematic Fixed Attitude that impacts and challenges everyone uniquely–especially Tony and his point-of-view.
Where is there any evidence whatsoever that Steve tries to resolve problems by changing himself internally?
There isn’t, because Harsylka was not talking about Steve’s Be-er approach to resolving his personal problems by adapting or changing, he was talking about his problematic impact as an Influence Character. Well, really he was on the fence, but he was speaking of problematic within one of the individual perspectives of either You or I.
Tony, on the other hand, reacts to his guilt by changing himself: I guess I can't be a superhero anymore. I need to let other people tell me what to do. Yes, he fights Steve and the others, but only because they give him no choice. It's not his preferred way of dealing with things.
If you want to use Dramatica correctly, you need to start seeing story points as problematic from an objective point-of-view. The subjective view you continue to present bounces around to the point where a cohesive and solid argument for all four perspectives can’t be made at once.
It’s not about his preferred way of dealing with things, it’s what is problematic for him personally. His approach to those things personally will naturally fall into an external or internal approach because that is where his point-of-view sees the problem.
I'm also not certain that Tony is defined by Situation, not certain how he resolves his personal issues by doing but Steve is a very clear Be-er to me so Tony must be a Do-er.
Tony is the guy responsible for building Ultron. His parents died before he can tell them goodbye or that he loved them. He is stuck in a Situation he cannot get out of–a situation that causes him great personal anxiety and requiring some sort of inequity resolution.
Building a machine to help him revisit that painful memory so that he can work through the traumatic guilt he felt for the lack of respect he showed them is absolutely the kind of thing a Do-er Main Character would do.