Dramatica analysis of Amazon series El Presidente


I’ve only been getting my head round Dramatica Theory for the last couple of weeks, (so please excuse the basic nature of what follows) but I recently watched the Amazon El Presedente series about the South American (Mainly Chilean) football world in the 90s. I couldn’t help thinking that Dramatica had been used in producing the series or maybe not, because there were problems.

It had the MC character be-er, who was only successful because his wife, reason control sidekick pushed him. He had another henchman sidekick who was emotion/uncontrolled The impact character was the FBI officer, and there was a Guardian helper, the head of the Argentinian football organisation who was also the narrator.

The problem was there was no clear Antagonist. To an extent it was the FBI officer but she was also helping him, and they had a good relationship for much of the series. And there was a Chilean football official who seemed to be antagonist at the start, but the FBI officer helped the MC to get rid of him, in the second episode I think, after witch there was lack of focus and clear direction. There was no clear contagonist - both the FBI officer and the wife fulfilled that roll but only to a limited extent.

It has all 4 story through lines but this revealed another flaw because the Overall Storyline was narrated in satirical superficial way, which coupled with fast moving montages made it seem distanced and at odds with the tension in the MC through line and Subjective through line.

The ending was also slightly flippant with two contrasting endings, one serious, one comedic. So it seemed class was mixed up to make it multi genre, that didn’t really work. I enjoyed it though! I’d be interested to read more expert comments from anyone else who has seen this series.

Wouldn’t there be an antagonist for each episode, though? Wouldn’t each episode be a simple story, all onto its own? Then, again, maybe the episodes are tales instead of a complete storyform. I remember hearing about some productions and stories end up being tales. Also, some have the opinion that James Bond was the antagonist (in one/some of the movies?} Who is the narrator? Could the narrator be the MC?

just thoughts

There is a lot of continuity between the episodes, and the 4 story lines too, so I don’t think it is exactly a tale, but it certainly has an element of that. I don’t think the narrator can be the MC because you don’t sympathise or empathise with him; he is only ever shown objectively. As for antagonist for each episode - yes I guess it could be argued the situation faced by the protagonist was always generally but variously adverse - from the fbi officer demanding more, possibility of impending arrest, or being uncovered as informant etc. But it was a bit nebulous - something that La Haine, the French film about 3 disaffected inner city ghetto teenagers which I watched last night avoids, despite the fact it is much more of a tale than El Presedente.

La Haine demonstrates (at least) two dramatica theory points though. It had three MCs, all of whom we are introduced to in their home lives, so the audience sympathises/empathises with all of them. They all have antagonist roles too (the police and system generally is the protagonist). Perhaps the most interesting dramatica related thing though is the brilliant way structure is used; the character types flip at one point, part of the structural mechanics of the plot; for most of the film one of the trio represents reason/control, and another represents emotion/uncontrolled, (the third is in the middle of each extreme) but then in the last climatic minutes of the film the two types exchange, one character Starts and the dynamic opposite character Stops, with cataclysmic results. This strikes me as a good thing to use in a dramatica influenced story.

La Haine also makes the structure overt in at least two other points (to humorous effect - the film is a black comedy to an extent) . In a toilet scene an event happens, in which an incidental character tells the boys a story which both demonstrates the theme (inequity of exclusion) and prefigures the end of the film. As the boys leave the toilet, one of them says. ‘Why did he tell us all that’ drawing the audience’s attention to the structural and thematic significance.

At another point the boys are smoking marijuana on a vantage point looking out over nighttime central Paris with the Eiffel Tower lit up. One of them holds his hand up to click his fingers on the outline of the Eiffel Tower, to give the impression he is switching it off. Another boy says ‘that only happens in movies’. The boys leave but the city scene remains - two beats later the lights on the Eiffel Tower go out - it’s another thematic story point made overt, and thereby emphasised.

Just shows: choose your approach and do it well. El Presedente fails with a grander scheme, whereas la Haine succeeds with a simpler scheme (set entirely within the Universe Class)

Don’t forget in real world productions there are levels of higher ups with ordering/editing power, for a very good reason. With production costs in movies and TV being so insanely out-of-sight high, I can’t blame them for wanting to make sure as many people will buy tickets, etc. I’m starting to toy with the idea of taking a movie and/or series that I liked (except for something) and making it the way I wanted using Dramatica.

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But isn’t this comparing apples and oranges? La Haine (which I haven’t seen) sounds like a stand alone film. Wouldn’t it be more helpful to analyze individual episodes of El Presidente?

I think el Presedente comes off worse in all episodes but the first one or two are pretty well structured. Of course La Haine is a celebrated film that has won awards, so it’s not really fair to compare - I was just struck by how good it was, and knowing a bit about dramatica led me to see a good part of the reason why that is so - it has taught me a lot and I really recommend it.

El Presedente is perfectly enjoyable, and yes I can well imagine it was much better structured at the script stage. I think your idea of dramatica-izing an existing movie is really good - it will really improve Dramatica knowledge and skills. From a book point of view Harry Potter would a good one to do because bits from different novels in the series could be combined to make one perfect book which would be very superior fan fiction!

Maybe, what soap operas do? Would that be “becoming a tale eventually?” I remember my high school days, coming home to an episode of Dark Shadows, so no criticism, here. They know how to entertain, bless their hearts (and lives … haha)

I bet episodes would work as storyform attempts or were story forms but edited and now incomplete. It might be fun to find the whole storyform.