Relationship Story Throughline: Captain America: Civil War

Continuing the discussion over Captain America: Civil War, the Relationship Story Throughline.

Sebastien made this argument for the Relatoinship Story Throughline:

This puts the RS in Situation: A friendship is torn apart when two people are put in the position of having to be leaders of opposing factions. Neither of them wants to be in this situation, but they are. Tony is forced by Ross to lead the pro-Accords faction or else Ross tells him things will be much worse for the superheroes. Steve is forced to lead the anti-Accords faction because everyone looks up to him and expects him to lead. That situation – being forced to lead opposing factions – tears the relationship apart.

To which I already responded with this:

This does not describe a Relationship Story Throughline. The Domain of the RS does not describe the “Domain” of their argument but rather the kind of conflict felt within a relationship—in this case a friendship. Not once does their status, or reputation, or social standing somehow impact their feelings towards one another.

Your last sentence about Tony wanting Steve to adapt and Steve refusing to change—that defines a relationship challenged by an inability of two manners of thinking to coexist and co-create. The inability for their relationship to grow and mature is the very definition of a Concern (or lack) of Changing Ones Nature.

To which Sebastien replied:

To your point about the RS: Steve and Tony have had no problem being friends up until now despite clearly viewing each other as having different beliefs. What’s causing havoc between them is that the situation keeps changing (generally for the worse) and their different reactions to it drive a wedge between them. Take the worsening external situation away and these two guys go off for a beer and make jokes about Tony being a playboy and Steve being an old man.

And then I explained:

This is both a misunderstanding of the appreciation of Situation and its use specifically within the Relationship Story Throughline.

Again, you’re using the story point as subject matter. This is the same mistake writers make when they write, “Bob is in a difficult situation and he keeps thinking of the past” as if that somehow makes him both a Main Character in Situation and a Main Character with a Concern of the Past.

It doesn’t.

The relationship is NOT about what either side thinks is problematic - the relationship is about the inequity BETWEEN two individuals. It’s an actual thing that many writers–particularly male writers–have a huge problem understanding.

In the Mentorship Program I work diligently to help writers stop thinking in terms of he said/she said and instead thinking in terms of a relationship, and its purpose in the greater understanding of narrative. Linear thinkers like to think of what one side thinks and then what the other side thinks because that matches up with their idea of a relationship being a thing two people get into.

It’s not.

That was the big problem with the Main vs. Impact Character nomenclature and the idea that two soldiers meet and engage in an emotional argument. Conceptually this is OK, but it unfortunately leads everyone to think that the relationship story is an argument and that the subject matter of that argument is somehow reflected in the storyform.

It’s not.

For a Relationship Story Throughline to be in Situation - there has to be an actual fixed external problem between them. The easiest way to visualize this is To Kill a Mockingbird. The racism in the Overall Story – which is presented as internal problem – is reflected in the local racism of Scout scared of the boogie man (Boo). They’re externally situated next to each other and they’re externally situated to reflect the same kind of racisim in the larger picture in their own relationship.

Same thing in Doubt - there you have the situational conflict between a Priest and a Nun. That inequity with their positions is what is really at play between them. That’s where the power play comes into being.

The question then remains, what is the actual fixed external problematic Situation that exists within the relationship between Steve and Tony?