happy-1085352_1920Lili Loofbourow’s review of the HBO comedy Vice Principals in The Week brings up a point emerging screenwriters need to think about.  Assholes.  Anti-heroes are commonly without valor.  The skilled writer/actor/director combo is able to give this branded a-hole enough rope to re-brand and bring the audience around.  Think Walter White, Dexter Morgan or Tony Soprano.  Even if your character dies at the end, the audience tuned in each week for the next installment of motherfuckery. For a comedy there’s less death, but more public shaming like Larry David in Curb Your Enthusiasm.  We secretly admire Sue Sylvester’s fearless cruelty in Glee, but she can’t be the lead.  No, for a lead to be an asshole it’s definitively a 10 in degree of difficulty. So should it be attempted by someone new to the game?

A-holes are anti-heroes, but all anti-heroes are not a-holes.  We watch characters who are awful people because they are interesting.  The anti-hero is someone who has a huge learning curve from rotten to saved by love or rotten to dead.  Interesting story and good acting will sell that every time.  A character with no redeeming moral or social value has nowhere to go.

With its casual racism, misogyny, and mean-spiritedness I would normally not give Vice Principals the time of day.  But the polarizing effect of these two major fucking douchebags makes me think there is a big takeaway for writers.  The premise is two high school vice principals are put out when neither of them is promoted to the job of principal in favor of a thoroughly qualified outsider.  Nice enough, right?  But when you throw in the specifics: They are in South Carolina and the outsider from Pennsylvania (Philadelphia); they are men and she is a woman; they are white and she is black; they are er– educated enough and she has a doctorate.  Enough for  comedy gold, but in the first few episodes these writers take the easy swings with offensive and insulting stereotypes… and whiff.

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