“Aw geez!” may very well become a common phrase used in my vocabulary after watching the film Fargo. A film with quirky characters, graphic scenes of violence, and a creeping sense of dread as some characters continued to fall further down the tragic rabbit hole. After reading and noting Aristotle’s Poetics and being able to compare his ideas about Tragedy and Comedy to the characters in Fargo, it’s clear his thoughts remain prevalent to this day.
Character Driven Plot:
The spark that would ignite the plot of the movie can be narrowed down to one character’s action, that of Jerry Lundegaard and his sketchy deal with criminals Carl Showalter and Gaear Grimsrud. As a reversal, each character in the film must react around the situation they find themselves in because of Jerry.
“…for it is by these that we qualify actions themselves, and these – thought and character – are two natural causes from which actions spring…” (Poetics, pg. 11).
Aristotle’s idea is perfectly depicted in the plot of Fargo with one character’s action causing the rest, including Jerry himself, to respond. In doing so, the audience is exposed to the flaws, strengths, and transformations (or lack thereof), of the characters. We instantly see the flaws of Jerry for setting up a deal to have his wife kidnapped for some money. Scheming, apathetic, and selfishness are characteristics that instantly come to mind. We see the two criminals, Carl and Gaear, vaguely like Jerry but much eviler. Marge and Norm throw our character expectations out the window with a pair of seemingly nice people. As the plot continues, we see that these characteristics of Jerry remain the same with worsening progression. The same goes for the two criminals, whose actions drive the plot in a darker direction. Marge uses her actions to steer the plot into its resolution, tiding up the tragic decisions of the criminals and Jerry.
Tragedy / Comedy
According to Aristotle, what would be the best way to describe this film?
“… Comedy aims at representing men as worse, Tragedy as better than in actual life.” (Poetics, pg. 4)
Fargo can be seen depicting both concepts through its characters. You have the Comedic elements of the two criminals who are despicable and the bottom-of-the-barrel when it comes to imitating a normal human. One could also place Jerry in this pool of characters as he two isn’t the best representation of a good person and never quite gets to his goal. Although Jerry could be seen through a tragic lens, having a good standing as a husband with a child and wife, respectable job, and a home. And through the tragic events he loses all of that to achieve his selfish goal. Through these examples, I feel that it’s reasonable to say Fargo is a tragic comedy.
Thanks for reading!