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Blackhat – Avoiding Dialogue Stereotypes


blackhat-script-reviewAn excerpt from my script review for Blackhat which will be available 05/03/16:

4.) Dialogue and Description

Overall the dialogue wasn’t bad, except for one major exception.


Stereotyping Dialogue

Chen was Chinese, but it’s cited he speaks fluent English.

His sister, Lien, apparently does not.

Unfortunately, we bounce back and forth between her knowing English, and then being a mockery of a Chinese person speaking English as a second language.

Because it’s a scan, I’ll type out a single example.

Page 110:

You think this work?

When just a single page before:

How’d he know we weren’t

I can’t imagine. We’re so
inconspicuous together.

One minute she’s using words a native speaker might have trouble with, and the other she’s barely a step above…

Instead, and a great way to deal with all dialogue regardless of genre, is to leave the tone to the actor.

Completely type out the “idea” you need conveyed, and then let the actor do their job.

If you’re trying to attract a talented foreign actor to a part, would you reinforce a stereotype in how the character communicates?

I would hope not.

Being from the rural Midwest, I would be offended if a part was presented to me with a Midwestern character speaking like a hillbilly, especially if it wasn’t important to the role and instead ignorance on behalf of the writer.

(“That’s how people from the Midwest talk, isn’t it?” Ummmm, “innit” is how to ask that, just as “rural” is pronounced as a single syllable.)

Lien is a smart, Chinese software engineer, who could either speak fluently, or know a few sparse phrases, but let the individual playing the role decide that for character.

Don’t unknowingly burn a bridge beforehand.

Minor Stuff

Page 38 – Chen defends Barnett when some guy tries to get tough with her. It was supposed to build on a potential romance between the two of them, but just comes off extremely hokey.

Page 47 – A forced existential debate with Hathaway and Lien on if he was truly in control of his time in prison or not, and what prison really is. (I skipped past most of this until I got back to the actual plot. No one cares about you two and how clever you think you are.)

Page 87 – We get back to back jokes about the NSA being really keen on the “S” in their acronym. Please don’t beat us over the head with your lame joke, Special Agent Barnett.

Description Issues

One annoying attribute to the description was how things were often cited as important.

This will be important later.”

We’ll see this later.”

Hathaway appreciates this trick and will use it later.”

That’s amateur shit.

We absolutely SHOULD use these sorts of tangents in our own writing, but DO NOT call direct attention to it.

Simply by highlighting an object or action signifies it as important, otherwise specifics should be left out of a script, but you have to keep a reader guessing on the “why” they need to pay attention.

Subtlety is key, and I wish there was more of it in this script.

Page 3 – Zooming in on numbers becoming pixels? Yeah The Matrix called, they want their now outdated shot back.

Page 17 – “We hear urgency in his voice…” Part of me liked this phrasing, but another part almost felt like it was borderline, “PAY ATTENTION TO THIS!”

Page 51 – So much over detailed action in this script. Maybe it’s a shooting script, but at 126 pages, I skimmed it just to know who died.

Page 71 – More over indulgence in the specifics of how Kassar flees Hathaway.

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