Writing Wednesday: Analysis of Story Elements in HBO’s Gentleman Jack – Intro

For my first series I will review with the Story Grid 5 Commandments, I’ve chosen the HBO series ‘Gentleman Jack’, mainly because I’ve just started watching it myself.

From IMDB, Gentleman Jack is described as “A dramatization of the life of LGBTQ+ trailblazer, voracious learner and cryptic diarist Anne Lister, who returns to Halifax, West Yorkshire in 1832, determined to transform the fate of her faded ancestral home Shibden Hall.”

This is a new series on HBO that began April 22, 2019 and episode 5 has just aired.

For Genre, I believe this is an external Love story/ internal Status story.

The Love Story

Shawn Coyne says a Love story “gives us prescriptive and cautionary tales to navigate love’s emotional minefield.”  Rachelle Ramirez outlines the elements of a Love Story in her article “Secrets of the Love Genre”.

My initial take is that Anne Lister and Ann Walker main characters of the love story.

The Global Value of a Love story is love to hate, attraction to indifference.

Obligatory Scenes Include:

  • Lovers Meet
  • First Kiss or Intimate Connection
  • Confession of Love
  • Lovers Break up
  • Proof of Love
  • Lovers Reunite

Conventions Include:

  • Love Triangle
  • Helpers and Harmers
  • Gender Divide
  • External Need
  • Opposing Forces
  • Secrets
  • Rituals
  • Moral Weight

The Status Story

Shawn Coyne says a Status story “concerns a single protagonist’s quest to rise in social standing and the price he or she must pay in order to do so.”  Rachelle Ramirez outlines the elements of the Status Story in her article “The Secrets of the Status Genre”.

Anne Lister is the central character of the Status Story, a “LGBTQ+ trailblazerer” and gay woman in a pre-womens’ rights society, is the epitome of this type of protagonist as she tries to improve her rights. At 53 minutes in the episode, she actually addresses male only suffrage.

The Global Value of a Status Story is Success to Failure.

Obligatory Scenes

  • An Inciting Opportunity or Challenge
  • Protagonist leaves home to seek fortune
  • Forced to adapt to a new environment, Protagonist relies on old habits and humiliates herself
  • The protagonist learns what the Antagonist’s object of desire is and sets out to achieve it for herself
  • Protagonist’s initial strategy to outmaneuver Antagonist fails
  • During an All is Lost Moment, Protagonist realizes they must change their definition of success or risk betraying their morality
  • The Core Event: Protagonist chooses to do what’s necessary to attain status or reject the world that they strive to join

Conventions

  • Strong Mentor Figure
  • Big Social Problem
  • Shapeshifters as Hypocrites (secondary characters say on thing and do another)
  • The Herald or Threshold Guardian is a fellow striver who sold out
  • A clear Point of No Return/ Truth Will Out moment, when Protagonist knows they can never go back to the way things used to be
  • Ironic Win-But-Lose or Lose-But-Win bittersweet ending

In the next Writing Wednesday Post, I’ll dig into the 1st episode of Gentleman Jack.

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