So out of curiosity I watched the Netflix series Ratched. For those of you who don’t know, it’s meant to be a sort of prequel to the classic movie One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, explaining the background of the film’s villain, Nurse Ratched.
Now, prequels are always kind of stupid. There’s a bit of advice they give to writers and filmmakers — ‘always begin at the latest possible moment’. That is, don’t start a story — or even a scene — from the beginning, start it when it’s starting to get interesting. A prequel says ‘let’s go back to before the story started getting interesting,’ and for reasons I don’t fully understand they have become extremely popular.
Ratched is a particularly egregious example of this because Nurse Ratched is an extremely low-key character — just someone with petty authority who misuses it badly. She may seem like a Gothic monster to the patients under her care, but she’s really just a fairly ordinary person. We don’t need to see her origin story or her rise to power because she doesn’t have one. She’s just a bad person who has picked a career she’s extremely unsuited for.
The Ratched series gets around this by the simple expedient of having basically nothing to do with the original film. Beyond than the exceedingly broad status of ‘dodgy psych nurse’, Netflix’s Mildred Ratched thinks, talks and acts differently to her film counterpart. Her priorities are different and one of her key qualities — her attitude towards psychiatric patients — is actually diametrically opposite.
Not only this, the character is placed in a completely different story. Where One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest goes for bleak, claustrophobic depiction of a realistic-looking psychiatric hospital and told from the patients’ perspective, Ratchet is a sprawling, bizarre, incredibly contradictory Gothic tale in which the patients are merely lurid props.
And yet… and yet it’s kind of enjoyable. Campy enjoyable, yes. Trashy enjoyable. The sort of enjoyable that keeps you constantly facepalming. The sort of enjoyable that can’t keep straight who the good guys and bad guys are supposed to be. But enjoyable.
So my plan is to steal the formula. I’m going to pitch Netflix some preposterous villain prequels along the very same lines:
Telling the backstory of James Bond villain Auric Goldfinger, Auric follows a boy growing up in post-WWI Germany — or maybe somewhere less profoundly depressing, I’ll fill it in later. Auric’s world is torn upside down when his cousin/girlfriend loses a gold tooth and begins to die. Only an infusion of fresh gold can save her, leading Auric to carry out his first gold heist. Some vague social commentary about Germany or whatever, but let’s not go too far in case it brings people down. In the final act, nothing is really resolved in case we get another season.
Quote: I hate lasers so much! No one should ever use lasers to try to hurt people, and if they do they certainly shouldn’t say something witty about it.
Ever wonder about the origin of the ‘Bad’ character from The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly? No? Not even a little bit? Well start wondering — and then wonder no more! This stirring eight-hour tale of how an evil cowboy turned even eviler will tell you all you need to know — how he started life as an ophthalmologist in Gascony before being sexually abused by a haddock, then getting dishonorably discharged from the Russian army for failing to prevent the Charge of the Light Brigade. This leads to years of working at either an opium den or a drag bar, with someone who is either his mortal enemy or best friend (it will change from episode to episode).
Quote: Material possessions are meaningless compared to good health! Certainly I’d like some gold if it was easily obtained, but what sort of idiot would engage in a deadly game of cat and mouse across the American desert for it? Fie, I say! Fie!
The Truck from Duel
Who could possibly have seen the classic Steven Spielberg movie Duel and failed to think that the evil truck needed a clearer motivation? Or maybe the truck’s driver was evil and the truck was just an ordinary truck? I don’t know, I never watched the movie. Is it good?
Anyhoo, my Duel prequel sequel traces the rise of the truck from its beginnings as a truck, through its career of being a truck before finally it becomes the truck that we all love to hate. It details the truck’s involvement in an international marmot-fighting syndicate, its brief career as a pole dancer and its illicit love affair with a VW hatchback before it blasted off into space, never to be seen again. (Again: I have not watched Duel. Cannot stress that enough).