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Masterplots Theater: F is for Fool Triumphant
Those last two masterplots were pretty intense, so today we’re going to lighten things up! If you love comedy, you might have a Fool Triumphant story in your repertoire.
Fool Triumphant Plot Notes:
The defining element of this masterplot is the protagonist — “The Fool” that everyone else in the story disregards and doesn’t expect to succeed. But being overlooked is both a disadvantage and the Fool’s greatest power. Do note that the fool need not be unintelligent, but they must be naive about the world and their own abilities.
The Fool is an underdog set against a powerful enemy — “The Establishment” whose traditions, one-track mindset, and ignorance of its need to change gives The Fool the edge they need to win in the end. The Establishment may already exist in The Fool’s world, and The Fool unwittingly rises to challenge it, or The Fool is sent in to engage The Establishment, like a Fish-Out-of-Water story.
The vast majority of stories have a character arc where the hero is changed by the end of the story, but this is especially true in the Fool Triumphant tale. In fact, the transformation is so drastic it often includes a name change!
The Fool Triumphant masterplot pokes fun at things we often take seriously (i.e. “The Establishment”), such as law school in LEGALLY BLONDE, and war in FORREST GUMP. These stories aren’t saying these things shouldn’t be taken seriously, but that sometimes it’s beneficial to look at them through the eyes of The Fool and gain some perspective.
The ending is happy, obviously, or it wouldn’t be called Fool Triumphant. Fools are famous for come-from-behind victories. Also, the end usually exposes the establishment as the true fool. And our disregarded underdog is revealed to be a Hero, misidentified as a Fool for far too long.
Example to Study:
I recently read this YA novel (THE UNLIKELY HERO OF ROOM 13B by Teresa Toten) and it’s a great example of The Fool Triumphant:
· PROTAGONIST: Adam, a teenager with OCD, whose therapist makes him join a support group in Room 13B. He certainly believes he’s a fool and has no idea of his inherent powers to change the world around him.
· ANTAGONIST: The Establishment is society and its way of treating those with mental illness. But more specifically, it’s also Adam’s mother, and not for the reasons you might suspect. She is dealing with a demon of her own, and it’s making Adam’s condition so much worse. To teenagers, parents are the authority, the establishment, and defying them, even when it’s in everyone’s best interests, isn’t always easy.
· NAME CHANGE: Adam has a huge character arc and it all begins in Room 13B when the therapist gets everyone to adopt a nom de guerre and the kids all pick superhero names, prompting Adam to choose “Batman” because he has a crush on a girl in the group named Robin. The group then start referring to each other by these superhero names as they all go through their own transformations, unwittingly led by “Batman.”
· COMEDY: This book is very, very funny, even as it sensitively deals with the very serious condition of OCD.
· ENDING: The ending is by no means fairy tale perfect, but Adam does triumph over The Establishment and is reborn a new young man. A character in the book even gives him a new nickname because of it. And everyone agrees he is a hero.
Other Fool Triumphant stories to study…
Films: TOOTSIE, FORREST GUMP, LEGALLY BLONDE, MISS CONGENIALITY, CROCODILE DUNDEE, ELF, BEVERLY HILLS COP,
Books: BRIDGET JONE’S DIARY by Helen Fielding, THE ABSOLUTELY TRUE DIARY OF A PART-TIME INDIAN by Sherman Alexie
Thank you for joining us today. We hope you enjoyed F is for Fool Triumphant and we invite you back tomorrow for our next installment of Masterplots Theater, G is for Gothic.
And please share your own favorite Fool Triumphant stories in the comments below.
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