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The Art of the Monologue

Mrs. Jiwaku and I are currently watching (for me, re-watching) the TV series Dead Like Me. I have to say, the writing is pretty good, especially after the first few episodes. In the first season’s penultimate episode, the characters are sorting through a ton of paperwork, inputting the last thoughts of the souls they’ve reaped into a database. Daisy Adair, a sort of Hollywood cynic type turned grim reaper, has been fending off the sexual advances a British druggie reaper who is really not her type. They end up working together, and data entry ends up being something more like a trip through Daisy’s emotional issues, because they’re stuck with a pile of regrets of a specific kind.

Daisy leaves the cubicle, taking refuge in the photocopy room, where she unexpectedly meets another reaper, Millie, whom she asks, “Doesn’t it bother you?” When Millie asks what she means, she says this:

Everybody’s thoughts are the same: two-thirds are people who regret, the rest are people who forgot to do stuff or are praying or are alone. Shouldn’t there be more? More piles, more words, more thoughts? And then, and then you die. And you might become a reaper and the magic of creation well that turns out to be a 9-5 job with lots of paper work… it’s just, it’s so, it’s so everyday.

Millie mentions the fact that maybe the places where the majority of souls go to, those that “move on,” might be magical, and Daisy replies:

How do you know that’s true? Maybe we just move to one filing job to the next… Oh my God, we’re all temps.

Millie’s little interjection is handy, but Daisy would have gotten there even without it, to that last, absolutely true line. We are all temps, briefly in this world, then gone. Interjection or not, this is still a monologue, and a wonderful one. The last line seems to have struck not just me alone. That’s the magic of the monologue: you have a basically shallow, “flat” character, become something eerily like a person… hell, even maybe eerily like yourself, if not in details, than at least in the fact that they, too, seem to be looking at the world you’re in, the life we all are born into, the limitations and the wonders alike of what it is to be human… you have unexpected insight, you have truth, you have pain and even conflict. The delivery is important, but it starts with those words on the page.

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