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Wednesday, January 16, 2013

There's been a bit of news up here in Canada about the Idle No More movement, which is a movement of Native rights activists who are blocking roads and trains and things because they want... something. I'm not entirely sure. Something about rivers?

Kids, I'm not up on the politics of this movement, or whether Natives really get the short end of the stick on taxes. I don't doubt they do. I went up to visit an Inuit town on Hudson Bay, and the Canadian Government pretty much destroyed the Inuit way of life and replaced it with nothing. But from a point of view of political theater, which is the only part of this that belongs in this blog, "Idle No More" is a lousy name for a movement.

First of all, it's generic. Any movement at all could be named "Idle No More." (Tautologically: if you are a movement, you are moving, and if you are moving, you aren't idle.) ACT UP could have been named "Idle No More," except that "ACT UP" is much snappier, and has the nuance of "We are going to behave rudely to get your attention" which is exactly what ACT UP was all about.

"Idle No More" utterly fails to communicate what it's about. The name of a movement should communicate what it's about. Greenpeace -- get it? The People's Front for the Liberation of Palestine. The Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-day Saints. Occupy Wall Street. No one ever heard the name "Students for a Democratic Society" and asked, "But what do those kids even want"?

"Idle No More" unfortunately sounds like it should be an organization whose goal is to obtain jobs for its members, who have been or are currently unemployed. I suppose Idle No More wouldn't mind getting more jobs for Natives, but then it's not about rivers, since their objection to deregulating rivers is that stuff will get built near or in or over them. Some of their program is a recipe for fewer jobs and more environment.

"Idle No More" is a lousy name because it implies that its members have been idle so far. And "idle" is just not a good word to apply to yourself. "Oppressed no more," fine. "Dispossessed no more," good. "Give Us Back Our F***ing Land That You Stole, Or At Least Pay Us Fair Market Value," a bit wordy, but okay. But "Idle No More" has the nuance, "Hey, Look, We Finally Got Off Our Asses!"

I guess the idea is that Natives have been forced to be idle by a couple of centuries of oppression, rape, murder, theft, and so forth. But this gets back to my main point is:  the public shouldn't have to guess. Your movement's name is the most important way you communicate with people who don't already agree with you. It has to be amazing.

And this gets back to screenwriting: the most important part of your screenplay, after your hook, is your title. No one spends enough time on their title. You might spend three or six months or a year on your screenplay. Shouldn't you spend two weeks or a month getting the most amazing title you possibly can? Because people make snap judgments all the time. If your title doesn't sell your screenplay, you are cutting yourself off at the legs. Make sure it sells


You know, the first couple of times I saw Idle No More on Google News, I thought it was something to do with stopping cars from idling. There's a law against it here and many other places. In other words, I agree.

By Blogger Tim W., at 1:51 PM  

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