I would like to take a moment to salute actress Liza Lapira. With roles in this week's Fast & Furious, as well as showing up recently on TV in Dollhouse, Dexter, and NCIS, Lapira is acheiving something that only a few actors accomplish -- she's on the road to creating what will perhaps be known as the "Liza Lapira Type," a character so specific that her very name becomes shorthand for the role.

Scriptwriters love a good character cliche. You know what I'm talking about -- the second- or third-banana who doesn't have to be fleshed out as a fully realized person, because they mainly exist to give the main characters someone to talk to about important plot points.

In cop movies, there's the Angry Lieutenant Who Calls the Lead a "Loose Cannon" (genre variations include the Angry Senior FBI Agent, the Angry Cubicle Farm Boss, and the Angry Army Sergeant.) In romantic comedies, you've got your Fat 'n Sassy Best Friend, although the more common current variable is the Stylish But Still Sassy Gay Best Friend. And what would the horror genre be without the Ethnic Guy Who Gets Hacked to Death First, or the Slutty Girl Who Runs Away from the Monster While Wearing a Tank Top?

Similarly, law enforcement procedurals have long relied on the presence of the Wet Behind the Ears New Agent (WBENA), for a couple of important reasons. First, it gives the main characters a reason to explain expository stuff that the screenwriters want us, the audience, to understand -- having your lead actor spit out a big ol' infodump of dialogue is a lot easier than figuring out a smart way to actually show us, rather than tell us. Also, someone has to fetch coffee and files, and process the evidence, and you certainly can't have your primary characters doing boring things that would, you know, be part of their jobs in real life.

categories Cinematical