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Telling Big Little Lies: Writing the Female Gothic as extended metaphor in Complex Television

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This article investigates the writing of the Female Gothic as extended metaphor in the Complex TV series Big Little Lies (2017). It builds on my earlier work, ‘Theme and complex narrative structure in HBO’s Big Little Lies 2017’ (2019), wherein I applied Porter et al.’s (2002) structuralist narrative tool, the ‘Scene Function Model’, to investigate the way narrative and theme is progressed in complex interweaving stories via the writing of core or ‘kernel’ narrative scenes. Herein, I further investigate storytelling in series TV by proposing the ‘satellite’ narrative scene as a means by which the screenwriter may conceptualize and deploy metaphor to create viewer engagement. First, I consider David E. Kelley’s series screenplay, Big Little Lies, as a blueprint for HBO’s televised series. Specifically, I apply theories of Complex TV, Gothic Television and Domestic Noir to consider how Kelley deploys the Female Gothic as extended metaphor to inform formal narrative elements including the pre-titles sequences and flashbacks repeated across episodes.
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Keywords: Big Little Lies; Complex TV; Female Gothic; screenwriting; screenwriting and metaphor; television

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 0000000404375432Griffith Film School, Griffith University

Publication date: March 1, 2020

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  • The Journal of Screenwriting aims to explore the nature of writing for the moving image in the broadest sense, highlighting current academic thinking around scriptwriting whilst also reflecting on this with a truly international perspective and outlook. The journal will encourage the investigation of a broad range of possible methodologies and approaches to studying the scriptwriting form, in particular: the history of the form, contextual analysis, the process of writing for the moving image, the relationship of scriptwriting to the production process and how the form can be considered in terms of culture and society. The journal also aims to encourage research in the field of screenwriting, the linking of scriptwriting practice to academic theory, and to support and promote conferences and networking events on this subject.
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