Friday, 30 October 2009

Attention screenwriters - help needed on feasibility issue!

So, here’s the problem:

In the script I’m working on, I’m trying to misdirect the audience regarding the gender of an as-yet-unseen character.

Do you reckon it’s feasible to show a hand-written note from the character without the writing giving away that they're male and not – as I’m trying to lead the audience to believe – female?

Maybe I’m worrying too much, but I just reckon you can normally tell someone’s gender by their handwriting. Any thoughts gratefully received.

Thanks in advance!


Robin Kelly said...

If it's in capitals it's more difficult to tell. I'm not sure the audience will have the question in their heads anyway but misdirection might help.

Bingethink said...

Just to be clear – you’re not planning to place a handwritten section into your actual script, are you, because that would be a real no-no?

But assuming you’re just describing the handwritten note, I can’t see any problem at all.

Firstly, I’m not sure I agree with the premise that you can tell gender from handwriting. OK, maybe if you’re the kind of gal who dots each i with a love heart, there might be a clue. But even then, you can’t be 100% sure.

So, consider what will actually appear onscreen: a handwritten note. Even if it’s what you’d consider a particularly feminine or masculine hand, you couldn’t be certain who had written it. If it was a less distinctly gendered style, then you’d have even less of a clue. So your concern really is that the audience will see your gender reveal in the film, then think “Hang on. That’s impossible. I am about 60% sure that the handwritten note from half an hour ago looked broadly more feminine than masculine, although 60% might be pushing it”.

And consider then what you have to put in your script in order to "misdirect" the audience:

CLOSE ON: A handwritten note, in a copperplate of indeterminate gender.

compared to:

CLOSE ON: a handwritten note.

So, to conclude, you worry too much.

liv said...

I've seen plenty of men who write like women, and plenty of women who write like chickens.... There's a standard cursive, which a qualified props person should be able to obtain which would be gender neutral I'd assume. Sort of like a standard dialect, but only written.

laurence timms said...

Right, here's the science bit. There are a number of studies (all from the early part of the 20th century) which uniformly indicate that gender can be determined from handwriting. Check out the references listed here.

And no, I'm not a wikipedia nut; it's often wrong. But the research it refers to is on the money.

That said, I agree with Bingethink's point. You probably are worrying too much.

Tom Murphy said...

Thanks very much, all.

Laurence seems to have summed up the consensus pretty well: I'm worrying too much.