The Trouble With Adding Backstories


Remember that Grinch movie that added the title character’s backstory so we could see how he got so evil?

Boring! It was better as subtext! Or left to our imaginations!

And now, the upcoming Broadway revival of Porgy and Bess is supposedly going to add a little background to flesh out the characters, something that recently sent Stephen Sondheim into a letter-writing tizzy of horror.

Well, what other backstories can you imagine being shoehorned into classics so all the armchair psychologists out there can say, “Oh! That’s how they got that way!”?

I can think of some:

*In Sophie’s Choice, they can add a scene where Meryl Streep, as a child, is made to choose between two pairs of mittens by her mother, and gets terribly confused.

*Gandhi should have a flashback where the young Mahatma accidentally drops his burger into a well, leaving nothing but a wisp of some garni on top. He nibbles on it and finds he loves it! That sets the seed for his future fasting.

*There should also be a scene where little Mahatma sees a turtle trying to eat a fly and realizes the awfulness of battle. He separates them and vows to spend the rest of his life fighting for peace. Alas, in separating them, he had to swat the fly away, which killed it.

*The King’s Speech should have his majesty turn to the camera and explain that when he was a kid, he joined some schoolmates in a sing-along of “K-K-K-Katie” and really enjoyed the syncopation.

*Precious should add about 40 minutes of monologues whereby each character stops in their tracks and announces, “I am fucked up because …”

Any other bright ideas?