Cover photo courtesy of fandomania.com – Inset photos courtesy of ABC, CBS, Netflix
By Michele PW (Pariza Wacek)
What Makes TV Lines So Memorable?
A Recap Of Last Year’s Hottest TV Lines and What Makes Them Memorable
Winter is coming.
What makes memorable lines in television and film stand out and be
remembered more than others?
I would argue there are five main “ingredients” that help push a line
from good to memorable. Now, it’s not necessary to hit all five, but the
more you have, the more likely you’ll have come up with a quotable line.
It’s unexpected and/or a contradiction. One memorable quote from
Richard Weber on Grey’s Anatomy is “”Sometimes it’s good to be scared.
It means you still have something to lose.”
Usually we’re hearing that we shouldn’t be scared or that our fear isn’t
logical or rational (this is especially true if you’re a worrier). To
hear that in some situations it’s GOOD to be scared and that it has a
good meaning, is definitely unexpected.
But, it’s not just this quote — most quotes that either jolt us or make
us laugh do so because we’re not expecting it.
For instance, on the Netflix show Stranger Things, we had this exchange:
Dustin: “You’re going to take out the demigorgon with a slingshot?”
Lucas: “First of all, it’s a wrist-rocket.”
In this case, the humor comes from two contradictions, first taking on a
monster with a slingshot, and then the correction, which is basically
renaming the weapon to something that sounds cool.
And, this quote from Laurel on How to Get Away With Murder is a good
example of how to use exaggeration to make something unexpected:
“Your mailbox isn’t full, so I know that means you’re checking your
messages and not dead somewhere.”
The power of contradictions extends beyond memorable lines. Some of our
most memorable fictional characters are a bundle of contradictions.
Think Sheldon on The Big Bang Theory and Young Sheldon. On one hand,
he’s very smart, but he’s also so literal and so lacking in social
graces, he comes across as dumb in certain areas. That contradiction
between smart and not-smart is part of what makes him memorable.
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