I agree with… Joel and Ethan Coen

Joel and Ethan Coen “Culturally people are used to watching certain kinds of movies, and a lot of movies have genre types as characters, and those are the people you see in movies. They are used to seeing Tom Cruise play Jaaaack Reeeeeacher,” he slurs the name sarcastically, “and the characters are all kind of the same.”
[Joel Coen, interview in the Sunday Times Culture magazine, September 15, 2013]

Joel and Ethan Coen

[photo: filmschoolrejects.com]

In this interview, Joel and Ethan Coen talk about characterization in their movies. They have been accused of creating odd characters, critics call these grotesques [below, Frances McDormand as Marge from Fargo].

Joel and Ethan Coen

[photo: movieweb.com]

Ethan: “The whole people-taking-it-as-grotesques thing is they don’t see it or they want to disavow parts of themselves by saying ‘Oh those people are weird’.”

I worry that we have a tendency today – in film, in literature, in life – of needing to label and pigeon-hole people. Anyone different is odd. Labels and pigeon-holes do not tell a complete picture.

Authors should be free to create their characters, free to let their stories develop without having to discount a story turn that may take it ‘out of genre’. More authors these days are self-publishing where they are free to market themselves as themselves, not as a label put on them by someone else.

I love traditional books, but as more authors do not fit traditional book publishers’ rigid ideas of fiction genre – older heroes, stand-alone books not trilogies or series, not a celebrity name – then we will lose more paper books to e-books. And that makes me sad. I love the smell of books and my Kindle doesn’t smell!

If you agree with Joel and Ethan Coen, perhaps you will agree with:-
Karen Maitlanddo your research, then set it aside
Michèle ForbesI was born there, grew up there, and I felt I had to reconnect with the place
Rachel Cuskit takes a particular kind of courage to write memoir

Joel and Ethan Coen


‘The Coen Brothers’ by Ian Nathan [UK: Aurum Press]

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On creating unusual characters: I agree with… Joel and Ethan Coen #writing http://wp.me/p5gEM4-xO via @SandraDanby


  1. Very insightful thoughts from these great film makers. Though I think that it is natural for people to categorize, as well as feel comfortable with stereotypical characters. I completely agree that this tendency seems to be running a bit out of control and is in a way, dumbing down our society.

    • Hi Brian, I’m a big Coen fan, they do their own thing. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, but that doesn’t stop them trying new things. SD