• Gina Denny

2.13 - Power Dynamics

Updated: Jun 17

This episode opens with a flashback to kindergarten, where Ted wants to be an architect but is bullied for it. It immediately flashes forward to 2007, where Ted is being bullied at work by his former boss, Hammond Druthers. This relationship demonstrates a shifting power dynamic between them: Druthers used to be Ted’s boss, but now Ted is his supervisor on a big project.

Worse, Ted has to be the boss of the whole project, the whole team. He no longer has friends at work, he now has to enforce the rules and make the difficult decisions.

Ted is working long hours, but finds out Druthers is sleeping at the office. He tries to be a nice guy and ends up letting Druthers sleep on his couch, and he lends Druthers clothes, and they try to be ‘friends’. But since Druthers holds so much power in the office, Ted is still at his mercy socially, even if not officially.

Eventually, Ted has to fire Druthers, but not before Druthers hits absolute rock bottom. As far as the audience is concerned, Ted had the power but he abused it. Had Druthers been fired in the opening act, he would have deserved it. But because Ted waffled and waffled about it, we see Druthers brought low before Ted proverbially kicks him while he’s down.

Meanwhile at home, they find a painting of naked Marshall that Lily made when they were all in college. The whole gang mocks Marshall, to the point of bullying. They hang the painting up in the bar, Barney says he has it set up on tour around museums, etc.

Lily is hurt, but Barney points out that they aren’t making fun of the painting, they’re just messing with Marshall. Again - a demonstration of shifting power dynamics within the group. Marshall gets teased because they’re all peers; nobody has the upper hand, really.

Barney then hires Lily to paint him in the nude. Again: a shifting power dynamic. Barney has the money, so he’s in the position of controlling where Marshall’s painting is displayed. But now he’s going to use his money to get something he wants: a nude painting of himself.

Marshall decides he wants more money from Barney, so he exerts his power as the fiance, claiming that he hates the idea of Lily painting Barney nude. The power dynamics shift around again, sliding between money and love and sex and ego, rather than staying static.

This whole episode plays with these power dynamics, giving the audience a new look at the way characters are trying to grow. In the end, everyone has kind of a one-step-forward-one-step-back kind of shift. Ted manages to fire Druthers, but gives everyone in the office a margarita machine. Lily took control of her art, no longer concerned about seeing other men naked, but paints someone she doesn’t really want to paint. Marshall exerts power over a situation while still giving Barney what he ultimately wants. Barney gets a painting he wanted, but he ends up paying a ton of money for it, thinking he’s in control the whole time.

Playing with power dynamics in your story can be a good way to make it feel fresh, even if you’re writing a story that relies on well-established tropes. The evil stepmother is a common trope, but at the end of Ever After, the evil stepmother loses her social cache and is powerless in the relationship. The Chosen One is another common trope, but Moana can’t wield any magic. In the end, the story is new and interesting because she doesn’t become a powerful sorceress or mage or jedi or wizard; she just has compassion for another person.

Writing Prompt: Pick a famous scene - one you know really well - and swap the power dynamics

Listen to the episode here

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