Editor's Note 2: Chekhov's Gun

11:32 AM

Today, I will be talking about a term/trope in movies that is often overlooked- which is sort of ironic, given the definition of it. 

Warning: There are spoilers for the 2nd season of the television series Atlanta and Logan. You have been warned.

By Ajay Ascano, film editor.
Anton Pavlovich Chekhov was a Russian short-fiction author and playwright who was known for his unique writing style, often using diction and sentence syntax that confused readers in both his plays and short-stories. The term ‘Chekhov’s Gun’ was a name given to a trope that Chekhov wrote about in multiple letters to other writers:
”Remove everything that has no relevance to the story. If you say in the first chapter that there is a rifle hanging on the wall, in the second or third chapter it absolutely must go off. If it's not going to be fired, it shouldn't be hanging there.” 
In summary, an object that is described or shown anywhere in the piece should always have function in some way through the piece of media. He also says that everything unimportant to the story should not be there. This is the ironic part; a good use of Chekhov’s gun would be downplaying the importance of the ‘gun,’ only for it to be used later within the plot. 

This term goes hand in hand with foreshadowing in stories, where events are implied to happen, but should not be confused with a Macguffin, which makes an object the focal point of a story, such as the rings from the series of books, The Lord of the Rings, or the time-travelling DeLorean in the Back to the Future series.

Now, let’s identify some uses of Chekhov’s gun in some modern writing:

Atlanta Season 2: Robbin’ Season

The FX show Atlanta follows famed writer and musical artist Donald Glover’s character Earnest “Earn” Marks, and his career as rapper Paper Boi’s manager. This season’s name is in reference to a time in which everyone is out for themselves, robbing to get their necessities in time for the winter.

The first episode brings Earn to his uncle’s house, where he receives a golden handgun, for which he gets made fun of. Throughout the season, it isn’t mentioned once after Earn puts it under the bed.

This is example of the trope is literally a gun.

The last episode of the season brings Earn and his crew to the airport, as they leave for an international music tour. As they packed up for the trip, Earn forgot one thing: the gun was in his backpack during the TSA check. This created a very intense moment in the episode. The setup for this event did not dawn on me until I rewatched the season later.

Logan and the Adamantium Bullet

Logan, a superhero movie that shook its genre, follows an old man, Wolverine, from the X-men, tired and getting along with his life in the further future. The movie follows Logan as he helps a fellow mutant girl, Laura, to find her friends; eventually, he helps them get over to the mutant promised land, Eden. While not explicitly telling the audience what happened through the years after the previous movies, the movie tells you that Logan has been struggling with himself for ages. At one point, Laura finds a bullet made of Logan’s true weakness, Adamantium, which he had contemplated suicide with.

Later in the film, a clone of Wolverine is created, which bests its original in combat, being a version of him in his prime. As it just about defeats Logan, a single gunshot to the head kills him- using the bullet that was previously only an emotional device.

In this case, Chekhov’s Gun was actually the bullet!

October’s rolling around, and my articles for next month are gonna be horror-related. I hope you enjoy them!

Thanks for reading--and stay classy,

Ajay Ascano

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