Utne Blogs > Mind and Body

Breaking Script

by Danielle Magnuson


Tags: Casablanca, Taxi Driver, Kristine Madera, scripts, ad-libbing, social contract, conversation, mind and body, Den of Geek, WNC Woman, Danielle Magnuson,

Statues in conversation“Here’s looking at you, kid,” Rick says gently to Ilsa at the end of Casablanca. It’s one of the most tender, heartbreaking, and quoted lines from the classic film—and according to Den of Geek, “legend has it that this is something Bogart used to say to Bergman as he taught her to play poker in between takes on set. It was never in the original script at all.”

Same goes for De Niro’s famous line in Taxi Driver: “You talkin’ to me?” Ad-libbed, and brilliantly so.

Breaking script is the first thought that came to mind for writer and clinical hypnotist Kristine Madera on her 40th birthday. She woke up ready to end the polite, rigid, dull, scripted conversations that fill out most of our days. She called her new mindset a birthquake, an seismic shaking up of the social contract as a gift to herself:

Once you pay attention to the social scripts, they become so obvious that you wonder how you participated without yawning or bursting out laughing. The most common one, which most people have toyed around with, is the ubiquitous, “How are you?”

It’s such a script that it’s actually a joke, and yet—it still flusters people to answer anything but a version of “fine,” “doing good,” or “okay.” Declaring yourself to be fabulous, or verbally vomiting your aches and pains all over the questioner, throws the whole dance into disarray.

This disarray is what invigorated Madera, broke up the monotony of daily life, and silenced telemarketers, who weren’t quite sure how to respond to her query of “What did you have for breakfast?” Just as ad-libbed lines in movies can become the most powerful and memorable, an improvised life script has the potential to heighten the beauty and passion of social interaction. But beware, writes Madera: “It’s easy, once you break a good one, to get that giddy feeling, and start to take script-breaking to an extreme, which can cause you to lose friends and annoy people in an extravagant way.” So once you harness this power, use it for good, not evil. Here’s looking at you and your renewed life script.

Source: Den of Geek, WNC Woman 

Image by D’Arcy Norman, licensed under Creative Commons.