(Disclaimer: This is something I did as a way of examining a story, finding something I didn’t feel fit, and trying to explain it. If you haven’t seen Twister, then it won’t make a ton of sense. If it has been awhile since you seen it, may be a little confusing too)
Behind all the great special effects and the big budget there is a major script problem with the movie Twister. The actors are all respected and have done good work. Helen Hunt is a fine actress, as well as Bill Paxton is a fine actor. Yet the emotional impact the writers were trying to convey is flawed because of a single character. The actor did a fine job, the dialogue was fine, and the character’s role in the story was fine. Simply who that character is in relation to the lead, Jo played by Helen Hunt.
Aunt Meg should not be Aunt Meg, but Jo’s mom, Meg. Why? Because there is an emotional void in how the film was written specifically with the emotional motivation of Jo. Billy played by Bill Paxton, says “killing yourself won’t bring your dad back…” which was an effort to provide insight into Jo’s motives. Let’s look back to the beginning. The film opens with Jo’s father needlessly dying by making a stupid decision that only resulted in his death and would have had no consequence otherwise. Holding the door closed proved to be a decision that ended his life, but also did nothing to save his family as they clearly lived through the ordeal without the door. Which you could argue is a major problem off the bat. This was clearly an attempt to quickly give Jo a reason to be a storm chaser. So throughout her life she has pursued tornados. Chasing storms in an effort to learn more about them and offer more warning so that no little girl sees her father carried away by a major twister. Despite the fact that even if they had plenty of warning, which really seems like they did as it was, he still would have likely died because he attempted to hold a door closed that was being sucked in by the storm. Anyway, so Jo works to help learn more about tornados; which if successful would still help many people. So that is the motivation and the reason behind it. Jo’s father’s death is the inciting incident in her life, and learning more about tornados is the desired outcome. That is all fine and works for the most part. This is a path anyone could see forming.
We then find ourselves many years in the future. Billy is trying to get Jo to sign the divorce papers so he can marry his new love. In doing so he finds himself mixed in with the storm chasing crew again. Billy clearly knows what drives her. However, we have zero knowledge of her mother, nor do we know how she has functioned in life. Since she’s the “boss lady” as one crew member describes her, it is clear she is in charge, at least to some degree. So one has to assume she’s been able to emotionally hold up to get into this position. Clearly she was in a relationship so she was at least at one point capable of a normal social relationship. With all of that established and with knowing that her father’s death haunts her still we are able to conclude that her father’s death is not debilitating.
However, there is a void in her relationship to her mother. Now you could easily say, oh well her mother just doesn’t live in the area so she’s not concerned with her safety. It is made abundantly clear that she and Meg are close, as the crew knows her well enough to suggest they visit her, and Meg and Jo have a deeply personal conversation where Meg clearly knows what is in Jo’s mind. So they do have a strong bond. That does not mean her mom doesn’t exist, or that she doesn’t have a strong bond with her. But why is “Aunt Meg” the emotional connection with Jo used to demonstrate her love of Billy and later to give her a sense of fear turned into inspiration. Why not mom? It is well understood that young girls are deeply impacted by their relationship or lack thereof with their father. But this is true of their relationship with their mother. All children are deeply impacted by their relationship with their parents. But Jo’s character is portrayed in two forms of light, a soon to be divorced woman who is having difficulty dealing with that fact as well as a daughter still motivated by her father’s death. Later in the film we see signs of instability that are called out by Billy. But it is just because of her father. It may be small, but if Aunt Meg were Momma Meg, then Jo’s mental state would have lined up better. See because we have no idea of the state of Jo’s mom, we are left to wonder. It is sort of like a missing piece of the puzzle. They worked really hard to maintain and expand upon the image they created of Jo, yet there’s a huge piece missing and needlessly.
Scenario 1: Jo’s mom died after her father:
Would this not haunt Jo? Is there any death, even those that are expected are difficult. This would imply the only death that haunts her is her father’s death, because her mother’s was more acceptable as a normal outcome of living. What if it was immediately after her father? The storm sucked her mom out of the storm shelter and killed her as well. Why would Billy just say dad then, not parents? Say her mom died years later in a horrific manner. Would this not haunt her as well? Or is she someone capable of picking and choosing when something impacts them. She’s dealing with storms, so her dad’s death causes her issues, but when she goes back to researching how to prevent car crashes someone can accuse her of irrational behavior while desperately trying to stop car crashes?
Scenario 2: Jo’s mom is alive.
How is the relationship? Is it stronger than the one with Meg? Is it a strained relationship? If her relationship is similar to that of the one with Meg, why have Meg and not just have mom? If it is strained, then why was that not used to point out the emotional motivations of Jo? Her mom feels she should quit chasing storms and start realizing she lost Billy because of her emotional obsession with her father’s death. There are many ways this could go, yet we don’t get to explore that because Meg exists and mom doesn’t.
All of this is a result of her mother being shown in the opening scene of the film. They established Jo’s mother, then never went back.
Maybe this is all just nit picking a movie that came out many years ago and was clearly more about the visual effects versus the story line. But why not have a simple change. Watch Twister, and when they say “Aunt Meg” imagine they said “Momma Meg” and just see if the emotional impact is different. When Jo sits next to her bruised and battered mother and Dusty reveals that they are somehow able to predict an F5 tornado that won’t happen for nearly a day later and she looks at her mother, and mom tells her to go get it. Then wouldn’t that feel much different? Would the emotional connection make more sense, due to the fact that Jo’s character is more aligned? Would it matter? Ask yourself this then, how do you feel about the characters in Twister?
The whole point is that when the story was written, it was completely overlooked and could have easily been adjusted. Same actress, same story line, just with a slightly different title. This whole thing came about when I started to write down what I felt was wrong with Twister, and this piece stuck out. We all know the magical windshield, the fact they somehow predict an F5, and other things that were done poorly. But to me, as a writer, this piece stands out because it was something that could have easily been done slightly different and made the story better.
It is still a good movie, despite the errors and negative critics, I enjoy the film. The point of this isn’t to trash it, but to simply point out how one minor change could make a story much better or at least a little less confusing.