TV with my aunt
PEOPLE in the TV and movie industries think they know what viewers want to see. They don't know what my aunt wants to see. I recently shared an evening of TV with her, and it was a rather short evening. Repeatedly she becamed riled by certain aspects of behavior portrayed on screen, and she would then feel compelled to switch channels. We quickly ran out of program options.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
What fascinated me was the nature of the things that bothered her. They were details most people would not focus on.
One movie had a scene in which a woman was preparing a dinner for her guest, but when they sat down to eat, important dialogue took place between her and the guest -- so important that they barely touched their dinner before bolting out the door to pursue further action. The director no doubt was satisfied to have this talk propel his characters into the next scene, for he was operating on the assumption that viewers would mainly be interested in the story's progress. Not my aunt. She was yelling. ``The
nerve! That really gripes me. All that time spent making that dinner, and now they're not going to eat it.'' She switched channels.
My aunt knows plenty about all the preparation that goes into making a nice dinner. They could have hired her as a technical consultant for that scene. And if they had, I'm sure she would have insisted that the actor and actress clean their plates thoroughly before they go gallivanting off in pursuit of greater plot complications.
The next program had the lead character seeking release of his frustrations by breaking furnishings in his apartment. He handed a lamp to his wife and suggested she throw it on the floor. ``You'll feel better,'' he said. This was presented with comedic intent, but my aunt thought it was terrible that they would break their things that way. What's worse, the director moved to the next scene without showing the two cleaning up after themselves. ``At least they should show them cleaning up,'' my aunt said,
``so that people know it takes a half hour of work to recover from a two-minute tantrum.'' I pointed out that this would mean devoting 30 minutes of a 90-minute film to rather tame footage of two actors sweeping and mopping. ``Serves them right for their behavior,'' she replied. She turned the channel.
In a third movie, the main character was seen driving a car with the female lead seated alongside. In terms of story development, the conversation that took place in the car was crucially important. So the man kept turning to look the woman in the eye while he spoke. And my aunt kept yelling, ``Hey, keep your eyes on the road! You can talk when you're done driving. There're other people on the road too, you know.'' My aunt is the only person I know who worries about the welfare of the ``other people on the road'' in a movie.
I sincerely hope that someday someone makes a movie in which the characters spend their time silently driving, eating leisurely, then washing their plates thoroughly, being all the while careful not to break anything. It wouldn't have the most dynamic plot in the world, but I know someone who would be very pleased by it.