Sometimes the right combination of writing/staging/acting will mess with your head

Before starting with the post, I’m putting in a music video by Rhett and Link, both to lighten the mood and because the song is strangely fitting for a post as musings-like as this one. It’s a funny and engaging song, too:

I’m planning to use the Hunger Games, Code Geass, and Dollhouse to sort of focus me on my point, in this post. This is going to be less them, though, and more about the idea of presenting a story in such a way that the audience takes a different stance than they might have otherwise. So it’s a little all over the place, and I’ll be primarily using these three things as examples. But I think it’s an interesting thing to think about.

Sometime back, I saw a video review of the Hunger Games movie, though I unfortunately don’t remember who by. The review brought up a point which I didn’t really consider too much at the time, but which kept coming back to me later. She talked about how she thought the movie failed in the scene where it portrayed Clove’s death–one of the children participating in the Hunger Games and one of the antagonists to Katniss Everdeen. She said it should have showed that the deaths of all of the children in the Hunger Games were horrible things to happen; instead it had the audience cheering when Clove died.

This doesn’t really tie into a comment on how the Hunger Games played things, although I feel obligated to point out that at least they did get a good pre-death speech by another child antagonist in the movie. Still, this idea got me to thinking about Clove’s character build up, and the circumstances of her death. Inevitably, this got me thinking about Code Geass (an anime with one of the most fascinating tragic story lines I’ve come across). If any series knew how to take characters that the audience disliked or hated and kill them off in such a way that most viewers changed their minds about them, it was this one.

What’s interesting is how the perception of a character can be changed entirely with one good tragic death scene. It’s not something I see pulled off very often, but I can’t help feeling that it’s a brilliant manipulation of our feelings, as viewers. It’s only when I come across a show that can do something like that, that I realize that, oh, this is how my emotions work. They can be very context based. And sometimes, the way we emotionally react to something–to anything–will tell us something about ourselves.

And as long as I’m talking about manipulating the audience, I have to mention Dollhouse. While this was a very uneven series, there was one scene–it was the very end of the first season’s sixth episode–where I could feel myself being manipulated. The scene had to do with implanted memories, and a man who never got to show his wife a gift he got for her because she died too soon, trying to recreate what would have happened.

I knew that it was supposed to be wrong. Those memories were forced into someone who wasn’t his wife. But the way the episode had set up the scene, the way it was staged, her smile as she saw it… I couldn’t help but feel the poignancy of recapturing a moment that they never got the chance to have. My though process at the time went something like this: “Aw, that’s so sweet…Wait, what am I thinking? No it’s not.” And it was a brilliant scene, because while there was something unambiguously wrong with it, it still managed to tell the audience that it could influence our emotions if it wanted to.

Anyone else encounter something written or staged in a way that influences your perception on characters or scenes?

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