Thursday, April 24, 2008

Narration as meta-information

I’ve always had an uneasy relationship with narration as a dramatic device. It always seemed forced or lazy (or, perhaps, condescending); often, the narrator tells you something that could have been more artfully accomplished within the story. It’s rarely actually helpful , and sometimes downright distracting. Scrubs and Grey’s Anatomy are particularly bad this way – does Zach Braff really need to intone “Sometimes, you realize that the people you rely on have problems of their own” for us to get the point?

So, when the video below made the internet rounds, it made me realize part of what is so frustrating about narration: it’s meta-information, and it is so distractingly placed within the dramatic narrative that it actually pulls you away from your natural involvement. That disembodied voice reminds you that you are watching a show, or movie, or whatever. It tells you to pay attention to something besides the story, and worse, it tells you to instead pay attention to what someone (the writer, the character) wants you to think about the story.

Of course, you could just laugh at how strange and oddly sociopathic the characters seem without their voiceover.

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