August 29, 2003
Subtext is everything...
Okay, so here's my object lesson on the importance of the subtext an individual reader/viewer brings with them to a book/story/show.
I've been watching The West Wing on Bravo. Missed it when it first came on, so it's neat to have a second chance to watch it from the beginning. I love this show. Love it. In the episode I saw today, the President is getting ready for his first State of the Union speech. One of the subplots involved picking someone to stay behind in case something happened at the Capitol so the government would continue to run, blah blah blah. The last scene of the episode is the President talking to the guy they picked, who was like the Secretary of Agriculture or something.
It's a nice scene. Ties together some of the major plot threads of the episode, has some nice character touches. The agriculture secretary guy gets a short briefing on what to do should he find himself as acting President, and he gives the president a gift--a copy of the Constitution translated into Latin.
But the whole time I was watching it, I felt uneasy and creeped out. I kept thinking, "No! Don't believe him! The agriculture secretary is evil! Don't read that book, it'll steal your soul!" Why did I think this? The agriculture secretary was played by Harry Groener, also known as Mayor Richard Wilkins from Buffy. Even though consciously I recognize that actors play roles and they aren't their characters, blah blah blah, my subconscious heard his voice and went, "AHHHHH! Evil!"
Now I understand how actors get typecast. I also understand now how I have absolutely no control over the strange places some of my readers might go when reading my stuff. Doesn't mean I should worry about it ahead of time or that I should change something that gives a reader a weird cross-association, any more than it means Harry Groener should never get work again.
I needed to hear that, because honestly, I've changed a lot of things for exactly that reason, either to avoid it or because it happened. Just something for me to keep in mind on a gloomy afternoon.
(On even more of a totally bizarre tangent: Harry Groener was in the original Broadway cast of Cats. Couldn't picture it until I saw it.)Posted by Lisa at August 29, 2003 01:29 PM