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I can relate.

13 June 2011

I finally saw “Green Zone” this afternoon. Yeah, I know. A movie that, on its surface, was tailor-made for me, but it took me forever (and getting a Blu-Ray player from my awesome wife for my anniversary) to finally get around to seeing it.

I really dug the film, but I realized that, from the get-go, it doesn’t really speak to a large audience. There’s a lot of military jargon used in the dialogue with almost no explanation, enough that a friend I talked to mentioned he had no idea what the hell the characters were saying. In this case, the filmmakers sacrificed audience accessibility for reality, and I think it worked nicely.

Of course, if they wanted to hit a broader audience, they needed to put in an audience surrogate. You know, someone who doesn’t really know military protocol, or the situation in Iraq, or what a C-BIST is. They had a character who could have done so (the reporter Amy Ryan played), but they didn’t really use her in that capacity.

So here’s my question — how important is an audience surrogate to you in a story? Especially one that puts you into an unfamiliar situation? Do you think it hurts not only the mass appeal, but the story, when no audience surrogate exists? Or do you think it enhances the realism of the story?

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. 13 June 2011 1537

    I really don’t enjoy being treated like a fracking moron by all these TV shows and movies. It’s quite refreshing when movies cut out all the extraneous bullshit and just tell a story without trying to stop and drop explainatory dialogue every. single. step. of. the. way. For things anyone of average intelligence could intuit anyway!

  2. 13 June 2011 1548

    In film, I think that it would be needed, but screenwriters need to innovate and use less of the “new guy” character. Maybe using more of visual elements than dialog.

    But if not having an audience surrogate is intended to suddenly plunge the viewers into situations, then it better be a good attempt.

  3. Christienne permalink
    13 June 2011 1553

    While I think that there is a fine line between explanation and over-explanation, the truth is that we are exposed to jargon every day without explanation – pharmaceutical companies selling their lotions and potions on prime-time television and medical soap operas as examples. I need to be careful in assuming what the average reader or moviegoer can digest, since I deal with military helicopters for a living. All in all, I agree with SexC – just lay it on us, we’ll figure it out.

    • 13 June 2011 2328

      I kind of agree, but I’m a little baffled whatever studio let it go out like that. A lot of times, I’m shaking my head at how much gets explained by an old guy with a beard (so that all the slower audience members can catch up). This film had none of that, and I kind of respect it.

      Military helicopters, eh? Which ones do you work on?

  4. 13 June 2011 1633

    See, that’s what I LIKED about it…it DOESN’T make excuses or try to coddle people. It says, Keep Up or Stay Behind!!

  5. 13 June 2011 1653

    I think surrogates are important, especially when writing in a genre that most people would be unfamiliar with. In my newest story, called IRON FALLS: PUPPETS ON A STRING (which is a direct follow on from IRON FALLS: THE ENEMY WITHIN, where you’ll remember it from IRON FALLS but ten times better now), the surrogate character is also the main one as he’s been thrust into a new job as a provisional agent in the fictional United Nations Marshals Service in the year 2101.

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