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The Final Shorthand

19 June 2013

Perhaps it’s because I’ve been retro-watching Arrested Development lately (yes, I missed it while it was on the air and jumped on the bandwagon when the new Netflix series came out), but “The Final Countdown” by Europe has been stuck in my head most of the day.

That song, almost more than any other, has the ability to create an atmosphere of lameness and suckitude in whatever medium it’s used (forgiving, of course, the 1980s film of the same name, which I remember enjoying when I saw it). It’s a great bit of storytelling shorthand.

Authors and filmmakers use storytelling shorthand all the time — a bar full of tattooed bikers and heavy metal is meant as a shorthand for “rough neighborhood.” A classic car is code for the “cool” hero. Facial scarring is synonymous with “badass.”

Image

Yeah it is.

The list goes on — feel free to add to them in the comments.

But sometimes, creators go too far — a prosecuting attorney named “Justice.” Ethnic stereotypes. Shorthand like that beats you over the head with the idea rather than suggests it.

What is the best use of storytelling shorthand you’ve seen? The worst?

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