We got a new TV.
It turns out that our old TV was barely displaying a picture, although it has seemed fine to me for the last nine or so years. We just didn’t realise how clear pictures could be.
So I can see everything. You can even see the ball properly in football! When the Playstation is on, you can read the words! Amazing!
But do I like it?
The first footage we looked at was a bit of Indiana Jones. And while some family members felt that we needed to go back to the beginning of the festive viewing and begin again, this time with CLARITY, I thought… where once there was a fun movie, there are now just some actors, acting on a fabricated set.
In my Netflix shows, the camera moves are so suddenly apparent, you are forced to imagine the film crew teetering on the pavement opposite the actors. You can sense every direction they’ve been given. The montages of each scene are so…. there…
My willing-suspension-of-disbelief is being messed with.
The funniest thing I have seen was a bit of Die Hard with a Vengeance, where I could see every fibre on Bruce Willis’s vest, the sweat on every individual hair of his stubble, the make-up on the cop he was talking to and the set looked like something as flimsy and cardboardy as that used in Fawlty Towers.
But I don’t suppose that they imagined when they filmed Die Hard that the audience were ever going to be watching them quite so closely.
I went to bed that night wondering if there would be a life-size Naga Munchetty perching in my TV in the morning, chatting to me over breakfast in the actual flesh.
It was her day off, but yes, the BBC Breakfast crew were looking large. (Not in a fat way.)
So, it’s a bit ironic.
In order to have things as clear and lifelike as possible, it’s so clear and so close that you can “see the strings”, so the whole artifice of the medium is in your face. It therefore becomes less real/absorbing in terms of the viewer experience, and more real in terms of the truth of the matter: it’s not Indiana Jones or John McClane – it’s Harrison Ford or Bruce Willis crashing through a disposable set in a studio.
I know it was always fake. But now I can see it, it looks faker.
And the stuff that I think is fake is in fact the stuff that’s actually real, that I don’t want to see because it messes with the story that I am drawing from the work of the director and the actors.
So, my medium has changed. And if the medium is the message, with this new medium, what is the new message?
None of this (that one sees on TV) is real. All of this is really real (these are real people in real (fake) situations. Art imitates life, only imitates life and life is what’s real.
Which brings me on to actual reality. That one doesn’t look at through a screen. Real places, things and people.
My verse for this is Romans 1 vs 20:
For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.
The writer argues that what you see in reality makes the nature of God clear to anyone who is looking.
As I look at an episode of “Suits” and can’t help but feel the director and producers and camera operatives working away, replacing the planned narrative with an involuntary metanarrative, the writer of Romans argues that a similar thing happens when someone looks at their world in Creation: the eternal divine Creator is apparent in what we can see.
Maybe I just have to wait until my eyes adjust to the clarity so I can slip back into the willing suspension of disbelief that made the shows fun and the beads of sweat less visible.
Perhaps I need to start appreciating the creativity behind what I see.