18 September 2012

Recursive suspension of disbelief: also, robots

Okay, so let's say it's approximately between the years of 1987 and 2010 and you're going to Disney World,  and you're gonna ride "Star Tours".

 Anyway, you, wait through the line get in the impressive but fake spaceship thing and you sit down staring at a large garage door with a TV screen to the right.

Somebody turns a switch, walks out of the vehicle, and this shows up on the tv.

 "Hello, I'm a cute robot who shouts a lot, since you're waiting for this ride to start, I'll go ahead and raise this garage door".

 WHOA, look at that, the robot's not in the TV, he's REAL, and ohmygodwe'reflyingthroughspacewheeeee!!!

Anyway, this ties into something I ran across in Rowland Wilson's Trade Secrets:
...the use of the system within a System.

 Let's say your weird drama friends drag you to watch a High School production of Hamlet, and like most High School productions, it sucks, but your weird drama friends won't stop talking about the significance of the play within the play  and how Shakespeare used similar device in a Midsummer Night's Dream and stuff.

You get bored with them talking about all that and would rather read an article about Batman at overthinkingit.com

 Putting a tiny story that the characters view within the context of a big story is more than a gimmick, it's a useful device, that can help acheive such effects as ...

  Here is a man being chased by a Dinosaur.

   His innner monolog, shortly after "Shit, I'm being chased by a Dinosaur" is most likely "Where did this Dinosaur come from?"
The audience wonders this too. But if the characters just opened their mouths and explained all the sciencey stuff in glorious detail...
    that would be boring.

  So, Jurrasic Park:the movie features Mr DNA:The movie inside the movie,  an educational-style cartoon starring a strand of DNA talking about science-wizards and other hurbelby burbeldies.
  And the audience is sufficiently informed on why there are dinosaurs to chase around Jeff Goldblum, but without being as bored as they'd be by reading Jurassic Park: the book.

   The Powell and Pressburger's  "The Red Shoes" (1948) is a talking, non-musical drama about a ballerina choosing between love and work.

 It features an elaborate ballet sequence presented as a story-within-a-story retelling the titular Hans Christian Anderson story. The sequence featured wild set dressing and crazy colors, stylasitcally different from the rest of the movie.

The movie has a downer ending, and seems to comment on obsession, and tragic side of art, which has several parallels with the Fairy Tale about the little girl who dies because she can't stop dancing. 


 Both Lewis Carrol's "Wonderland"  and J.R.R. Tolkein's "Middle Earth" have proven to be some of the most engrossing worlds in fiction.  Yet the authors seem to be completely different, except both of them love poetry.




  Whether it be the giant Caterpillar or Aragorn son of Arathorn, it seems like almost everybody has a ballad to sing, or a few verses to recite. These poems are complete works unto themselves, and plopped into the story proper, one suspects, because the author bloody well felt like it.
  Little to none of it has anything to do with the plot.

But  the ancient ballads of Gondor and  exploits of Father William enrich the worlds they exist within, through layers of artifice, much like loud robots.

See what I did there?

  Even though motion simulators were a novel idea in 1987, the concept was easy enough to grasp: the images for the ride were a point-of-view film while the small theater was bounced around on hydraulics in synch with the "ride". Even the Scooby Doo  Gang could figure that out.... But there's that damn TV screen on the righthand side of the ride display: the one that first shows off the robot.

The foolish human brain looks at the TV tube and says "that is FAKE", by comparison, everything else, the larger, more sophisticated movie screen and the onboard shouting robot, seem real, which  encourages the suspension of disbelief through showing depth, rather than breadth.

 So to nest stories within stories is more than a gimmick, it's a tool for engrossing the viewer in plot, character, and making them believe, even for a moment, that what they just witnessed is real.

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