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November 1996, Week 1


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"Emily M. Davies" <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Tue, 5 Nov 1996 10:47:18 -0900
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>the following passage, which i just stumbled upon, from a recent note from
>peter latham, leads me to ask once again a question i raised a while back to
>little avail
>speaking of unreliable narration in film peter says:
>> Unreliability is easily shown by a contrast between the spoken word and
>> visual image. In HC, the narrator says: My New Year's Resolution is to be
>> kinder to others.... while the film shows the speaker agressively expelling
>> a young man from a party. The risk of demonstrating unreliability less
>> directly is that it may beceome obscure, though The Usual Suspects did it
>> admirably.
>my question: why do we privilege the video over the audio so automatically,
>or intuitively [not to say "naturally"] that most of us--like peter--can
>simply take it as a given requiring no further comment that when the video
>and audio clash, the video is telling the truth??
>i know that this seems intuitively right, and i know that this is the
>convention that hollywood has regularly used (cf. don lockwood's opening
>autobiographical narrative in SITR) . . . but those are not answers, i think,
>they are symptoms of the question . . . something more must be going on here,
>and i'm eager to find new ways of thinking about the question
>mike frank
At the risk of sounding sophomoric, remember what your mother used to say:
"Actions speak louder than words."  I believe this is rooted in
evolutionary biology- we spent millenia evolving before language developed,
during which time, as with all other animals, our very survival depended
upon "reading" the actions of others and the physical cues of the
environment.  Proficiency at this would be strongly selected for.  Language
as a form of communication of information is a relatively recent phenomenon
in our evolutionary history.
And I agree with Barbara Bernstein that it is easy to lie verbally.  To
"lie" behaviorally is far more complicated, as so many of our body language
communiques are unconscious.  Hence, when behavioral and verbal information
conflict, behavior (what we see) is a more reliable indicator of the truth.
Emily Davies
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