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Interest

 

Define "boring."

The American Heritage Dictionary says it is "uninteresting and tiresome."

Funny thing, interest...

Why don't some women date nice guys? Why do they seem to go for the bad boys?

Some of them will answer something to the effect that nice guys give them no challenge. They're boring and predictable. There's excitement in a bit of danger, see.

You might have noticed that movie-making in the last 25 years has changed. The pace is quicker today, the edit more jarring and rapid. In fact, some movies - blockbusters even - from the 80's now look downright tedious. My kids have looked at me and wondered why I ever thought the movie I once liked was anything at all. I couldn't answer them, really. But I had to agree with them.

No one doubts the impact on society and television that Sesame Street has had. And yet do you know what kids show eclipsed Sesame Street? Blues Clues. Yep, the little green screen show featuring only a guy and his cartoon dog. It became "the highest-rated show for preschoolers on commercial television." From Wikipedia:

The format of each episode of Blue's Clues is the same.

Steve, the host, presents the audience with a puzzle involving Blue, the animated dog. To help the audience unlock the puzzle, Blue leaves behind a series of clues, which are objects marked with one of her paw prints. In between the discovery of the clues, Steve plays a series of games - mini-puzzles - with the audience that are thematically related to the overall puzzle. As the show unfolds, Steve and Blue move from one animated set to another, jumping through magical doorways, leading viewers on a journey of discovery, until, at the end of the story, Steve returns to the living room. There, at the climax of the show, he sits down in a comfortable chair to think - a chair known, of course, in the literal world of Blue's Clues, as the Thinking Chair. He puzzles over Blue's three clues and attempts to come up with the answer.

Yesterday, I commented a bit on Scott McCloud's definition of "closure" which he defines as "observing the parts but perceiving the whole." He describes in his book, Understanding Comics, that the space between comic panels allows the reader to use his or her imagination to stitch the story together. If the scenes are consistently too "slow" and explicit, the comic can be seen as a waste of time. There's no activity for the mind. There's no interaction.

Some women who date bad boys don't want the always-sincere, nice guy. They want the tension of watching him be distracted and the drama of re-attracting him, and then the release that accompanies his return is exciting. It's a climactic A-ha! The nice guy will go to work at the appointed time, be with the right people through the day, and return home - pretty much on schedule every day. He might - surprise! - bring a flower or a card, but not danger or excitement. For some women, that is so not attractive. Guys with money, a wandering eye, an extreme lifestyle - they offer more tension and release. More opportunities for closure...

Today's movies, like comics, have spaces between the panels/scenes. It's in those spaces, called "gutters" in comic-lingo, that the interaction with the reader happens. If the comic is paced well, it gives scenes that require the reader to provide the story between the panels for continuity. Likewise with the editing process in today's movies, the gaps between split-second action scenes require the mind to connect the action together and that exercise stimulates the mind. Each closure of a gap not explicitly bridged visually in the movie brings a satisfactory A-ha! to the movie-goer. They feel like they get it. And maybe they even have to lean over to their companion and explain what just happened.

Blues Clues, though seemingly monotonous, differed from Sesame Street considerably in its approach. Sesame Street dwelt on 20-second to two-minute segments, completely changing the feel of everything as it went from segment to segment. Characters, subject, style, colors - all of it changed. And that worked to hook kids.

Blues Clues relied on pulling the kids into the show by engaging their minds in interaction and successive A-ha! moments. The characters, the subject, the style, the colors - all pretty stayed the same. But it was the repeated use of closure that satisfied the kids to reel them in for 30 minutes at a time and rocket the show to its lofty ratings.

I proposed yesterday that the more closure we have in our life, the more satisfied we are. I'm not suggesting that we all need mates with a wandering eye or jerky-edit movies or a show that invites our brain to solve puzzles. What I am suggesting - no... what I am insisting, is that we each look for closure and A-ha! in the areas that have strength for us and that we naturally find attractive.

The software engineer might be the most outwardly boring guy in the world, but the mental gymnastics he does to solve problems might be scintillating to him. The stay-at-home mom whose kids provide her with surprise all day long... the guy who makes sales calls all day long, and thrives on the conversations he has...

Closure is interesting and addictive.

 


by Brett Rogers, 1/9/2009 12:39:58 AM
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