Saturday, July 31, 2010

There she is...

I have not, in fact, forgotten that this blog exists. I'm just on summer vacation, and as a result am extremely lazy. I'm also busy, but that's only part of the problem.

But anyway, lets get ourselves a trope. Drumroll, please:

Thanks, Charlie.

And the trope is:

In essence, this trope is about the camera focusing on somebody (such as the hero) who's just completed something dramatic or important. Then the camera cuts to someone (such as their girlfriend, hence the name) watching them. Whether the hero knows about them or not is beside the point; the point is that somebody witnessed his victory.

Or for potatoes. I'm hungry.

The importance of the fact that the hero (or whoever) is being watched is that it gives additional meaning to their actions. Sure, the hero may have achieved some sort of personal validation from their accomplishment, but there are some things that are just more meaningful when someone else knows about it. We've all been in a situation when we accomplished some sort of task, whether it's completing a difficult homework problem or trying to throw ten balls of paper into the trash without missing, where you immediately want to give somebody a high five or something. Of course, you can't because no one is there.

My personal record is 27.

The presence of an observer gives an action an impact (or more impact, if it has some inherent importance) in several ways. First of all, it increases the number of people who are directly influenced by whatever happened. Second, it often gives the observer a chance to see the hero's real identity; who he is when he doesn't know that anyone is watching. From a narrative standpoint, this allows the creator of the work to reveal more information about the character; information that the character wouldn't reveal if people were watching him. The same is true in-story; it allows the characters to learn more about each other. It's true of just about anything that observation of something (like a person), changes the way that they will act.

For example, if you see someone looking at you
like this, you probably won't do anything other than
try to get them to stop it.

This idea is important enough that psychologists actually have a term to refer to it: the Observer-Expectancy Effect. The point of this trope is to get around that problem by allowing a character to act as though unobserved, but still allow the actions to effect other characters.

Of course, it's still entirely possible that the hero does know that he's being watched, but the presence of a watcher still gives a sense of validation to the action; it gives the hero someone to high-five when he finally flips a coin and gets heads five times in a row.