Every day in the lead-up to Christmas, open the door to reveal a Spinoff writer’s short, sizzling commentary on a weighty subject. Our arbitrary and strictly enforced word limit: 365. Today: Toby Manhire on an appalling trope that has long haunted our screens.
There’s a moment in the final episode of Park Chan-wook’s masterful adaptation of The Little Drummer Girl when Charlie and Khalil are in a cabin somewhere watching the news. Not just any news, either: it’s a big story, a story to which both of these characters are instrumental. But instead of watching the news item to the end, riveted, as any even remotely plausible human would do, Khalil flicks off the TV.
This upset me quite a lot.
It’s not an isolated case. It has become a trope in television and film that characters switch off news reports when they’re halfway through. It’s not that I think it’s rude or impertinent. It is egregious because, honestly, you know, who would do that? The history of modern cinema is littered with examples of people fresh from robbing banks flicking off reports about the crime while the bloody reporter is still detailing the case. It’s a disgrace. It’s long past time that someone stands up and says no more.
Look, I understand it’s necessary to push the plot forward at every opportunity. I understand that the experience of watching stories on stage or screen demands many and varied suspensions of disbelief. Almost invariably, for example, screen characters turn on the television or radio just at the moment something crucially important is being broadcast. That’s an outlandish coincidence. I’m fine with it, just as I’m fine with a thousand other disbeliefs I’ll effortlessly suspend. This, however, I can not suspend. I will not suspend it. I warn you, I’m just a whisker away from penning an open letter.
Maybe it’s just me. Maybe it’s nothing. But if you know someone who knows someone who is in charge of these sorts of things please ask them from me to make it stop. And when that’s done, I have questions about couples travelling in cars in movies or TV, and how the driver stares at the passenger for an unrealistically and frankly dangerous length of time. Watch the damned road, come on, really.
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