I've become addicted to The Magicians as escapist fantasy, despite noticing the way their editing tricks draw me in.

You're probably familiar with widely used in tv editing that tap into the orienting response. For example panning, zooming, cuts, a moving object between the center of action and the viewer, showing the action in a reflection or through a distorting glass. These edits "glue eyeballs to the screen" by triggering instinctive attentional responses, without viewer volition.

I noticed early on that The Magicians uses what I'll call fragmentation. Action is portrayed as if the character is remembering what happened in bits and pieces, with the "juicy" bits only 3 frames long. Most of the time you can't quite comprehend what's so scary or taboo, because you were barely starting to understand what you were seeing when it disappeared. One is forced to rely on slow motion and even frame-by-frame to really follow the story line.

Extra slow camera movement on a character, <chop> 3 frames of juicy plot action, <cut>extra slow camera movement on the character,<chop> juicy significant 3 or 4 frames, <cut> back to the slow view of the character... and so on. Usually it's Quentin, remembering something like a horrific attack or out-of-character group sex.

Despite being angry about this manipulation, I'm also addicted hooked more than the story warrants. Fragmentation is as powerful and insidious as cognitive dissonance.

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Upon further reflection, it has similarities to hazing. The harder you have to struggle to follow the story, the more the story "must" seem worth watching.

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Which means it is a form of cognitive dissonance.

Presenting crucial flashbacks almost subliminally -- making viewers struggle to see the plot -- would be a new level of exploitation!

(Are there parallels in literature, where books written in an obtuse style or with disorienting techniques are taken to be "more profound"? But sitting down in front of the TV is much more passive.)

Or are they assuming that "the viewers who matter" have TiVos or other DVRs, and will reach for the remote and replay those sections in slow motion or examine them frame by frame? (Conversely, I've heard of ad producers consciously designing TV commercials to be memorable even when people "zap through" them.)

On ordinary TV techniques that trigger the orienting reflex: I vaguely remember a study, maybe in the '80s or '90s, sometime back when people had to program their VCRs themselves :) finding that people paid much more attention to TV commercials than most shows, and that this was correlated with the frequency of "unnatural" effects that you wouldn't see in the world in real life: cuts, dissolves, zooms, superimposed logos or captions, maybe also an invisible narrator's voice or added music.

The one show that drew as much attention as the ads was Sesame Street, and it turned out to have visual effects as frequently as the commercials, on the order of once a second, vs. only a few times a minute for other shows.




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