Thursday, 25 January 2018

Half Seen

There used to be someone who wrote a really funny column about television for the Sydney Morning Herald. The piece of his that I have always remembered included the wish that there might exist (have I used the subjunctive correctly here? Such a worry), a piece of equipment that you could wear on your head while watching television; its function would be to shield you from things that you did not want to see.

The contraption the columnist imagined was something that would frame your face in much the same way that curtains frame the stage at older theatres. It would have a drawstring that dangled beside your temple - to the left or the right, depending on which you preferred.  When something you did not wish to be traumatised by seeing appeared on your screen, you would be able to tug on this drawstring, and instantly a pair of tassled brocade drapes would swing across in front of your eyes, protecting you until the horror interlude had passed.

I don't know what happened to that columnist; maybe he is off somewhere making prototypes of that excellent viewing aide that he dreamed up. I am fairly sure that what prompted him to come up with  the idea was his experience of watching possibly the most excruciating interview ever broadcast - that between Libbi Gorr and a drunken Chopper Read, which went to air live in 1998. The invention certainly would have been a useful thing to have with you, if you'd happened to be in front of the television that night.

Where it would be even more handy these days though would be at the cinema, where the indiscriminate portrayal of violence seems to occur more and more often and in contexts where you are least expecting it. A light comic film now will more often than not contain quite a lot of hitting and kicking - or depraved vulgarity, as in a film from a few years ago about bridesmaids, which included a scene in which one of the female characters crapped in the street. The latest offering to mix humour and hideous violence turns out to be  Three Billboards outside Ebbing, MissouriI went in expecting black comedy but I didn't understand that some judge scenes where humans are kicked and hit and chucked out windows or half burnt alive or have blood coughed over their faces to contain humour. My misjudgment meant that I spent quite a lot of the film's running time with both my hands in front of my face to hide the screen, wishing I owned the headgear imagined by that columnist all those years ago.

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