Thursday, September 24, 2009

Surprise Vs. Saturation


Above: the greatest endgame play ever

In last night's episode of Glee, our heroic football team is scoreless and on the verge of defeat with scant seconds ticking down. The quarterback Finn Hudson gets the genius idea to pull off one heck of a surprise which is just enough to score a game-winning touchdown. Inspired by this show of creativity, the coach sends in Kurt Hummel, Finn's fellow Glee Clubber and flamboyantly unlikely teammate for the field goal kick. Our heroes win the game, Finn is congratulated for his unconventional strategy, and Kurt has won so much of his father's approval that he becomes confident enough to confess a secret to him.

I know all this because of Facebook. I fetched the video from Huffington Post (yes, I'm a leftist moderate. Deal with it). Rest assured, the team dancing to Single Ladies is hilarious enough. But I had quite a number of friends who just couldn't stop talking about the scene (and rightfully so). I've heard tales of friends with goosebumps that their favorite song was used to unique and full effect, whereas I was on duty and couldn't watch it.

I haven't seen the full episode yet. I don't know if there was foreshadowing for the audacious play, but if there was, then expecting the routine would be a credit and reward for the audience figuring it out. If there was no foreshadowing, then just the unexpected explosion of music would cement the warm absurdity. Both forms of surprise would be great. I wonder just what the surprise would have felt like had I watched the show and become engrossed with it. It's one thing to read about something that's already happened, but to see something special unfold before your very eyes? That's the magic of TV, film, theatre, etc.

Of course, it's hard to be surprised these days in an age of spoilers and rapid information thanks to Twitter and 24 hour news and Facebook. For me, that's not too much of a problem. Rather, my problem isn't so much that there's too much information, but that there's enough information to rob the initial joy of finding something out for yourself. If there's a show that only you watch, or if you investigate something and only you find the conclusion, there's a certain pride in telling others about it, so that they might learn or take part in what makes you enjoy what you found. On some metatextual level, reading about it on Facebook doesn't seem like your friend told you, it seems like Facebook told you. It's a layer that removes part of the fun, I think. In some strange twist, because of that removed layer, I can't really fault anyone for the spoiler, either. These days how do you tell people anymore and retain that sense of discovery?

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