Saturday, November 17, 2012

Emotional Manipulation

First of all, I'm sick so I apologize if this rambles little bit. 

In discussing creativity I wanted to talk about some things that would make people be more creative.  But today I wanted to write about something that Really upset me when I was watching television.

Don't mock me, but I watch a television show called Bones. It's a procedural and it's good for something to do when I am ironing or folding clothes. Usually there's nothing special about it. It's just a crappy TV show the give me something to do. However, the last episode that aired may have been the last one I will ever watch.

Before I get into why, I want to first say that I don't Have anything against stories that use Events in our history as a backdrop to tell a story. But I do hate is when somebody exploits an event in order to get a response from the viewer or reader.  I hate being emotionally manipulated.

And that's why this episode of Bones pissed me off so much. It used the events of 9/11 in order to tell a story that wasn't very good.  It attempted prey on my emotions of my memories of 9/11 in order to bolster a story that wouldn't have been very good otherwise. It's that kind of manipulation that turns me off of the story immediately.

Now, I'm not saying that nobody can ever use things like 9/11 as parts of their story. In fact, I think there are some very good stories that were written using 9/11 and other tragedies as backdrops.  Hannah Moskowitz's story Gone, Gone, Gone is a fine example of the story that uses a national tragedy in order to tell a great story. Set against the backdrop of the beltway shootings, Gone, Gone, Gone tells the story of two people and how they cope with that tragedy. And the best part is that it never feels as if Hannah is exploiting the Beltway shootings for her own ends. She is simply telling a great story.

And I think this leads to a bigger issue, exploiting people's emotions by throwing in tragedies. Just because you kill someone in the story, doesn't immediately make the emotions of that story bigger.  Emotions, real emotions have to be earned from the reader through good writing and plotting. Readers shouldn't be manipulated into feeling the way you want them to feel.  It's a cheap trick and will ultimately fail.  A movie that springs to mind is Life As a House.  The moment the movie began I felt as if the writer and director were manipulating my emotions. And they were. Despite the fact that the movie had some genuinely touching parts, because I felt manipulated I ultimately disliked the movie and the way it made me feel.

The episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer titled The Body is one great example of a television episode that earned the emotions that got from the viewer.  Built up over several episodes, no, over several seasons, The Body showed how great tv could be done when tragedy was used in an honest and real way.

I'm using dictation, and I think I'm babbling. However, I do believe that the take away from watching this horrible episode of Bones, is that in order to get real emotions from the viewer or reader, you must not manipulate them.  The emotions must be honest, they must be real, otherwise the whole thing is just a farce.

Now, I must return to my snot filled hell.


  1. I have been a fan of Bones since it started (stemming from fandom of Boreanaz), but I wholeheartedly agree that this episode was absolutely terrible. They should have all just stopped production and said, this is stupid we can't show this! I really hope there was a guest writer for this one--someone who must have written for 7th Heaven and who will hopefully never be invited back. Otherwise they're going to be losing more than just their casual viewers. Disappointed...
    Oh, and I hope you feel better soon!

    1. I'm glad to see I'm not the only one who was turned off by this episode. Bones was usually my go-to show for mindless entertainment, but I've noticed that they've gotten kind of preachy the last two seasons. I tuned out last season and only tuned in this season because of that creepy computer serial killer storyline. But now I'm going to tune back out. Castle is a way better show anyway :)

      Thanks! My nose is angry with me, but I finally feel like I'm returning to the land of the living.


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