Sunday, January 21, 2007

Musical Cues

One of my pet peeves in movie-viewing are musical cues. You know what I mean: the music that cues you to what the main characters are feeling. Whether a rising swelling, sweet, horrifying, throbbing, musical cues are placed in films and TV shows to help us see the character's heart.

Without musical scores --or even laugh tracks-- a movie or TV show might fall flat.Often, however, the cues go overboard, giving us knee-jerk disdain (making us hate, mock, or pity people for no good reason except that some musical chords or melody have been added to train us to hate, pity, or mock.

Musical cues are also used for knee-jerk sentimentality. Often --usually-- it is used when the writing hasn't been strong enough. The swelling crescendo pops up and suddenly we think of a character as noble. Or the tinka-tinka of a playful melody is added to a scene and we think of a character as childlike.

It's a wonderful and manipulative art form. And I'll allow that most art forms --especially drama-- is manipulative. But what really annoys me is when the cues are used to tell us that a person's viewpoint on a particular issue is the right viewpoint, indeed THE right view for ALL viewers everywhere.We Christians have seen television drama or comedy shows where some "liberal atheist intellectual thinker" is having a discussion about a spiritual point (or with a Christian) and although the atheist's thinking is stupid and worldly and not that deep, suddenly the simple intrusion of a musical cue tells the viewer know that the atheist intellectual thinker is Solomon himself -- so wise in his worldly disdain for religion.Every abortion discussion I've ever seen in a film has musical cues to let the viewer know which side has scored the enlightened point.

I don't know what we'll do about this kind of thing. All we can do is train our children to understand that just because the music tells us to feel one way about a scene we are not required to accept the music's dictates. Feeling is a choice, and a character isn't right just because the music tells us he is.

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