Heroes

I just started watching Heroes (oh god, oh god, I need a job), and find it incredibly addictive.  Also kinda terrible, in the same way that Lost and Prison Break are terrible even though I watched two full seasons of each.

One interesting thing I’ve noticed, three episodes in, is the subtitling of the Japanese characters.  The subtitles reflect comic subtitling in their proximity to the characters.  These aren’t static, always resting on the bottom of the screen.  They generally sit on top of or above whoever is speaking.  What I wonder, with all the Canadian stereotypes about Americans in mind, is whether these aren’t also placed this way to make it easier for NBC’s gigantic audience to read them.  Now, these aren’t exactly American stereotypes, but rather North American, extremely-broad-audience stereotypes.  In which, of course, you’ll find people who don’t particularly like to read.  So not really stereotypes at all. Whatever.

When the subtitles sit further up on the screen, dynamically placed so as to be near the action, the viewer isn’t forced to look down and miss what’s going on.  They also very clearly demonstrate who is speaking by sitting on or near that character.  This defeats most of the standard complaints about subtitles*,  (which aren’t entirely lacking in validity.  I saw a subtitled version of Cache, or Hidden, that used entirely white font.  The film often had a fully white background, which resulted in unreadable subtitles.  I was also sitting right at the front of the theatre, and was forced to choose between watching the subtitles or craning my neck up to see the screen.), and broadens the possible audience of the show.

Just some thoughts.

*I’m really just thinking people who don’t like to read.

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2 Responses to Heroes

  1. pamela richardson says:

    hey Adam, I love reading your writing. Djun and I watched quite a few episodes of this on DVD in the first two seasons! Enough that soon we started throwing our arms in the air and saying “I did it!!!” whenever possible. This was great for our self-esteem!

    I was curious about this show in particular because I thought it could feed into writing/thinking I was doing on representations of giftedness/exceptionality in pop culture. I am pretty bad at watching TV and thinking at the same time though, (not as good as you, obviously!) so didn’t get much written about this show or about the topic. I do remember being dismayed at the portrayal of girls and women in the first season (did the cheerleader own any clothes other than her cheerleader uniform? She’s the princess archetype, sure, whatever… yawn. And, is being a traumatized online porn star with multiple personalities really a super power?). I remember talking with a few young women who felt similarly disappointed. Where was Buffy the Vampire slayer when you needed her?

    I stopped following the show after a while as I got busier with dissertation work (phew!!). In retrospect, maybe the topic was an excuse to just watch bad TV. I am okay with that. I find I need the down time to stew especially if I am secretly plotting big writing projects.

    • adamgilg says:

      There is also the super-memory waitress, who does nothing with her powers except flirt with customers. And gets her head cut off.
      I’m not totally surprised (a little disappointed, maybe) at the representation of female characters. Heroes is really just a televised version of the silliest of science fiction, which is not exactly known for giving us empowered female characters (my favourite terrible example being Larry Niven’s Ringworld wherein the only female character is an alien prostitute who spends the entire book talking about how Earth women know nothing about sex. Talk about bitter geeks).
      I find with a show like Heroes that I’m not so much focused on the content, which is, as you mentioned, mostly just bad, mindless TV. I really pay attention to the format though, as this kind of TV is often the most interesting. The lengths they go to in order to keep your attention is incredible, with scenes rarely lasting longer than two minutes. I like to imagine my grandparents trying to watch a show like Heroes or 24, or a movie like The Dark Knight. I think they would be in tears of confusion within minutes. I also really like the synopses that all of these shows do at the beginning of each episode. The editing is absolutely brilliant, managing to distill a highly intricate (if not particularly intelligent) storyline into a minute’s worth of screen time.
      Thanks for the comment Pamela – I hadn’t really thought about the (not-so)feminist aspects of Heroes, let alone the tenuous link to the popular portrayal of ‘gifted.’ I have another post about Heroes in the works, so come back soon!

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