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August 3, 2014

Messaging in the Movies

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If an alien were to base his assumptions of life here on Earth from the way it’s inhabitants are portrayed on movies and television, there would be little marked change between how Earthlings are perceived to communicate today and how we communicated ten years ago. We all know, however, how far from the truth that is. But when was the last time you saw mobile or desktop messaging play an integral part of a plot the way it does in our real lives?

I became aware of this a long time back and I purposely began to take note of the various methods that directors try to implement. We’ve all seen the standard over-the-shoulder or screen shot depiction of digital conversations. In my opinion, the current methods leave much to be desired. It seems as if the lack of creative solutions for depicting messaging on screen has caused a major part of modern society to go largely ignored in Hollywood.

British television crime drama, “Sherlock,” was the first series that I caught trying to be innovative with text and the first time that it looked like it had been more then an afterthought.

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The above scene seems to have become a milestone moment in television history and I’m sure many of our readers are already familiar with it. I can’t recall a previous moment where the plot took so many twists based solely on text depictions.

Perhaps my favorite Hollywood innovation involving messaging is on “House of Cards.” There, text messages are shown as bubbles, usually coming out of a character’s phone. As an aside, it strangely always takes me back to the bubbles in the old “Batman” series, but I doubt that was their original inspiration.

What’s so cool about this new use of messaging in plot is the ability to present what’s happening at any given moment as multi-layered, the way things really happen today. A person today could be having a face to face conversation at the same time as having a text conversation, and “House of Cards” does an excellent job at presenting these kind of parallel plots.

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Additionally, what I like about both shows’ use of text is that it allows for background or inside information to be shared with the viewer without needing to write in an entirely unneeded scene purely for that purpose.

One has to wonder how else movies can begin to accurately reflect technology’s role in our lives. Will apps soon become part of plot lines? Who knows, if they realize there’s “an app for that,” maybe we could all be spared of the next “Dude, Where’s My Car?”