Wednesday, July 01, 2009


I was watching the Disney Channel this evening with my oldest boy and somehow flashed back to 30 years ago when as a kid I first was exposed to American television. What I remember most clearly about the first time is how bewildered I was by commercials. Since I spoke almost no English, I was already at a disadvantage trying to understand most of what I was watching, but with commercials added into the mix, it had become almost insane. What most of us don't think about is that there is no visual cue that a commercial comes up. Just a fade. So you could be watching a Western with cowboys and Indians and the next thing you know Kool-Aid is bursting through a big banner in a park. Psychotic.

Yet somehow people who grow up here naturally figure out what commercials are and they seem as natural to them as they were bizarre to me.

It reminded me of an article I read a while back in the New Yorker about some anthropologists who were showing movies to some remote tribe of Indians in South America. The Indians were completely bewildered by what they saw and they had no idea of how to interact with the movie. For example, they would try to talk to the characters in the movie, or walk up to the screen and try to look around a corner of some building in the picture. Yet you can take a three year old to a movie and they seem to easily understand what is going on...


Blogger Tobie said...

Children have the build-up of pretty realistic 2-d images from a very young age in the form of picture books, etc. I wonder if that itself is enough to start preparing them for the idea of moving pictures having the same degree of reality or nonreality.

As for commercials- you're right. It's a very, very strange idea and fascinating that somehow we find it natural that sometimes when the scene fades it goes to the next scene and sometimes to something else entirely. Now that I watch my TV online almost exclusively, I have found that commercials take me a few seconds to get when I see them.

July 02, 2009 1:35 AM  
Blogger Miri said...

it's all about the early conditioning, if you ask me.

July 08, 2009 4:18 PM  

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