More on TV voice-overs

Birgit Kellner kellner
Thu Dec 17 09:10:39 EST 1998

Alan Kita wrote:
> I would like to add that possible the artistic technique of voice-over
> assist in the one aspect that, to generalize, the Japanese seldom gets
> to do....know what is on the mind of another person.  Since this is not
> "done" in normal situations, I think Japanese expect to find out how the
> main characaters think bu using this device to "air" out personal
> thoughts.
Unless non-Japanese people have suddently acquired the faculty of
mind-reading, I'd say most people have no clue of what is on the mind of
another person. Or, when taken in a less strict sense, as one can draw
inferences from behaviour, gesture, or utterances, everyone has ...

Polemics aside, one clarification. The voice-overs that I was initially
referring to when I started this thread, mostly give a general
description of a certain setting from an objective (or outsider's)
viewpoint: "In the hospital-room. The family has gathered to visit the
sick grandmother", and so on. I am not really aware of the "aring out"
of personal thoughts through voice-overs, but then again, I don't watch
dramas too much anyway. (Mike Badzik mentioned in one of his postings
that diary-style voice-overs at least used to be popular in the past, so
that might have played a part. But then again, that's not really finding
out how the main characters think, since the motive of writing a diary
already entails a distancing of the character in question from their
experience - a sort of a "finding out what they think they think", with
an added secondary layer.)

My initial suspicion was, Benshi and other cultural "artefacts" aside, a
simple mistrust in the visual on the part of the producers, perhaps
based on a heterogeneity of visual habituation: Just to make sure that
everyone in the audience, even those who are not that TV-saturated or
haven't learnt the visual language of TV-dramas that well, understands
what is going on, they are told what happens. I am not sure how far this
could be taken; but I have noticed in the past that some Japanese
friends of mine, in the cinema, have a tendency to wait for confirmation
of what they see through the dialogue. Simply put, they draw conclusions
about what is happening only after it has been spelt out (and if it
isn't spelt out, then they don't draw conclusions). The most drastic
symptom is the point in time when a combined verbal/visual-joke promotes
laughter. I usually burst out laughing when the visual element is done;
my friends join in once the verbal confirmation is there. But these are
just individual observations, of course. 

birgit kellner
department for indian philosophy
hiroshima university

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