Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Conceptions, Intuition, and Truthiness

The other day the following interesting article came to my attention. It was titled "Would You Wear a Serial Killer's Sweater?" It also asked, and I asked again on Twitter, "Would you fear the volunteer who did put on the sweater?" All sorts of factors surrounding social interactions, concepts of what is real and what isn't, intuition about what's real, among others, come into play in this discussion. This is a different tack toward the same kind of idea being explored here lately. All of them come together to build connections between the characters in a story, the plot, and both the expectations and impact upon the audience of the work. Many narratives carry one singular reality, whether or not it is an exact replication of the real world or something very fantastical and different.

How does the sweater play into this? First it does not matter that it is not actually a serial killer's sweater. The insinuation or claim that it is such is enough on its own. Likewise it does not matter that the item is laundered. It still carries the connotations as if it were still stained with the blood of the killer's victims. The idea makes people nervous and uncomfortable. Its proximity causes anger in some even before the outrageous request for someone to don it. It is a tainted item. Worse, that taint may rub off. Conceptually it is an artefact of evil. Fascination with it, shown by taking the offer to wear it, points to the evil nature of that volunteer. It is something that should be reviled and likely feared. Those not espousing such emotions are questionable. Or so the theory goes.

It is a gut instinct, an emotional response that the sweater is bad. This is the same intuitive sense people have upon learning of a person's criminal record. It is of course worse if the intuiting person is familiar with the exact crime, and hard to look past if it was violent. This all begs the question, which is more important, actual fact, or just perception of the truth of something? That word truthiness, trite as its origins are, and frightening as the concept is, seems to sum up the answer to that question as today's society would answer it. Perception is everything in a large segment of the population. This is something that can and should be capitalised on in fiction. It comes up on this blog more than once for a reason. It is depth well used for characterisation, direct plot, and secondary conflict.

Mood: airy.
Music: The Unforgiven III by Metallica and Inconclusion by Dee Snider.

Metallica: Death Magnetic
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Strangeland: Movie Soundtrack
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