Friday, June 5, 2009

Public Reunions and Taste

I happened to see a video today of another one of those stories where the soldier-father comes home and surprises his child at school. Most of them are very charming, moving, the kids alternately crying and laughing but ultimately, everyone is happy.

This one was different. I won't link to it because I found it so painful and intrusive. The shot opens with the soldier walking through the classroom door and a number of adults gathered to watch this scene laughing with the joy they think the daughter will experience. But that, to my eye, isn't what happens. The shot quickly moves to the fourth-grader looking at who is walking through the door. To my eye, she looks horrified for a moment--maybe she doesn't recognize him, I'm not sure. Then she rises up, in tears, her body curled forward as she goes to him. He's not smiling, either, when he picks her up as she cries.

A TV talking head warns at the beginning that it will move viewers to tears. It did me. But I'm finding these kinds of scenes really intrusive. There's no pleasure or news value in seeing this reunion, at all, that I can see, and I question the point of showing them. The people--family, educators-- who arranged it no doubt meant well. But that kid appears to be in agony and I don't think we all need to see that. It may make good TV; it doesn't say much about our humanity.

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