Service of Overexposure

January 24th, 2011

Categories: Fashion, Inflation, Language, Manner of Speech, Media, Nostalgia, Overexposure

Today’s post is related to an earlier one, “Service of Too Much Information,” written a year ago January [must be that time of year]. What inspired me this time was watching “The Third Man,” a 1949 movie [in black and white, natch], on Turner Classic Movies.

It achieved powerful, suspenseful moments without showing me every gory detail. One scene was in a children’s hospital ward and I saw the nurses and bits of beds but not the deathly ill patients who were there because they’d been given ineffective medicine sold to the hospital by a greedy main character. I saw no decayed body that police had freshly dug out from a grave but knew it looked horrific. The director had my imagination do the work. Great actors’ reactions to seeing these human conditions also helped.

In today’s movies, if we hear an explosion we must then see blood and guts.

It’s not just movies that leave little to the imagination: Women’s fashion trends have for several years.

And violent, name-calling vitriol on talk radio, cable TV and in politics are other examples of overexposure. It’s a form of taking the easy way out. It’s effortless. And it’s effective with lazy minds looking for easy answers. It takes research and thought to carry on intelligent, image-inspiring conversation.

Mind you, there’s nothing wrong with easy, efficient and effective in some instances: It’s what we strive for in our workdays and lives. Take digital photos, email, and social networking vehicles that allow us to communicate with editors and reporters  immediately and at miniscule out of pocket cost; smartphones that keep us in touch with people who need information without tethering us to our desks; lasers instead of knives that permit surgeons to remove cataracts and break down kidney stones while leaving patients far less debilitated.

Do you think imaginations need exercise like muscles? Do we do our brains harm by exposing them to and feeding them digested information and images, or should we chew on, envision, fantasize and process more of it ourselves?

9 Responses to “Service of Overexposure”

  1. Mervyn Kaufman Said:

    I personally find the explicitness of cable television to demonstrate limited creative imagination as well as what seems a desperate need to shock. My focus is language. I recently watched, on DVD, the first season of a highly regarded HBO series called “The Wire.” Lots of action and movement—plus language that may or may not reflect how members of the Baltimore police force actually talk to one another.

    I’ve been in the Army. . . I live in New York. . . I know what street talk is like, thus am not easily shocked. But “The Wire,” like other cable dramas, seems to require blue language and four-letter words twice a minute. Men, women, bosses, whatever—everyone seems to have a potty mouth. After about 15 minutes of this, the words lose impact and whatever points the writers were trying to make kind of get lost in the maelstrom.

    No, I’m not in favor of censorship, only in the best use of language—colorful or otherwise. I recall a scene in 1939’s “Gone With the Wind,” the climactic moments in the relationship between Scarlett O’Hara (Vivien Leigh) and Rhett Butler (Clark Gable) wherein he tells her he’s leaving. What will become of her? she asks tearfully. What will she do? His response—and it is extraordinarily powerful now as then: “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn!”

    My point is that that word “damn” was used for maximum impact then (the filmmaker probably had to obtain special dispensation from the Legion of Decency to include it). Today’s four-letter words are thrown about willy-nilly with virtually no impact.

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Good point, Mervyn–

    Think how irritating it would be to spend an evening with a person who could do nothing but swear and use violent language, and so achingly boring! Watching a film or TV show that relies solely on such words would be an equal yawn and yet some writers/directors/producers don’t think of that.

    Your take on the overexposed discussion reminds me of some lyrics that are repetitious and when accompanied by neither a great voice nor fabulous music, an equal turn off. And then there’s rap. I actually enjoy the beat and the rhyme. But some rap depends on violent, angry language. “The Wire,” and rap, like body piercing and exaggerated tattooing—are all signs of anger. Not everyone is articulate when furious but maybe we all don’t have to be exposed to it.

  3. Lucrezia Said:

    Over exposure, especially in todays world, often means boring people to death. It might have started with Jaqueline Kennedy, when the public, regardless of political stripe, was choking over a surfeit of pictures along with bland stories regarding her slightest move. Today, we continue to hear about the pilot whose plane plopped in the middle of the Hudson River, and whose heroic actions resulted in no deaths. There must be a great deal of nothing happening these days. Witness the evening news: The snow hasn’t yet fallen on the ground, may not even show up, and yet the poor viewer is subjected to comments from an endless parade of locals over what might happen and what happened weeks ago. The increasingly non creative press (or media, if you prefer) pelts us with one stale tale after the next, and if something interesting should finally happen, we are stuck hearing about it for what seems eons.

    Even language, as mentioned above, has turned repetitive. It’s not a matter of overuse of obscenities, but lack of sharpening a script so as to pique interest in what’s happening. Blue language can be highly effective if used judiciously. Overdoses of curses and/or bombastic prose make wonderful non habit forming sleeping pills for insomniacs.

    What’s dangerous is the risk that everyone will be so tuned out, they will be caught napping should danger strike. Is it possible that this parade of constant repetition is deliberate? If so, to what end?

  4. Jeanne Byington Said:


    The tap, tap, tap of the same old stories on the “news” is annoying. I get hero worship but it belongs on another kind of show. Reading about someone you admire or despise is a bit like reading the Monday sports pages after having watched 1,000 hours of Sunday football or chatting on sports radio. You saw the event and know the ending… and you’re hungry for the backstory.

    Bad weather stories add to advert revenues I’ve always thought.

    We haven’t had much to crow about lately which is why folks repeat the Sully Sullenberger story, though I haven’t heard it recently.

    But most important, I think that the media is not encouraged to investigate and report the news. Large corporations own many of the outlets and the chiefs don’t want their reporters to find which hands are in what cookie jars as if they don’t do business with those slippery fingers, they may be otherwise related.

    In addition, I wonder in what kind of tailspin the public would find itself if it knew the truth in some cases—which may be another reason we don’t hear what manipulations some companies specialize in. I would love someone to prove my instincts wrong, but who is going to pay a reporter to follow up something like this: I think that certain corporations take advantage of SEC loopholes to control markets and they make money by buying and selling huge chunks of stock they control–either short or by creating highs–while Joe Q. Public investor gets stomped and is told, “Tisk tisk: Investing in the market is risky, you took a risk, sorry about that.”

    And last, advertisers might not want to pay for a solid half hour of negative news, which in many communities is about all there is with un- and underemployment dragging on, bad weather, increasing gas and milk prices [in one year, my qt of skim milk has gone from 99 cents to $1.19 at the same grocery store near my apt] and so forth. So out comes the Sully story again, a reminder of a hero and happier times.

  5. Simon Carr Said:


    You and your readers make excellent points.

    They say there is no such thing as over exposure for politicians. Maybe they are right. I don’t know.

    The conventional wisdom seems to be that if you want a big job in government, you must spend hundreds of millions on television ads and say nothing that might offend somebody except your opponent, whom you must trash as horribly as possible with multiple references to his or her sex life.

    The hundreds of millions mean that most of the time you must vote the way the lobbyists want you to or you won’t get them to support you in future to be reelected. In other words, you’ve got a leadership job but you can’t keep it unless you follow instead of leading.

    In my state, we have two senators, one who is overexposed, and one who is not. I can’t stand seeing the puss, or hearing the voice, of the overexposed one every day on TV, but he seems intelligent and is supposedly unbeatable. The other one was underexposed until a of couple of weeks ago, and should have stayed that way. She sounds like a little girl and seems to have the intellect of one as well! The only reason we have her is that by a quirk of fate, the party of her opponent was in such disarray, they had no one to run against her – an exception to the overexposure rule.

    I’d vote to ban political ads from television and radio, that would at least reduce the overexposure factor, and may get us better leaders.


  6. Jeanne Byington Said:


    Great example of overexposure: How could I have forgotten?

    While banning political ads is a bit harsh, and not good for the health of radio and TV stations as they depend on the income, I think that politicians should be strictly held to maximum advertising and promotion budgets. In addition to relieving us from having to hear incessantly from the richest of them, this would allow them to focus on their jobs and not, once they’d met the maximum nut, on gathering yet more funds to support the next election. I’ve so often heard that this underexposure has added to the divisiveness in Washington because instead of getting to play and socialize with each other as they did before, helping to lubricate negotiations, they all rush home every week to scout up more money.

    It would also mean that more than the very rich would have a chance and it would weaken the influence of lobbyists and corporations. That the latter are permitted to spend any amount of money they want to support “their” candidate is a horrendous state of affairs.

  7. Lucrezia Said:

    Feeding pap to the public because of fears the poor things will be unhappy with the truth is similar to the over protective parent who coddles the kiddy to the extent that he hasn’t the faintest idea of how to cope with adversity once he grows up. Were a mother lion or tiger to bring her pups up in such a manner, their species would be extinct. The concept of survival of the fittest is no joke, and humans would do well to take heed. A more sobering thought is that if we coddle ourselves into extinction, we won’t be missed. Just think, no more molesting whales and other sea creatures, no more threatening the cat community with poachers. There will be rejoicing all around!

    Until that happens, political ads must not be squashed unless the winning party abolishes freedom of speech. What should be curtailed is campaign time. A period of two to three months should be amply sufficient for a candidate to get his point across. The fact that ones US congressman must spend most of his time running for another term before he wins the election, is a disgrace. He is not being paid to run for office, but that’s precisely what he’s forced to do.

    Now this old crank is off to find something else to grumble about!

  8. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I don’t condone saying everything is peachy when it isn’t and hiding the truth from people because we can’t fix something whether a crime wave, flu epidemic or financial crisis by masking the facts. I don’t know who is behind it but I see it in some corporate cultures especially where you can’t be or say anything that’s perceived as negative. And what you describe is as much a part of this culture as it is connected with coddling.

    Your idea of curtailing campaign time may be more effective and legal than putting a ceiling on the amount a candidate can spend [though I’m still upset that corporations can donate as much as they want and would like to see that changed].

    Well put that we’re not paying our representatives to run for their next election. For some reason as I read your words I envisioned a dentist on the phone with his/her next patient with drill in hand heading for my head, which would be equally unacceptable.

  9. Lucrezia Said:

    Thank the Supreme Court for that lousy decision regarding “voting” corporations. Congress was trying to remedy the situation, but along came November ’10 and it’s not certain they will be able to do it this year. There will have to be a herculean effort in ’12 to remove those mollusks, many of whom were elected because of enhanced corporate rights.

    Enforce a limit of campaign time, and a spending ceiling will create itself. Time to write the representatives! Voter pressure is one of the most effective ways of getting things done. Put the squeaky wheel into gear……En avant!

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