Friday, June 24, 2005

Courage and Cameras

I watched Barry Lyndon last weekend - a film that's as old as me! It was recommended to me for its stunning cinematography and brilliant direction - and it was fantastic in those respects.

But as a story it is deeply unsatisfactory. Not because it's badly written, but because it is in fact too well-written. The reality cuts too deep.

Based on a novel by William Makepeace Thackeray (who wrote Vanity Fair, a pretty similar story), the problem with Barry Lyndon is that you like the character and want him to succeed - and he doesn't. Instead, he does the stupid things all of us do - selfish, greedy, impulsive things.

"What are you doing, Barry?" you yell at the screen as he philanders, or gambles, or makes silly, fateful decisions based on emotion. "Don't you know we're watching?"

Which took me back to a documentary I'd seen earlier that day. Shooting War tells the story of World War II combat cameramen, the ones who took up cameras while their comrades took up guns.

One of them, Richard Brooks, was with the US Army as they landed on one of the Pacific Islands to heavy Japanese resistance. The commanding officer told Brooks to make sure he had his camera with him at all times during the landing. It didn't even matter if he had film.


"There are no cowards in front of the camera."

That camera, he said, is the eyes of the world. And our boys aren't going to want to show anything but courage when Mom and Dad are watching back home.

If only Barry had known.


At 9:16 am, Blogger Borscht said...

Getting psychological here for a moment...

I'm not surprised. There's something innately about the human species which has to the desire to want to be socially-accepted, regardless of the activity.

Charging a position during a time of war -- you'd think -- isn't something people would want to grandstand for, but the quote you've borne out really proves it.

Trying to find the underpinnings of why people enjoy being voyeurs is also something that intrigues me deeply.

My efforts to date in the marketing sphere have revolved around trying to find out WHY people buy what they buy, or why they do what they do -- to wit, why do people buy cellphones, when they very well know you can get tumours from them. Why do they drop tabs of ecstacy at a club when they damn well know that it could contain rat poison.

Why the heck do people still have casual and unprotected sex despite the fact that there is a disease which some claim is called AntiImmunoDeficiencySyndrome (AIDS)...and continue to do it all the time.

There's something driving them to do these things that is deeper than the surface dangers which are only skin-deep.

A lesson for us marketers who choose to understand this dynamic well. Combine this understanding of human nature with consumer behaviour, and you've got a revenue stream the envy of the Joneses, and the rest of the dot-coms in the office building next to you.


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