What is it with American TV drama and sentimental dialogue? I have just watched the first two episodes of NBC’s Heroes. Just about every conversation in this latest mega series followed a simple pattern:
- Someone will fly off in a rage, not listening to the other character.
- They realise they've overstepped a mark, so they pause. The camerawork and tempo indicate they are reflecting, genuinely (emotion being the index of truthfulness – an epistemological black hole).
- They sigh, possibly look at their shoes, then say, "Look, I'm sorry, its just...". And then they reveal some inner emotional turmoil as an excuse and as an appeal for understanding.
- Finally they make a joke, smile, shrug, and everything's ok, but it happens again in the next scene, and the one after that
This is a mode of conversation based on interiority. The TV character reveals their interior, their emotions, and appeal to others’ interior states (‘heart to heart’). The episode degenerates into a series of touching moments. Plot lines cannot move on until a person’s interior state has been fully revealed and acknowledged by others. Things slow down and get stuck because someone won’t accept, or isn’t aware of, how their daughter or brother or boyfriend feels. This might be acceptable in something like Grey’s Anatomy, but in a series about superheroes?
Is there a generation growing up talking this way? Perhaps it is flippant to suggest scriptwriters are particularly prone to certain kinds of therapy? What if this mode of conversation seeps into other genres, even into news and current affairs? Have newscasters begun to reveal their emotional response to events as if audiences expect this now?
* Exceptions in the first episodes were some of those scenes involving the Japanese character Hiro.