When Subtext Becomes Subtitles | When Subtext Becomes Subtitles


The pendulum of the mind alternates between sense and nonsense, not between right and wrong.
— Carl Jung

The single biggest problem with communication is the illusion that it has taken place.
— George Bernard Shaw

When a guy says, “I can’t remember why I called you up,” what he really means is he’s so totally excited to be talking to you that he can’t think of anything to say. Or if he says, “Lima is the capitol of Peru,” what he’s really driving at is that he’d love to spend a week alone with you on a nude beach somewhere.

Those who know how to decipher the secret guy code are privy to what’s really going on beneath the surface. Linguists call this “subtext” and have written whole indecipherable books about it. Playwrights like to think their works are full of it, when, in fact, there may be no meaning at all, literal or figurative, in or below the text. Many people strain to find meaning in places where others relax and find none. For instance, the film Ernest Goes to Camp has been the subject of four separate film-theory doctoral theses. One scholar saw it as a contemporary updating of Milton’s Paradise Lost. Another thought it was a documentary about brain damage.

There’s a new movie that everyone’s dying to see. No one seems to know the name of it, but everyone knows how it ends. This guy text messages his girlfriend as he’s dying. “I luv u do u luv me 2?”  Then the theater is engulfed in sobs, which, as anyone who has found himself in a weeping crowd knows, sound like small coughs, popping like popcorn, on all sides.

The camera never moves in this movie, and all the scenes are five times longer than they need to be. Every moment is milked and re-milked, long after a normal director would have called “cut!” This is a movie that you either love or hate. Those who love it are trying to bring its strained and unreal acting style into their daily lives.

For the crowd who used to enjoy Francis the Talking Mule movies, or Ma and Pa Kettle, this movie will be indecipherable. The fans of this movie continue to baffle and annoy friends and family. It sure would be easier to write about it if anybody could remember the name of this movie, but so far nobody has the foggiest idea of what it’s called.

Yes, the modern world is a mysterious, intensely boring, yet fascinating place, full of contradictions and people who are just hanging on by a thread. That’s why celebrity worship is so important. It gives us an agreed-upon set of values with which to evaluate our circumstances. It’s not so hard to cut yourself some slack about your failed marriages when a movie star who’s ten times better looking than you and makes a thousand times more money can’t stay faithful to his or her spouse either.

But what if that hope just isn’t enough? What if we can no longer muster a smile or a chuckle from smirking at the failings of others?

Sometimes we have to move on with our own agendas, however twisted or short-sighted they might be. Each of us needs to write, direct, and star in the movie of our life. In this movie, there will be no subtext. Any secret guy codes will be deciphered for all to see in large-font subtitles. The scenes will begin and end naturally, because this movie will be Realer Than Real.®

Critics will give it Thumbs Up!® And no matter how mysterious or cryptic its title, everyone who has seen and loved this movie will remember what it’s called. They’ll search for it on Netflix® by name.

The text messaging of last words motif will only become more prominent in the near future. Dying mothers will text words of encouragement to their children. Old men will text their last-minute pleas for clemency to Almighty God.

In the end, all these movies will be on YouTube®, along with feedback from a zillion viewers, who themselves are either fascinated or bored, yet chock-full of contradictions.

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