Friendship & Mental Health
The screen opens with orange words “The Awkward Silence Presents,” most likely the production team. Behind this is some sort of small, furry animal that is stuffed standing on a small log or branch. This stuffed animal, maybe a possum, is most likely sitting on a table and is used as some sort of decoration. This addition seems funny in a sense because it is something a little strange. The possum takes away the seriousness for a time. We can assume this does not take place in present time, because taxidermy is not very popular now. Next to this animal is a picture of a boy in a metallic frame, reminding me of something I may see in my grandparents living room from when my dad was still a kid. To the left of the table where the animal and picture is, there is a tall lamp, which is on, with a green base leading to the lamp shade. Further in the shot is a stone fireplace, which we cannot tell is on or not. There are other decorations on the fireplace.
By the wood paneling in the room behind the animal and picture, this could be a living room of a cabin or home in the woods. This could also be in the mountains because I have not seen a living room of a house look like this. We can conclude this may take place in the 60’s because of the oddities we would not see in a modern home.
This scene begins with the words “How to know if you should reach out to a friend.” in yellow letters. We can understand that this may be the message of this ad, receiving help from a friend when in need. We can conclude this scene is taken in the same place as the last one because of the wooden wall paneling of the room. On the walls of the room are two pictures or paintings of outdoors scenes. These pictures remind me of a cabin I once stayed in when I was a kid. In the center of the screen is a man, possibly in his 20’s, sitting with his one ankle on the knee of his other leg. This man is in a tan chair that somewhat resembles a shell. He is wearing a brown turtleneck with tan pants that almost resemble the color of the chair and is wearing shoes, but no socks. His style seems out of date and humorous in a way. It does not seem dressy, but more casual. Maybe this man does not really care how he dresses. Next to the chair is a small table with two more statues or ceramic decorations, and a magazine or comic book. One is some sort of bird, maybe a swan, and the other is what looks like a unicorn.
In the background on the left side of the screen is a dark brown cabinet or table. It is two doors for possibly books. I think maybe books are in there because there is a stack of books on top of this table with a glass duck on top. Maybe the man in this frame has a collection of these magazines. Next to the books is some sort of glass or ceramic statue or decoration, and also another smaller light with a wood base and a shade with a light brown and tan pattern.
Directly behind the man is a tall black box (maybe a speaker), sitting on top of a brown table which matches the other one in the room. Next to the box is a medium size fish tank, maybe 10 gallons, and looks well-kept. There are also more books and also vinyl records or maybe magazines or comics. It is hard to tell from the distance.
The first three or four seconds show this ad has a humorous approach to it, still focusing on the main serious issue. We can conclude this man may be a little “weird”, collecting and keeping strange items. This room could be his definition of a man-cave, or maybe even an office or living room.
In this scene, the camera zooms in closer to the man sitting in the chair, so now it is only is upper body in the center of the screen. All that’s left on the sides is the ceramic statue, lamp, and the black box behind the chair. We assume he is now the main focus of this video.
The next seven or eight seconds, there are quick scenes of 7 different people who are all talking, but we do not know what about.
The first person is a young black female, maybe in her 20’s, without a shirt on. She looks to be laying down in a bed with white sheets. Her hair is curly, but does not look messy. The second is a black male, also without his shirt on. He may be sweaty because of the light reflecting off of his skin. These two may be in the same room or scene. We cannot tell what is behind the man because the camera is focused on him.
The next scene is quick and there is a women, maybe in her thirties, and she talks for less than a second. The background seems to be a messy room, but is hard to make out because the camera is focused on her.
The next is a younger woman again, early twenties, with straight hair and narrow face. Behind her are golden lettered balloons, but are not focused on enough to tell what they spell out.
The next scene is a young man laying down in a bed with white sheets and a white pillow. He does not have a shirt on. The man after this has the same background as the black man in the second scene. So maybe they are both connected?
The next short scene in of a man with curly hair with gold lettered balloons in the background, like the other woman. These two may be connected also.
After each person is seen, all people repeat one more time, with no changes in background. They all appear to talk, but cannot be heard what is being said. The director of this may include all of these different people to send a message that everyone may have something in common, no matter skin color or gender. We can assume some of these people are in the same room because of the backrounds, but it is not clear if they are significant with each other.
After the people are show, the scene goes back to the man sitting in the room, zoomed out to its original position. Everything is in the same place and the man is talking, using his hands to possibly get his point across. This man may be each of the other peoples’ friend, representing he is that person they can talk to. He should not be confused with a shrink, more of a friendly figure.
The camera zooms back into the man sitting in the chair, like the second scene.
The scene changes to the fish tank that was behind the man in the chair, and three fish are swimming around together. The director could have possibly used this scene to show that everyone does have someone else, even if this is shown by fish swimming together.
7 thoughts on “Visual Rhetoric- LBirch”
Periods and commas go inside the quotation marks always. ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS. It’s one of the few punctuation rules we can count on.
I haven’t seen this video before, LB, so I’ll watch it segment by segment as I read your descriptions.
This is good work by you, LB. We don’t entirely agree, but I understood what I would see from your description. We actually see the stuffed animal (I would say it’s a possum) before the screen credit for “Awkward Silence.” We get a few frames to react to the setting. It’s a room interior surely. For me the wood paneling gives it the look of a family room from the 60s. Taxidermy is not exactly fashionable now, so that reinforces the notion that we might be looking at some nostalgia. I find the opening comical for some reason. Do you? The title “Awkward Silence” over the stuffed possum seems to be mocking a more serious approach to . . . something. We don’t know what yet, but the approach appears to be humorous. It’s not clearly a commercial for a product, but again, we’ll have to withhold judgment.
You name the contents of the room quite thoroughly, but from your description I get no impression whether the impression a viewer receives is positive or negative, whether the scene is humorous or serious, whether the clothing and decor were chosen to inspire confidence or suspicion.
Now that I’ve seen the three seconds of video, I again get the clear sense that the film is meant to be humorous (even if it explores a serious topic). The actor’s expression is mock-serious. The naked ankle above the shocking white sneaker, the very existence of a turtleneck sweater, the proliferation of cheesy animal figurines and bad art are all part of a rhetorical visual vocabulary that says, you tell me, from the choices below:
1. The office of a sober professional psychologist
2. The “rumpus room” of a bit of a goofball
3. The casual home of a well-meaning and helpful friend
My point is that the images we’re being presented convey SOMETHING rather than nothing. I haven’t quite decided between 2 and 3, and since they’re not incompatible, I suspect a blend of the two is likely, but I’ve completely discarded 1 as a possibility. So, despite the serious-sounding supertitle that ask a sober question, the tone in which the question is presented is decidedly at best mock-serious.
Does this give you a better idea how to approach the job of analyzing the rhetoric of a scene, LB?
I won’t spoil the surprise for myself by watching the rest of the video just yet. But if you decide to revise this draft, I hope you’ll invite me back for another viewing so I can finish it.
Professor, I revised what I could, adding analysis to each scene. The only thing I found difficult was revising the last 15 seconds or so, because it seemed repetitive and without any new meaning. Is there anything you can suggest?
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I’ve watched seconds 00:04 to 00:13 now, LB, and I’ll share my impressions. You’re right to try to draw connections between these people. There are enough tantalizing similarities to suggest that we should. Things happen too fast for us to be certain of anything, and any conclusions we draw would have to be subliminal because by the time we register them, we’re being bombarded with another image.
That suggests that the filmmaker is going for something “holistic.” We’re supposed to see the whole series as a unit. I could be very wrong, but I believe each of these characters is contributing a word or phrase to a single sentence. Some of the speakers may be connected, but the sentence is the important thing. In fact—I’m not much of a lip-reader, but I think—the last two speakers might be saying “that’s important.” After one more viewing, I think two characters say “important.”
The effect of this series of people in extreme closeup is to put us into intimate contact with them (some of them naked and perhaps lying in bed). That suggests that what they’re sharing with us is of a very personal nature. Does that seem reasonable? And the fact that several of them engage in communicating a single sentence (if that’s what’s going on) would mean that they’re telling us something personal that a lot of people share, in other words, a common feeling that we share with only a few of our trusted friends.
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At 00:14, something interesting happens that you haven’t mentioned. The amateur psychologist in his turtleneck reacts as if he’s been “presenting” the series of faces to his viewers as evidence of something. In less than a second, he moves from looking at his surroundings to making very specific eye contact with his viewers. It’s a head gesture that locks in the contact. His facial expression says to me: “See? That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you,” as if he feels the sequence we’ve watched is ample evidence to demonstrate the point he’s been trying to make.
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Regarding your question about the last “15 seconds or so,” LB, I’m surprised that you don’t mention the onscreen text. It’s visual, so it’s perfectly appropriate material for you consider. What’s the relevance of the slogan “Seize the Awkward” to what you’ve described so far?
While you’re deciding that, what is the rhetorical value of that gap that opens up in the slogan between “THE” and “AWKWARD”? It creates a space, doesn’t it, like a pause . . . like an awkward silence . . . between two spoken words?
If you had to guess, since the theme of the piece is knowing what to do during an awkward silence (in other words, whether to respond when this awkwardness occurs or whether to ignore it), would you guess that the people in that series of brief encounters are the SOURCE of the awkward silence, or the people RESPONDING to the awkward silence?
Hint: They’re speaking, so they’re not silent.
I’m not sure I know what’s going on, but it seems pretty clear the message here is going to be that GOOD FRIENDS take advantage of those awkward silences to proactively help their friends. They don’t try to avoid them. They confront the issue with compassion and interest.
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I’ve now watched with sound, and it turns out I’m even worse at lip-reading than I thought. Does it matter? Whatever impressions we receive as we view a video (and whatever reactions our readers have to our texts as they read them) are successes or failures of the Authors to communicate clearly.
As critics of their Visual Rhetoric, we get to declare them successful or unsuccessful.
Once you’ve watched with sound, share with us whether you think the Visual component DID SUCCESSFULLY contribute to the overall argument. If not, how did it FAIL?
Your ability to successfully receive the message, for the purpose of this assignment, is not a measure of your own ability. It’s an indication that the ad either works or doesn’t work as a compelling argument.
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