Out-takes in the credit roll

Reed Konsler (konsler@ascat.harvard.edu)
Wed, 14 Apr 1999 10:56:48 -0400

Message-Id: <v02140b19b33a56394c00@[]>
Date: Wed, 14 Apr 1999 10:56:48 -0400
To: memetics@mmu.ac.uk
From: konsler@ascat.harvard.edu (Reed Konsler)
Subject: Out-takes in the credit roll

Maybe it's more interesting to ask why the practice gets
imitated than who started the practice. Out-takes are
spontaneous memes which somehow get squeezed into
the replication machinery becuase...why? What "right
stuff" do they have? Usually, they are dramatic moments
which the actors flub by laughing, or action sceens in
which someone falls on their face, etc. It's that irony,
especially juxtaposed immediately after the cannonical
film, which causes them to be reproduced for the same
reason that people tell jokes and shaggy dog stories.

Another way of thinking about it might be that the
out-takes introduce an entire level of meaning (giving
the audience an impression of the film as a process
as opposed to film as product) in a few seconds.

The first step to accepting a piece of fiction is the
willing suspension of disbelief which, by the end of
a movie, has become implicit. The out-takes shock
the audience by making this apparent. April Fool!

Thus, if we use the "rowboat" analogy...out-takes are
particularly well suited to trail along behind finished
works of TV and movies becuase they have a high
significance / time ratio. Alone, they are meaningless
fragments but, in context, they become an infectious

So here are some questions:

Out-takes come at the end of movies, and TV shows.
Why not at the end of books?
Radio programs?

Use of out-takes reminds me of Ira Glass (host, of This
American Life...a PRI radio program) making pledge
drive commercials in which he gets "real" radio
newspeople like Nina Totenberg to play themselves
ironically. These commercials are so effective becuase
they take a voice we are used to hearing in the context
of utmost seriousness and placing it in an ironic or
silly context.

Many of the managers feared that the commercials
would reduce the credibility of the radio announcers
which appeared on them...how could you take them
seriously after hearing them making jokes.

Out-takes are similar. They retroactively force the
audience to reevaluate the meaning of the entire
piece. This makes the out-take an attention grabber,
but perhaps at the cost of the significance of the rest
of the work.

Given this, would you expect George Lucas to include
out-takes at the end of the next Star Wars movie? Why
weren't there any out-takes at the end of "Saving
Private Ryan"?

Is it significant that "Jackie Chan", "Smokie and the Bandit",
and "A Bug's Life" are movies with out-takes? Is there
something which unifies them?


Reed Konsler konsler@ascat.harvard.edu

This was distributed via the memetics list associated with the
Journal of Memetics - Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission
For information about the journal and the list (e.g. unsubscribing)
see: http://www.cpm.mmu.ac.uk/jom-emit