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The ten thousand things and the one true only.

by Kip Manley

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Things to keep in mind:
The secret of the lightning.

All this may have something to do with cinema‘s “electricity problem.” So: electricity is a major part of modern life (and continues to play a major part in cinema’s various SFnal futures). Ah, but here’s the thing: electricity is invisible. Since cinema recoils from the visually unrepresentable a convention has grown up such that “electricity” means: “sparking electrical discharge.” That’s pretty much the height and breadth of the way all electricity is represented in popular cinema, from the animation of Frankenstein’s monster, to the Jawas zapping R2D2. Much as, in The Simpsons celebrated movie gag, cows have to be painted to look like horses because “horses don’t look like horses on screen,” the movie convention for the representation of electricity is a kind of white-blue matrix of shimmering and sparking firework light-effects. We know this isn’t how electricity works in real life, but we accept the visual convention by which something internal and invisible is externalised and visualised in order to fit the representational logic of the medium. And that’s fine, just as long as we don’t confuse a representational convention with reality.

I suspect violence is like this. The thing to bear in mind is: the fact that physical violence is simpler to represent visually than other kinds of violence doesn’t make physical violence the truth of violence as such, especially in the 21st-century world. I’m not of course denying that actual physical violence happens in the world: not denying that men beat women, that people injure and kill people. But I am suggesting that, outside actual warzones, other forms of violence are more pervasive and intrusive. A punch to the gut hurts for a while; growing up female, or gay, or Black in a sexist, homophobic and racist society presses violently upon your very soul the whole time.

Adam Roberts

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