Thursday, October 24, 2013

The Aesthetics of Revenge

The Aesthetics of Revenge

         How many of you out there have thought about how the aesthetics that make up a TV show and how they help explain the tone, mood, and ideas of that show? I know most of the time when I watch TV, I get so caught up in the story and plot of the show that I don’t pay any attention to the things that really bring the show together, such as camera angles, costumes, sounds, and the set. In this blog post, I will be evaluating the use of aesthetics in the TV series Revenge. Revenge is a TV show that takes place in the Hamptons that stars characters with high-end fashion sense, glamorous beach homes that are extravagantly decorated, background music that sets the tone of a mood, and much more.
This show is exactly what the title portrays: revenge. Emily Thorne, formally known as Amanda Clarke, has come back to the Hamptons to get revenge. Her target is the Grayson family, who appears to be part of the initiative that killed her father. The Grayson’s have a mansion that is full of secrets, but attempt to play the victims and use their fancy parties, art show auctions and philanthropy to cover up the devious people they are. Emily Thorne is onto their game, and her father left behind a lot of information on the Grayson’s and people who work with them to help her get revenge.
In Revenge, there are several aesthetics that make the show more dramatic and set the mood. To begin, the camera angles used emphasize a dramatized affect on people. Revenge also frequently uses rack focus and the dolly effect. Since the show is very dramatic and gives off a soap opera feel, the rack focus is perfect for this. Rack focus is when there are two things or people that are close, and depending on which person needs to be emphasized, the focus will be zoomed in on that person. While this is happening, the background will be out of focus, drawing the eye to particular elements of the screen. For example, in the Season 2 opener episode “Destiny”, there were several incidences when Emily would be talking to her friend Nolan and the camera would use rack focus to emphasize the importance of what they each said. Using the rack focus made me pay closer attention as a viewer, and helped me get a deeper understanding of what was happening in the scene. Also displayed in this episode was a lot of use of the dolly effect. The background was shifting around a lot and Emily never got bigger or moved around, but was still connected to the space that was shifting around her. This increased dramatization, showed how important the aesthetics of the show are. If there were just straight angle shots, the dramatic impact would not have been as great.
         Moreover with camera work, Revenge depends heavily on medium close up, medium, and long shots to capture the emotions of the scene. Medium close up allows for the shoulder up to be captured and allows for emotion to be portrayed well; this camera angle balances out the scene and also narrows in on the character’s emotion. Medium camera angle is the full length shot of a character it still captures the emotion, but also the intensity of the scene around the character. For example, in Revenge the characters are normally set in rooms in their mansion. These mansions portray several extravagant spaces that help grasp the concept of what is going on and gives background information of why these aesthetics are used to make more of an effect on the show. An example of a medium shot that also has a cryptic message in it is one of which ‘hookedonhouses’ talks about, “Queen Victoria” Grayson (Madeleine Stowe, who manages to be both beautiful and kind of terrifying in the role) looks out from her turret, checking on her new neighbor below” [1] 

How perfectly fitting that the show adds a turret for Victoria to look down upon her neighbor Emily to see what sorts of things she has up her sleeve. This turret literally makes Victoria look like she is the queen of the Hamptons, and can convey how much power she believes she has by using a low angle looking out at Emily. In almost every episode, Victoria goes out there and attempts to spy on Emily. It never came across my mind that the aesthetic of this was highlighting the power of the scene itself, and the deeper meaning behind her standing on the turret.  

         To continue, the costuming in the show helps the audience understand the personality types of the characters. Revenge is viewed as a high-end fashion show, and the costumes are used to camouflage the actors/actresses personalities, as well as add to the fantasia of it. The characters in this show display elegant style by wearing fancy clothes such as nice blouses, dress pants, tight yet classy dresses, heels, and anything else uncomfortable you can imagine. They also always accessorize with jewelry, have their makeup on, and hair lusciously curled. Not even lounging at home is an excuse to dress down for these characters. The men in this show are always wearing suits or nice jeans and a v-neck. It is all about the business, and if you don’t dress the part than you are basically dead to them or frowned upon. According to When Costume Design Costars,
They are using fashion and clothing as a camouflage
to help them play a part. This is reflected in character
Emily Thorne’s choice to assume the classic American
blond, as embodied by Grace Kelly, to mask her roots
as a juvenile delinquent and Victoria’s feline sensuality
with a nod towards Sophia Loren shadowing her past as
an art gallery sales girl [2]

This shows the aesthetic of how costuming has a bigger meaning than the characters just wearing clothes. This quote explains that the outfits that the characters wear help them be someone they are not. If you dig deeper into the show, you could see that all of these characters are putting up a front. By dressing the way that they do, it makes them seem less kooky than they are. Like the quote explains with Emily’s choice of costume it reflects this classic American girl who seems to be so innocent, but behind this costume she is actually quite devious. These women are hiding their true identities behind the things that they wear, and that right there shows truly how powerful aesthetics can be. They can give a deeper meaning into what the show is trying to get at.
         Furthermore, the music in this show adds some aesthetic to the mood in which the audience can relate to. The music that plays in the background of scenes in Revenge is known as being nondiegetic; meaning the music adds emotion to the scene but the characters cannot hear it but the audience can. For instance, in the “Destiny” episode and almost all of the episodes, there is climactic music that plays in the background to heighten a scene. One example being when Emily finds out more revealing information about the Grayson’s, the music in the background intensifies the scene for viewers, but not for the characters because they cannot hear it. Below is a YouTube clip with music played from this episode, if you tune out the person singing you can hear how dramatic the music is and how it can intensify emotions of a scene.  [3]
         This goes to show how important aesthetics are for the meaning making process and how they can help bring a deeper understanding to what the show is all about.

Works Cited:
 [1] Hooked on Houses. "The Hamptons Beach Houses on the TV Show “Revenge”."Hooked on Houses RSS. N.p., 3 Oct. 2011. Web. 23 Oct. 2013.

[2] Wyckoff, Anna. "Articles Archive – When Costume Design Costars." When Costume Design Costars. Costume Designers Guide, 2012. Web. 23 Oct. 2013

[3] "M Ward - There's a Key." YouTube. YouTube, 16 Oct. 2012. Web. 23 Oct. 2013.

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