Monday, March 19, 2007

Predictability and Lies

CBS-TV’s Sunday Morning is a terrific program of history, culture and art features. One of yesterday’s segments marked the 56th anniversary of the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted list.

As a kid, I’d see photos of those fugitives posted high on the wall of my small-town post office. Most of the faces had a predictable “bad guy” look, but there’d be the occasional gentle or charismatic face that fascinated me in its lie. And the whole wall chilled me: the most dangerous men in the country -- men who, according to the FBI, were likely enough to come around my town that we needed to be ready to recognize them.

Decades later, living in a metropolitan area, I heard the state police publicize its online sex-offender registry. I accessed the website, entered my zip code and discovered half a dozen convicted offenders residing in area homes and apartments. I looked at the photos of several -- predictably creepy men -- all convicted of crimes against children. Then, up popped another lie: a photo of a regular-looking guy. I read the details about him and it turned out he’d assaulted an adult woman. I looked at more photos and discovered a curious correlation between creepiness and pedophilia.

Now the FBI’s list is online, too. I think it would be helpful to look at those photos and explore the visual details that, for me, characterize “bad guy” and “creepy.” And more helpful -- toward building complex story characters -- to tease out the details that prompt surprise.

(P.S. A few of those photos go a long way. I resorted to visiting the sugariest website on the planet to clear my head.)

No comments:

Post a Comment