Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Pondering All the Pixels 

I've never seen CSI: Miami until our dear friend Amy guest starred on it this week. I loved David Caruso back in the day when he was the original star of NYPD Blue and I pretty much lost track of his career when he left that show prematurely - like many of the original NYPD Blue fans, I suspect.

Watching CSI, I thought to myself, "Wow, he's doing classic Shatner-style, American Kabuki. I thought that style of acting could only be seen in its pure form in syndicated episodes of the original-flavor Star Trek and old VHS copies of TJ Hooker. I had no idea that a new master had emerged to take the mantle from the originator." (The originator having moved on into his lovable, crazy coot phase.) Unfortunately, K. is not an appreciator of Kabuki acting on the small screen and she was unable to stop herself from jeering during "dramatic" moments.

As the show moved forward, K. turned to me and remarked that one of the women had clearly had a terrible blemish the day of the shoot. I had noticed this, but had not commented.

(In fact, this is one of the key departures in our respective TV-watching styles. I watch largely in silence. If a comment is burning a hole in my head, I pause the show with the TiVo remote. My dearest K. must comment in the moment lest her
head explode. This is particularly true if W. comes on the screen, in which case she entirely forgets my presence altogether and simply yells at the helpless box directly with no intermediary.)

These normal flaws in actors' visages are largely hidden from the viewing public on a day-to-day basis. But in this case, even more than the blemish itself, it was the makeup artist's hand that was clearly on display. Smack in the middle of the lovely actor's cheek was what looked like an amateur artist's attempt to repair the canvas of her face.

I observed more closely after that and it seemed to me that the clarity of the broadcast image of CSI: Miami was of a higher resolution than our normal digital cable signal. I'm not too geeky about broadcast signal, so I'm not sure if this is true or if it was an artifact of the show being shot in hi-def video or what. But it simply wasn't fair to this woman. She was being upstaged by the flesh colored spot that didn't match her flesh. And we don't even have a new-fangled HDTV.

This got me to thinking about what technology lets us see in images of female beauty. The invention of the airbrush has ensured that as legions of New Yorkers walk by ubiquitous kiosks each day, they are bombarded by fraudulent masterpieces.

There's a great web demo of just what airbrushing really means in terms of how fake these images really are. Decades of this fakery has raised male expectations as to just what they will see the morning after, but I began to wonder of HDTV was not going to begin shattering the unfair myths of body image.

I noticed in the last year that TV writers have begun to publish lists of who looks good and who does not on an HDTV signal and it began to occur to me that perhaps, just PERHAPS, HDTV might begin to inject some sense of reality into the world through its falsely hyper-real signal. I say falsely hyper-real because when I see an HDTV signal, my first thought is that my own vision cannot see the world that clearly and in such bright colors without the aid of this TV image. When I see butterflies in a meadow they are not nearly as brilliant as the HDTV nature shows I've seen demo'd my friends' homes.

But then reality set in. And I realized that given human nature HDTV is more likely to do the worst. HDTV is more likely to increase the caste system, not shatter it. Because some people apparently DO look flawless on HDTV. So these millions of new pixels are far more likely to further raise expectations as to what's possible - for a short time. Because even Catherine Zeta-Jones will not remain wrinkle free forever.

Then what will happen? How much makeup can be slathered on without making your average actor LOOK like a Kabuki actor, even if they are performing in the most naturalistic acting style possible? And what about the so-called reality shows? How will real people fair in the increasingly challenging war of pixilated expectations?

This line of thinking led me to the most far-out image yet. What happens when an American Kabuki actor like Caruso gets has his makeup brilliantly exposed in the HDTV closeup of the future? Then there will be no 'American' needed before the word Kabuki. 21st Century technology will have effectively transported us back to 17th Century Japan!
The airbrushing article reminded me of a photoediting mishap when my wife worked at InStyle. Somehow everyone missed a major photoshop error on a photo that went to print. There was a pic of a celeb in a golf cart enjoying a nice summer day. If you looked closely, though, you noticed there was an extra pair of legs sitting next to him, but no body to go along with the legs. Apparently, his golfing partner wasn't good enough for the magazine, but they only photoshopped half of him out.
In my defense, I would happily avail myself of the TiVo remote in order to pause the action and speak my mind... if you ever entrusted me with custody of the remote.
Hmmmm. Hand over the TiVo remote? That might set a dangerous precedent indeed!
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