ust a quick observation tonight. Was sitting on the couch in the splash screen for Stranger Things on Netflix. Okay, so everyone is raving about it and the boss said watching this will be part of my review. I’d watched five minutes a week or so back and had been unimpressed. But with everyone pushing I decided to give it another look.
But we’re not going to talk about the show. No. This is a writing (and sometimes storytelling) blog. We’re going to talk about words. And images.
There on the screen, in the series description, two words.
Think about what you are feeling right now. Government Lab. What does that imply? Things deep and secret. Things hidden and unholy. Weaponized things (meaning to take bad things and make them worse). And things ruled by a huge bureaucracy, one that is inept enough to lose track of these things, yet efficient enough to completely cauterize any and all leaks about these things with ruthless killing (with silencers – piff piff).
All these images, all generate by two words.
What’s funny is how things change. Back in the fifties, when science was small enough to be conducted by mom-and-pop basements and back rooms, you had Mad Scientist Laboratories. Back then it could imply crackling Jacob’s ladders and boxes with scissor switches and dials all over them (if there were Government Labs, they were the ones with blinky-light computers). But all these phrases carry power with their audiences – the same as the characters of Scaramouche and Harlequin would back in the 1700’s across Italy and France. As soon as you see a Government Lab, even if its only a gate with a sign: Government Lab. Keep Out, you know something sinister is going on and our vast evil government will kill you if you find out what it is.
For all you writers getting ready to open a novel with: There was a rusty sign on the gate across the dead-end road, reading Government Lab. Keep Out, I beg you to reconsider. Maybe it’s just me but I think that whole cliché is about to come down. How many Government Labs can there be with secrets and silences and hard-faced investigators? It’s old. It’s way overdone. I’m not sure where change in future stories will come from – hackers? Political parties? Corporate labs? Think tanks? I don’t know. But please, don’t be the writer left standing when the music from the musical chairs of public tastes stops. Come up with a better dark citadel.
Really, that’s so overdone.
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