Visual clues

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Maria Victoria Rufino

Beyond Brushstrokes

The medium that has a great impact on the public is television. Radio has a broader reach. Social media has become the most effective way of spreading news but it is a two-edged sword. Fake news is easily disseminated. Trolls attack personalities.

Since TV started in the ’50s, it has grown to the most powerful communications tool. It reaches all socioeconomic classes and ages — for the news, information opinions, issues and entertainment. In some families, activities revolve around shows. To the exclusion of mind enlightening activity such as reading books. In many ways, it is addictive.

What do we see or learn from TV?

On the plus side, we have the business news, traffic advisories, weather reports, Mass, livelihood and educational shows, sports and health, some good teleseryes. Cable TV has a broad menu and offers: business news, in-depth interviews; education, history and culture shows (i.e. Knowledge channel, National Geographic, History channel), foreign news, diverse sports, the Olympics, and movies.

On the minus side, TV shows the hard, raw news clips of horror, crime stories, and disasters.

Watching live local TV can be an excruciating exercise. The viewer is subjected to the inane and exploitative antics, gross humor of popular “comedians.” The discerning viewer would consider a lot of stuff too foolish or vulgar to watch.

If the level of our entertainment industry has deteriorated so low, it only reveals a severe cultural drought in our country. Noontime shows, in general, make the viewer’s brain go numb.

TV is a source of distorted notions — commercialism, materialism, shallowness, gross humor, and gender discrimination. It conditions the mind to become passive, and one loses the spark of creativity.

Kids are like sponges that can absorb both the best ideas from educational material and the worst mental junk. There are too many commercials as well.

Medical surveys in the USA reveal that TV watching and obesity are inextricably linked. Thus there are too many couch potatoes who lack exercise. Metabolism slows down with the lack of physical activity. Kids and adults eat junk food with soda, instead of playing outdoor sports and burning calories.

Concerned citizens and parents, advertising agencies, and the TV station executives should closely monitor the “rated” shows particularly at noontime and prime time. For the sake of the viewing public, the networks and agencies should elevate the standards of the shows to the level of good taste for the broad mass audience.

Ratings are very important for the bottom line of the networks. However, ratings are not everything. The audience needs quality programming with more educational and cultural shows to educate our future citizens and the general public. We deserve it.

On a lighter vein, body language on TV can be amusing especially when you turn down the volume. The movements unwittingly reveal more than what the subject wants to project.

“How can you tell when a politician is lying?” An excited, inexperienced cub reporter asked a veteran newsman during her first coverage of an election.

“No problem, kid,” he grizzled vet said. “Just watch the body language. If he touches his ear or scratches his nose, he’s telling the truth. But if he opens his mouth and moves his lips…”

Many expressions do not match the words, the intent, and the topic.

Of course, there are the skilled actors and newscasters who excel in the medium. Then there are the poker-faced characters who can project illusions — emotions of sincerity, concern, and sadness.

On TV or in real life, there are a few hints and clues to the real message.

But watch the face — especially the eyes. Do they light up and do the pupils dilate? That means he/she is glad to see you. An example of a charismatic person is former president Bill Clinton. He makes eye contact for a few seconds, shakes your hand warmly, and mentions your name. In that moment, you would feel like you are the most important person in the room. That is the secret of his appeal.

Do the eyes shift from side to side? Does he/she or gaze beyond you or look over your shoulder? Is there direct eye contact? He/she could be talking to you but looking for someone more important to greet. This happens frequently in business and social events. The eyes roam for a VIP to arrive. In short, the message is, “You are not important. I’m waiting for someone better.”

Does he/she glance at the watch or constantly check the cell phone, or look up at the ceiling. He/she is impatient, worried or bored. If the eyes shut and the head nods, he/she is sleeping. Don’t believe the old tired line, “But I’m only resting my eyes!”

Do the lips twitch? The person is either allergic to you. Or it is a white lie.

The smile ranges from a genuine close up grin to a shy Mona Lisa mysterious smile, to a smirk, a one-sided sneer or a grimace. Some people can fake a smile — with a toothy grin but cold eyes. Others smile behind a fan. Bashfulness? Or a secret?

Crossed arms mean defensiveness. Crossed legs mean prim and proper form. Hands on the waist (his waist) — aggression. A yawn says it all. Time to quit.

All of these gestures would be magnified on TV — for public consumption and interpretation. Be aware and beware.


Maria Victoria Rufino is an artist, writer and businesswoman. She is president and executive producer of Maverick Productions.