Becoming A Better Viewer: Perception and Influence

[Description]: A short series of posts about the relationship between viewer and anime and how to get more insight and enjoyment out of what you watch.

Given the nature of visual media such as film, live-action television, and anime it is important to be aware of what you are watching. What characters are doing what? What are the implications of this or that plot development? Where is this story going? It’s important to pay attention to what you are watching in order to grasp what is going on but it is additionally important to pay attention to ‘how’ you are watching. Becoming aware of what factors weigh against your own interpretation of what you are watching can tell you a lot about why you identify certain elements in the way that you do. This understanding can change the very degree to which you enjoy a show.

The first example I’ll use will be a familiar one because this topic relates very heavily to the first post in this series: Creating A Space. The atmosphere within which you watch a show insofar as time, activity, noise, mood, etc can alter how you perceive it enormously. Watching the first episode of a new show while commuting through a busy city on a crowded bus is atmospherically day and night compared to watching it in the comfort of your own home. With fewer distracting variables in your vicinity, you are innately able to better focus upon the events and intricacies of the episode and get a lot more out of it. Some of these distractions we impose upon ourselves – having multiple browser windows open, listening to music while you watch, and talking to other people can all take away from the potential experience a show has to offer. In creating a space, you attempt to preserve this focus and present the show to yourself in the most appealing way possible.

With the most surface level of examples out of the way, I can now talk in a vaguer sense about how you yourself are a major factor in how you perceive what you watch. “Well of course,” you say. “I like the things I like and enjoy the things I do and so obviously I will favor certain shows over others”. This is undoubtedly true but what I aim to discuss here are the more fleeting circumstances under which you can alter your own perception. Perhaps you’ve had a hard day at work and when you return home and pick up the latest episode of some dark, brooding, psychological show it doesn’t quite bring you that sense of escapism you so desperately need. This might make that otherwise thrilling episode fall a tad flat for you while something more immediately enjoyable and lighthearted might appear additionally charming. Carrying this forward, these intermittent, differences in judgment can inform what you think of the characters or the show as a whole.

The previous example is essentially just a single case of what you bring to the show. Your mood is one thing and your real world experiences are another. If the subject matter of a show features something that resonates with your personal life then you are likely to enjoy or dislike it more than had you not brought that experience to the show. Spoilers and outside opinions can greatly influence how you watch – causing you to pick apart the show’s most insignificant shortcomings or forgive it’s most blatant failures in order to coincide with what you were predispositioned to think. Remember that without these things, you have the liberty to form your own opinion, unfettered by the sentiments of others.

This topic is complicated and carries with it endless implications and situations that influence your ultimate enjoyment and understanding and to list them all would be impractical. The important thing to take away from this is: be aware. You shouldn’t avoid watching shows on the bus because you might become distracted and you shouldn’t avoid watching movies or television with your friends because they might tell you what they think. Some shows or movies deserve this kind of careful treatment and others don’t and it’s up the individual to decide which those are. The best you can do is be aware that these factors exist and are acting upon you. What do you think? Feel free to leave comments and responses below.

You can read the next post in this series here: Becoming A Better Viewer: Thinking Critically (Publishes tomorrow, July 30)

You can read the previous post in this series here: Becoming A Better Viewer: Making Lists

5 thoughts on “Becoming A Better Viewer: Perception and Influence

  1. Excellent post! Very well-written. Indeed, whether we like it or not, we are our viewing experience is influenced by many factors. Even when I want to believe that I refuse to be influenced by others’ opinions about a series, I can’t totally avoid myself from judging a show I’m watching based on what I hear about it. That’s why I try to avoid watching airing shows because the buzz is usually stronger during this time. I try to wait until all episodes are out before watching a show, but this is not possible every single time. Anyway, great post. Keep it up. Cheers!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for the comment and the thoughtful words. I definitely feel where you’re coming from with the strategy of avoiding airing shows until they are over. I’d probably adhere to it to if I weren’t so excited and impatient about the next thing to come out haha.

      Liked by 1 person

      • You’re welcome. I know, right? It’s just so difficult to wait until all episodes are released before watching a show, especially if you’re feeling excited about it. It’s just that whenever I hear or read about people loving this show or that show and then I watch it and end up disliking it, it’s just so disappointing. And the opposite is also true. There are shows that it seems that everyone hates but then I end up loving it. Liking and hating shows are subjective. However, we still can’t avoid prejudging a show based on what we hear from others.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve definitely been affected by predisposition, both positively and negatively. Positively, because the insights of others have helped me notice themes and background information I otherwise would have missed (this was best demonstrated when I watched Angel’s Egg). However, I’ve certainly been negatively affected as flaws and plot holes I would have naturally missed (and enjoyed the show because of it) I became painfully aware of. Probably the best reviews are those who hold very similar values, and those who hold very different values. A reviewer with similar values means their wholehearted enjoyment is likely to reflect my own, and vice-versa. Those with different values mean I can respect their opinion, but it rarely affects my own disposition because of the discord. That’s not to say I’d watch shows they hate, but I’d certainly dismiss their comments on shows past, present, or future.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think that’s an interesting point about what reviews can be most beneficial and interesting – that somebody who holds a separate opinion than your own might not predisposition you because of the dissonance between your perspectives. Though I guess you’d have to have some opinion of the show before reading the review to contrast in that way, which I guess means you weren’t predispositioned anyway. When watching shows with other people, I feel like I have to stay my hand so often when it comes to pointing out certain themes or ideas because I both don’t want to speak to something they might have already realized or disrupt their ability to discover those things on their own. I also worry I might just come off as annoying always spouting out how I’m perceiving the show haha.


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