Subtext

A recent Zits:

Subtext has come up in the Stanford Language of Comics seminar I’m involved with, in discussions of indirection — primarily, Gricean implicature, in which expressions have a straightforward interpretations but are used to convey different ones. Subtext is subtler, since two messages are sent at the same time.

In the Zits case above, the subtext (Drag Me to Hell) is made explicit, as commentary on the surtext (The Sound of Music).

From Wikipedia:

Subtext or undertone is content of a book, play, musical work, film, video game, or television series which is not announced explicitly by the characters (or author) but is implicit or becomes something understood by the observer of the work as the production unfolds. Subtext can also refer to the thoughts and motives of the characters which are only covered in an aside. Subtext can also be used to imply controversial subjects without specifically alienating people from the fiction, often through use of metaphor.

Subtext is content underneath the spoken dialogue. Under dialogue, there can be conflict, anger, competition, pride, showing off, or other implicit ideas and emotions. Subtext is the unspoken thoughts and motives of characters—what they really think and believe.

Especially in light of their inherently ambiguous and self-referential character, many authors have explicitly used subtexts (or subtexts about subtexts) in humor.

Subtext is also a frequently used method of subtly inserting social or political commentary into fiction. Subtext is often also inserted in narratives where explicit themes are unable to be shown or expressed due to censorship or simply interest in appealing to a general audience. Frequently, these subtexts may be of, but not limited to, a sexual nature or possible references to sexual orientation. Their inclusion is such so that they are easily overlooked by younger viewers but may be caught by more mature viewers. Subtext also serves to add a complexity to a premise that may superficially appeal to younger viewers but may also attract older fans, as is often the case with cartoons, sci-fi and fantasy. It also may serve to aid in suspension of disbelief.

One Response to “Subtext”

  1. Can a command be a lie? - Soft Places Says:

    […] Credit  […]

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