When I was a teen, there was one summer that I designated as my soap opera phase. Every day, my best friend would come over at 1 p.m., and we would play cards and watch Passions and Days of Our Lives. The phase only lasted for that one summer, but there was a very important lesson that I took away from my days spent watching multiple actors play the same character and what was probably the worst/funniest tsunami ever shown on TV: Exposition is a must in soap operas … but that doesn’t make it any less annoying.
For those of you who don’t know, exposition is that moment in a television show when a character wastes his or her breath recapping background information that you already know in order to help you understand something else. It’s used a lot on soap operas because 1) They’re confusing, and their stories date back thousands of episodes; and 2) Most viewers can’t watch every single day, so it’s a quick and easy way to get caught up. It’s what most shows use the “Previously On” for, and yet there are still a few outside of soap operas that use a little too much exposition for my liking.
Most of the shows you’re going to catch using it can somewhat justify it: They have very complicated plots that sometimes need explanation. I get it. But that doesn’t make it any less frustrating when characters spend 30 seconds recapping what I already know (because I watched last week), instead of furthering the plot or saying something romantic/important/moving/funny. Take Smallville, for example. The Superman tale used exposition so often that they actually gave the task of presenting it to one character: Chloe. The creators even spoke about how one of the reasons they hired Allison Mack (Chloe) was for her ability to talk quickly and blow through a lot of exposition in basically no time. And although I appreciated their desire to get exposition out of the way as quickly as possible, I could’ve lived without it completely.
Now I know a lot of fans would walk away from an exposition-less episode of any given show claiming they were confused, but — this is where it gets a little harsh — I don’t care. If they’re confused, they can re-watch last week’s episode or hop in a chat room and see what comes of it. I love my shows so much that I just want more of them, and I feel like exposition can ruin a perfectly good moment, something fans of The Vampire Diaries can relate to. TVD is currently my favorite show, so you can trust me when I say that I know how complicated it can get with witches, travelers, vampires, cures, etc. But that doesn’t stop me from cringing every time Damon forgoes one of his enigmatic one-liners for a sentence catching us up on the happenings of Qetsiyah.
That being said, I do think there are moments when exposition can work, but it shouldn’t happen enough that I notice it. And there are different way to go about it then just simply filling in the blanks of “Well this happened because that happened, which means this.” If shows can find a way to tie it in seamlessly, which TVD has done on occasion, that’s fine. But if it becomes an all-too-apparent weekly occurrence, I’m out. I don’t need to be smacked in the face by Captain Obvious.
The good news is that I’m not alone in this, and some shows have recognized this concern (even though they still haven’t done away with it). Game of Thrones actually tried to play a little mind trick on its viewers by introducing what some have coined “sexposition.” By putting exposition against a backdrop of sex or nudity, they distract viewers from the unnecessary words that are being spoken. However, I’m betting this leads to a lot of rewinding in order to understand things, and that, no matter how pretty a scene might be to watch, just isn’t helpful.
What do you think, PopWatchers? Do you appreciate the overuse of exposition, or do you wish shows would just move on with the plot already?