Perception is a Wonderful Thing

My daughter just showed me a very amusing trailer on YouTube. Someone had re-done a trailer for the comedy Mrs Doubtfire. With a little editing magic and by changing the music for the trailer, they had turned a comedy trailer into a trailer for a thriller/horror film. It was very funny and, I thought, quite clever. But it did make me think.

It is all a matter of perception. That they were able to re-cut the original trailer, add a bit of creepy sounding music and change it into a very creepy trailer instead of a comic one is interesting. It made me think of Jimmy Stewart explaining about how important the editing process was. “If the camera shows me looking at something and smiling, then cuts in a picture of a baby, I look like a kindly grandfather figure. Change the cut to a girl in a bikini and I look like a dirty old man.”

Cropped screenshot of James Stewart from the t...
Cropped screenshot of James Stewart from the trailer for the film Rear Window (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But it is not just film that can be changed by a matter of perception, Life doesn’t allow¬† us to re-edit. It does allow us to see things differently, either by a matter of angle or timing of when we see something. I’ll explain.

When I lived in southern California, I drove through very bad section of town daily on my way to work. One day I saw a small boy being chased by a very large angry man. It struck me as funny and I started laughing. I pulled up to a stop light and while waiting for it to turn green a policeman came up and tapped on my window. I rolled it down, it was up because it was a smog alert day, shut off the engine and started to reach for my drivers license.

The policeman asked if I had just arrived in the area. I said yes and asked why. Ignoring my question, he asked one of his own. Had I seen a young boy being chased by a man along side the road? I said, “Why yes. I just passed them, They were heading in the opposite direction. It was very funny looking.” He then thanked me for the information and turned to leave. I asked what was going on.

He paused for the briefest of moments and then said, “That kid just beat the fuck out of an old lady to steal her handbag. The man chasing him is a shop owner who saw it happen. He tried to stop the kid and he just climbed over the guy. He lost the purse though.” He then turned away and went back to his car.

Suddenly the scene I had witnessed was not so comic. I realised that by just a matter of seconds I had missed the events leading up to the chase. My perception of the scenario was completely wrong. So I learned that perception is a wonderful thing, it can also be wrong.