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A Glitch is a Glitch: O’Reilly’s Layering of Brechtian Alienation

by Ethan Tussey

by Colin Wheeler for IN MEDIA RES

Verfremdungseffekt, the effect of taking a familiar object and rendering it alien, often finds its best manifestation in popular comedy. Today, it is frequently found in the animated medium. Characters emote with smoke in their ears as the anvil pauses above their head for dramatic effect; making it known one watches a cartoon instead of a documentary. Shows such as Adventure Time make their nature as animated media apparent, in contrast to a film such as, Frozen, which hides the nature of its medium behind story and song. Adventure Time’s one hundred and nineteenth episode, "A Glitch is a Glitch", takes this to a new extreme, layering Verfremdungseffekt on top of itself to create three distinct levels of alienation. Using glitch aesthetic, David O’Reilly makes distant three distinct aspects of the animated medium at the same time. After all, an animated episode consist of many levels; the writers who compose the narrative, the animators who create the actors and scenery, and the crew in charge of editing and compressing the film for broadcast. The narrative rupture is established when, within the first few seconds of the episode, Finn jokes that whoever animates must have no life at all. He then punches himself in the face, for no other reason than because it was written. This interaction with the writer makes Finn’s nature as a fictional character obvious. Alienation from the animated medium occurs when the characters’ CG models start to “glitch.” The Candy Kingdom’s denizens turn from rounded bodies to jagged vectors and polygons, uncovering their true composition as digital puppets. Finally, the glitch makes visible the digital codec used in the compression of the film. Compression via an algorithm to remove unnecessary data is necessary prior to broadcast of an episode. Pixels bursting into strange colors and frames morphing into each other remind the viewer of the digital nature of the animated film. O’Reilly takes Verfremdungseffekt and compounds it, layering it on top of itself to create a medium that is hyper aware of its own existence. This stretches a Brechtian mechanic to its extreme, making the animation itself a subject of mockery. The viewer, in turn, evaluates the episode as an alien phenomenon. The gags which make strange the familiar allow us to laugh at the formerly invisible strings of the animated puppet.

A Glitch is a Glitch: O’Reilly’s Layering of Brechtian Alienation

by Ethan Tussey

by Colin Wheeler for IN MEDIA RES

Verfremdungseffekt, the effect of taking a familiar object and rendering it alien, often finds its best manifestation in popular comedy. Today, it is frequently found in the animated medium. Characters emote with smoke in their ears as the anvil pauses above their head for dramatic effect; making it known one watches a cartoon instead of a documentary. Shows such as Adventure Time make their nature as animated media apparent, in contrast to a film such as, Frozen, which hides the nature of its medium behind story and song. Adventure Time’s one hundred and nineteenth episode, "A Glitch is a Glitch", takes this to a new extreme, layering Verfremdungseffekt on top of itself to create three distinct levels of alienation. Using glitch aesthetic, David O’Reilly makes distant three distinct aspects of the animated medium at the same time. After all, an animated episode consist of many levels; the writers who compose the narrative, the animators who create the actors and scenery, and the crew in charge of editing and compressing the film for broadcast. The narrative rupture is established when, within the first few seconds of the episode, Finn jokes that whoever animates must have no life at all. He then punches himself in the face, for no other reason than because it was written. This interaction with the writer makes Finn’s nature as a fictional character obvious. Alienation from the animated medium occurs when the characters’ CG models start to “glitch.” The Candy Kingdom’s denizens turn from rounded bodies to jagged vectors and polygons, uncovering their true composition as digital puppets. Finally, the glitch makes visible the digital codec used in the compression of the film. Compression via an algorithm to remove unnecessary data is necessary prior to broadcast of an episode. Pixels bursting into strange colors and frames morphing into each other remind the viewer of the digital nature of the animated film. O’Reilly takes Verfremdungseffekt and compounds it, layering it on top of itself to create a medium that is hyper aware of its own existence. This stretches a Brechtian mechanic to its extreme, making the animation itself a subject of mockery. The viewer, in turn, evaluates the episode as an alien phenomenon. The gags which make strange the familiar allow us to laugh at the formerly invisible strings of the animated puppet.

Adventure Time and Glitch

A clip from Adventure Time

from Adventure Time (2010)
Creator: Pendleton Ward
Distributor: YouTube
Posted by Ethan Tussey
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