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What do horror movies and comedies have in common?
The two genres might seem totally different, but the reason they're both so popular is perhaps because what they have in common:
their use of dramatic irony.
First, let's clarify.
There are three types of irony out there.
Situational irony is when you expect one thing, but get the opposite.
Verbal irony is when someone says something, but truly means the opposite.
Dramatic irony, though, is what we will be looking at right now.
Dramatic irony is when the audience seems to know more about an event, a situation, or a conversation than the characters in the movie, on the show, or in the book do.
The audience is in on a secret that the characters have missed.
This is a great story-telling device that creates tremendous emotion within that text.
Think about it for a moment.
How does it feel when, in a horror film, you know that the scary villain is hiding behind that door in the darkened room?
The music becomes eerie.
The lighting creates complete shadows.
This has to be bad for the hero!
Of course, though, that hero must enter the room to find the villain.
You feel tremendous tension and the suspense of knowing that someone will jump out and be scary, but you just don't know when.
That tension is dramatic irony—you know something more than the characters in the film.
Now, take the typical comedy.
There will probably be some type of "misunderstanding".
Again, we know more of what is going on than the characters do.
Picture two characters making a plan for a birthday surprise for their roommate, while that roommate overhears the entire conversation from the hallway.
From there, confusion and misunderstanding occur, and the tension builds.
This isn't the same tension as the horror film since it is probably pretty funny, as the character tries to figure out the whos and the whats.
But it serves as a great example of the tension and suspense of dramatic irony.
This tension or suspense in both genres drives the story and keeps the plot progressing.
The audience wants, no, needs, to see the tension of the dramatic irony broken,
either by the scary person jumping out of the shadows, or by someone finally revealing someone's true identity and clearing up the confusion.
So, when you feel like you are in on a secret, that is dramatic irony, a hallmark of all the great writers from Shakespeare to Hitchcock.


【TED-Ed】 In on a secret? That's dramatic irony - Christopher Warner

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