When I was about 8 years old, I remember walking into the living room where my sisters were both sitting at the table watching TV with an extreme amount of focus. Having been tired of doing nothing all day, I decided to join them and immerse myself in the box with moving pictures. About fifteen minutes later, and for no reason other than the emotional strength in the episode of a family sitcom known as Full House, I found myself crying beyond belief.
Without having ever seen the show before, and without understanding the backgrounds of any of the characters in the show, I was pulled in and emotionally affected by the background music. Yes, the music. Not the dialogue, not the plot, but the background music. I still remember thinking to myself after the episode ended, “why am I crying? This is a TV show that I’ve never even seen before!”
In the episode, a man named Papouli comes to visit the family. He’s portrayed as an elderly, jolly man who brings jokes and joy into everyone’s lives. Unfortunately, Papouli dies, leaving the family torn. The sad and lonesome piano music playing in the background as the family members are sulking worked like magic on my tear ducts. I had no idea what the characters were referencing when they were recalling their memories with Papouli, but the music pulled me into the experience, a little bit more than I would like to admit.
I suppose there are few things that can be done in order to be immunized to this effect. One would simply be watching a show without the sound. Subtitles, though they are a bit inconvenient, would effectively render the appeal to emotion through music null. By not being able to listen to the music that is being played in the background, you are shielding yourself from the emotion that the producers are trying to elicit through the music.
You’d be surprised at how much the background music shifts the tone and emotion of a TV series or movie. Try watching an episode of House, or any other TV series without the sound. The experience is completely different. Sometimes, background music is needed just to carry you from one scene into another, and at other times, background music is used to elicit acute emotional response from the viewers, and this, in my opinion, makes you feel more involved in the TV show. Though, the amount of strength a simple tune can have is still a bit scary!