• Anomalous foreknowledge and cognitive impenetrability in Gnomeo and Juliet

      Geal, Robert (Oxford University Press, 2017-05-27)
      This essay locates film adaptations of well-known originals within the context of two interrelated perceptual processes. The first of these is Richard Gerrig’s notion of anomalous suspense, in which audiences experience suspense even if they know the outcome of a film through repeat viewings. The second of these is Jerry Fodor’s concept of cognitive impenetrability, in which the human brain can have multiple responses to the same visual information. Lower level non-conscious brain functions can respond to visual stimuli in automated ways even if higher level conscious brain functions understand that the automated responses are being deceived. The essay explores how a loose film adaptation of a canonical ‘original’, Gnomeo and Juliet, manipulates these perceptual anomalies at the aesthetic and narrative levels. The film has two interrelated reflexive bundlings of anomalous suspense and cognitive impenetrability. The first is foreknowledge about certain well-known elements of the adapted narrative which characters comment on, and which are eventually transcended. The second is the film’s link between animation’s ontological perceptual illusion which makes the inanimate become animated, and the diegetic status of the supposedly inanimate garden gnomes being able to move of their own volition. Both of these elements exploit the brain’s modular distinctions between automated and conscious perceptual responses.