Shades

November 19th, 2006 | brainjuice

When was the last time I wrote a character wearing shades? Was it Spider? Jones has his goggles, but he doesn’t wear them much.

I was watching this video Fraction sent me. It’s a collection of the last thirty seconds of teasers from a bunch of CSI MIAMI episodes — the bit before they smash-cut to the main title sequence. Now, you know how CSI works — the teaser sets up the crime, the protagonist cranks off a smart line, smash in the titles. Right?

This video — it’s on YouTube – is surreally compelling. David Caruso – the Carusobot, as we know him — hits every one of his last-line zingers with the same cadence. “What are you going to do, Carusobot?” “We-e-e…are going to find ourselves a bear rapist.” Crash in The Who, main titles.

But in almost all of them, he does the same action. “We-e-e…” …and he puts on his shades before doing the rest of the line. (Apparently, they’re referred to on set as “the sunglasses of justice”.)

The shades are crucial to CSI MIAMI, as they are to cyberpunk fiction (and the techno-thriller, both of which CSI shares DNA with). For the Carusobot IS a deranged, implacable machine. You cannot see his eyes. He therefore shows no human emotion. It’s the Uncanny Valley equation: you can pull the face into any expression you like, but the eyes are dead. In cyberpunk, as Bruce Sterling said in MIRRORSHADES, the shades are vital both to conceal emotion and to hide the fact that you’re unslept, drugged half to death and blatantly insane.

(Also: THE BLUES BROTHERS.)

To don the shades at the beginning of a story is the equivalent of Superman changing into costume (or, in a more obscure read, James Spader putting on a black shirt at the top of SEX, LIES AND VIDEOTAPE).

With so many stories behind me, I have to be careful about repeating visual tics. But I love the idea of putting mythic weight behind something as simple as putting on a pair of shades.

The semiotics of shades. I tell you, I am fucking losing it…

(crosspost from Bad Signal)


6 Responses to “Shades”

  1. [...] About a week ago C.B. Potts highlighted this post from Warren Ellis called Shades. This struck me as as so apt: [...]

  2. [...] Ellis beschreibt eine Sache, die sicher vielen CSI Miami Zuschauern aufgefallen ist – das erstaunlich präzise Brillenaufsetzverhalten von David Caruso, genau im Takt mit einem verdammt coolen Spruch. I was watching this video Fraction sent me. It’s a collection of the last thirty seconds of teasers from a bunch of CSI MIAMI episodes — the bit before they smash-cut to the main title sequence. Now, you know how CSI works — the teaser sets up the crime, the protagonist cranks off a smart line, smash in the titles. Right? [...]

  3. [...] not the only one who seems to have spotted this. Author Warren Ellis (caveat: his site contains a lot of strong language and materials) thinks out loud on the [...]

  4. GREAT post! GREAT-GREAT-GREAT I put your comment on my site and linked it back to you – LOL!!!

  5. The great Warren Ellis on CARUSO……

    When was the last time I wrote a character wearing shades? Was it Spider? Jones has his goggles, but he doesn’t wear them much.

  6. [...] and a mental attitude of benign tinkering. (And full spectrum autism.) Warren Ellis has also theorised about this a [...]