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The Un/Bearable Lightness of (Slow) Watching: Audiovisual Boredom as Stimulation

Beata Zawadka


The twenty-first century has seen the biggest breakthrough as regards the production and distribution of audiovisual culture. Slow cinema and serials—in particular those coming to us via streaming platforms as full seasons to binge-watch—are a special case of such a breakthrough for they offer us a new dynamics of experiencing culture; dynamics that relies on a meticulous orchestration of boredom to stimulate our creative participation in culture. This article will demonstrate, on the basis of selected Mubi, HBO, and Netflix productions, how the clever playing out of (serial) boredom can affect viewers’ mental, emotional, and even physical capacity and how important it is for a more effective perception of the twenty-first-century—digital—reality to be able to actively manage our “boredom-activated” culture compass.

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1. Towards the Cinema of Boredom

1What do we talk about when we talk about the cinema of boredom? If we approach the concept as pertaining to “movies about being bored,” where “bored” refers to the motif of being stuck in a routine, then the answer to my question could be: we talk either about effective motivational movies or really dark stories. To concur with this temptingly simple vision of the cinema of boredom would, however, be problematic. Boredom is a pervasive experience occupying all areas of human interaction and reducing this experience narratively—or in any other way—to a binary option would spring shut us cinematically in the vicious circle of binarism, too.

  • 1 For an elaboration of the zero-style narration, see Mirosław Przylipiak, Kino stylu zerowego. Dwadz (...)

2To give an example, the majority of mainstream Hollywood films that make boredom their narrative subject construe their protagonist as a character typically oscillating between excessive energy and excessive, oftentimes to the point of appearing as violent, activity (e.g. William Foster from Falling Down by Joel Schumacher, 1993; the narrator from Fight Club by David Fincher, 1999; or Lester Burnham from American Beauty by Sam Mendes, 1999). Added to such a characterization is the so-called zero-style, that is, classical Hollywood narration, whose linearity, objectivity, and realism make films action-packed and thus leave little room for the viewer’s non-passive engagement in their diegesis.1 The predictable, active/passive interplay of such films and their spectatorship respectively contributes to the perception of the latter as a boring experience, in the negative sense of the word. Eventually, such an experience undermines the raison d’être of cinema itself for it attests to this medium as a contradiction in terms of “entertainment.”

3Things get complicated, however, if we approach the cinema of boredom as not so much space where to bundle formulaic filmic subjects but a conscious medial practice—a cinematic simulacrum of boredom, as it were (Palmer). As hinted above, cinematic boredom is rarely received as a positive experience; our typical reaction to it consists in “fighting boredom off” by resorting to viewing more action-packed films—which only deepens the feeling of the poorness of the said state for if we try to overcome boredom via art, we reduce the latter to a mere instrument by which to get rid of an undesired condition (Czapliński qtd. in Stańczyk 79). If, however, we approach the—enigmatic—“poorness” of (cinematic) boredom as an open category, we make the experience a subject for the interpretation, hence merit (Stańczyk 80–81). Its cultural virtue would spring, then, from cinema’s ability to consciously evoke spectatorial boredom (understood as an outcome of the predictability of the filmic object) in order to discourage audiences from approaching art representatively. This article will try to demonstrate how cinema can perform boredom as its cue for us to create revelatory, meditative, or contemplative filmic experiences. I am curious to see whether there is indeed value in thusly recycling the cinema of boredom; value that springs from an increase in our private contentment with the participation in audio-visual culture via changing our hardened spectatorial habits.

  • 2 For curation as the “unentertaining” business model (i.e. opposite to one which is algorithm-inform (...)

4I will test this hypothesis by analyzing three cinematic instances. The first one, Old Joy (2006) by an American indie director, Kelly Reichardt, comes from the realm of slow cinema, considered contradictory (hence, to a point, rebellious) towards mainstream Hollywood productions due to its critical embodiment as the cinema of boredom (Stelmach, “Perspektywa nudy”; Çağlayan, Screening 169–232). Reichardt’s Old Joy is available on MUBI, a curated streaming service that boasts of being an exclusive provider of, particularly, slow cinema pictures both by emerging and established filmmakers. Such a reputation, additionally, makes this platform “contradictory” ergo “rebellious” towards the existing pay-network film producers and distributors as well.2

  • 3 Within HBO, such a serial model originates in the 1999-2007 The Sopranos, telling the history of It (...)

5This does not mean that pay networks have little to offer as regards the revision of the concept of cinematic boredom in the above-mentioned sense of the phrase. I will attempt to demonstrate this while analyzing the HBO 2021 miniseries Scenes from a Marriage by Israeli director Hagai Levi; a choice not at all accidental. HBO has long cherished the reputation of a slow mutineer when it comes to the format of serial and, by extension, the image of subscription services in general.3 This—added to the fact that the miniseries under my scrutiny is a remake of 1973 TV miniseries of the same title by Ingmar Bergman, a director whose inclination towards heavy-handedness, boredom, and depressiveness has earned him a reputation of a “cinema philosopher” (Singer 20–21)—thus it makes me curious to see what happens when we harness such powerful medial forces to common work.

  • 4 All serial models with the overall number of episodes amounting to more than eight are classified a (...)
  • 5 On the whole, binge-watching, or the accelerated consumption of an entire season/seasons of a seria (...)
  • 6 The seasons emitted so far (1 to 5) use the following parts of Gabaldon’s series: Outlander (1991), (...)

6Being a miniseries, Levi’s remake of Bergman’s Scenes tends to be less action-oriented and hence, more prone to play with the idea of boredom than an ongoing series; another reason why I believe it is worthwhile to analyze this production. Yet, the ongoing series has its own ways via which to creatively orchestrate boredom. Namely, as this serial model relies on the story arcs unfolding over several long seasons,4 which, too, might (and often do) turn out boring, in order to retain the audience’s attention for an extended period of time, the ongoing series should be streamed for binge-watching: a viewing model considered the most entertaining, ergo, least boredom-inclined space.5 In order to see whether at all—and how—binge-watching recycles the spectatorial boredom that the ongoing series generates, I will therefore analyze one of the most successful Netflix productions of recent years, Outlander (2014– ), an adaptation of the (ongoing) fantasy novel series of the same name by Diana Gabaldon,6 critically considered “downright immersive” (Eakin) — and offered to viewers via the above discussed spectatorial model of binge-watching.

7My expectation is to find out how all the productions under analysis disclose their construction elements in ways that prompt spectators to reinvent the anticipated cinematic boredom into a source of cultural gratification.

2. Boredom, Run

8As participants of global culture, we have long been taught to envision all audio-visual arts as a public—in the sense of profit-generating—entertainment medium, which, in order to be buyable must be primarily audience-appealing. In the case of cinema, it is also its patent perception of a “moving attraction,” a perception entailing the image of the medium as a hyperkinetic, instant-satisfaction distraction from the monotony of life, which prevents us from identifying ourselves with the film via boredom. Additionally, we tend to compartmentalize boredom as a feeling or condition extracted from an image rather than as a way to participate in it. I, therefore, propose to assume, after scholar Patrice Petro, that boredom and distraction, when defined as “un/welcome attentions,” which does link them to the theory of image, can thus be seen as “complementary rather than opposing [categories]” (66). We can then incorporate boredom in the process of our spectatorship as not so much an emotionally or otherwise negative result of our looking at objects but simply another way of seeing things.

  • 7 I refer to the traditional construction of a literary work, which hinges on an active, psychologica (...)

9From this viewpoint, the cinema of boredom can be approached first and foremost as a spectatorial training ground for including difference in the picture. Mainstream Hollywood cinema, which is causality-based, enables the viewer to perceive the physical developments in a scene first. One effect of assuming such a visual perspective, which philosopher Gilles Deleuze refers to as movement (hence action- [my intrusion])-image is our identification with the film’s character (65). Via action-image, therefore, film confirms its relation to literature.7 However, it does so at the expense of its own identity, which hinges on transforming the visual into temporal both within a particular time frame and the film’s own running time. Contrary to that, the cinema of boredom—represented in the past by e.g. avant-garde films and, contemporarily by, primarily, slow cinema—blocks such identification by offering us the so-called “time-images,” to use Deleuze’s phrasing again (xiv). Time-images tend to ignore action that highlights important moments in a film via e.g. montage, camera work, or lighting; instead, they capitalize on the patient observation of filmic stage design. In such a perspective, the film character becomes the viewer looking at a plethora of signs and images, which, in turn, prompts our identification with the film’s mise-en-scène as with what scholar Emre Çağlayan depicts as the “fleeting presence of things and meanings missed by ordinary seeing” (Poetics 67–68).

  • 8 The name of the technique relates it to the montage practice prominent in American films of the 193 (...)
  • 9 For an extended discussion of this cinematic technique, see John Gibbs and Douglas Pye, The Long Ta (...)

10This does not mean that mainstream Hollywood cinema does not rely on time-images at all because they are significant there. For one, in traditional film theory, time-images spell a sense of realism, crucial for portraying action-images in an uninterrupted, that is, objective, manner. In digital cinema, particularly in action blockbusters, time-images are employed to flaunt technical virtuosity, a signature quality of this genre. One way or the other, mainstream Hollywood cinema uses time-images basically to justify itself as a believable medium, an authority of sorts when it comes to entertainment in its popular understanding of distraction. This self-elevated position when it comes to the mainstream cinema’s relationship with the viewer is further confirmed by the fact that it realizes its time-images via the use of indirect, so filmmaker-dictated, cinematographic methods. Accordingly, montage (e.g. the Odessa steps scene in Battleship Potemkin by Sergei Eisenstein, 1925; the desk sequence in The Devil Wears Prada by David Frankel, 2006; the technique of American montage8), mise-en-scène (e.g. the change of seasons in the opening and ending sequences in Bridget Jones’s Diary by Sharon Maguire, 2001), and particularly, the technological gimmick of the long take, when used in the context of mainstream cinema, leave little space for the viewer to choose what they want to see.9

11However, in slow cinema—which, as I have already mentioned, has the reputation of the “cinema of boredom” (Stelmach, “Perspektywa nudy”) due to its persistent interest in digressions from narrative action—time-images are a formal dominant. The road scenes in Old Joy, Kelly Reichardt’s 2006 film adaptation of Jonathan Raymond’s short story of the same title constitute a fine example of how such images function aesthetically for the viewer. Prolonged driving scenes, the essence of each road movie, in this particular realization of the genre, follow from the decision made by Old Joy’s protagonists: Mark (Daniel London) and Kurt (Will Oldham), two longtime friends, who went apart for some time. Their intention at present is to escape to the hot springs in the Cascade Mountains in Oregon for a night to “find a new rhythm.” Judging from the “boring” way these scenes are mediated, i.e. as (time) images of the two men’s occasional conversations and ample silence, followed by very long tracking shots of landscapes very slowly changing from urban to forestall to mountainous outside the car windows, finding such a rhythm with someone who has become unfamiliar over time (as Mark and Kurt have) is not only uneasy but out-and-out perplexing.

12This perplexing feeling is thus passed on also to the viewer, unable to relate themselves to what appears to them as an unmotivated and unentertaining therefore boring road movie narrative. In a typical mainstream road movie, such as e.g. Easy Rider (Dennis Hopper, 1969) or Deliverance (John Boorman, 1972), the narration follows an ordered sequence of events and leads to a good or bad ending as regards obtaining the number one purpose of the narrative trajectory, self-knowledge (Hayward 335). What is more, as mentioned before, in the mainstream Hollywood movie, the camera seamlessly records the profilmic action so that the latter appears to us as reality. In Old Joy, whose narration has been stripped away from any action other than the constant movement of the two characters and their car, and whose profilmic has been shot directly to the effect that the film looks as if it were recorded by a home camera, the sensation of experiencing reality has, ironically, been erased. Unable to connect to the story, and having but our perplexing feeling to cling to, the viewers are, therefore, like Kurt and Mark, compelled to commence their own—metaphysical—pilgrimage towards how they as spectators and this kind of film should be together.

13Analyzing Bela Tarr’s productions, Çağlayan compares both its characters’ incessant driving/walking and the camera’s observing this activity to an act of flânerie (Screening 79), whose sole purpose is drifting. Strolling through the streets and contemplating the surrounding, the flâneur or the flâneuse, according to Anne Friedberg, mobilizes the gaze to become a virtual selection category (29–40). With reference to classical cinema, which provides its spectators with an externally driven subjectivity, so powerfully mobilized gaze translates into a possibility to experience the cinematic body—so also spectatorship—as both ideologized and deideologized categories. However, for the digital cinema viewer, who identifies with the diegesis interactively via the technological prostheses such as e.g. CGI but also goggles or gloves, and is thus interactive, this gaze offers the possibility of experiencing the entire cinematic object, spectatorship included, as a self-generated concept (Friedberg 143–46).

  • 10 “Can See” shot is a digital revolution-instigated result of Spielberg’s famous “Want See” technique (...)

14This offers the spectators of Old Joy an opportunity to refashion the film’s “boring” embodiment as, too, a peculiar prosthesis, a ‘special effect’ of sorts. Contrary to classical film theory, mainstream digital cinema employs special effects not just to flaunt itself as the narration of power but also to empower the perspective of its viewers. The resulting “Can See,” or total spectatorship thus translates into our ability to get immersed in the spectacular profilmic the digital cinema typically creates.10 Film theorist Christian Keathley calls such spectatorship “panoramic perception” and believes it originates in our 3-D-cinema-instigated “tendency to sweep the screen visually... especially the marginal details and contingencies” so as to “increase... the possibility of [our] encounters with cinephiliac moments” (8), a point I will take up later. When applied to slow cinema productions such as Old Joy, the panoramic perception will therefore bespeak them, metaphorically, as 3-D information on the notion of unchallenging visibility. When approached in a sensuous and contemplative way, the passive phenomenon of such visibility will transpire as an aesthetic event where anything can happen.

15The assumed self-reflexivity of panoramic perception becomes operative in the 2021 HBO remake (by Hagai Levi) of Ingmar Bergman’s 1974 film Scenes from a Marriage. Reverse-engineered, the remake looks like yet another instance of the binarily understood cinema of boredom. For one, the show is structurally a miniseries, which means it has a predetermined, limited number of episodes, each ordered in a rigid beginning-middle-end manner to enable the protagonists to develop in a conventional way. This apparently makes Scenes from a Marriage a typical motivational production. Secondly, as an exploration of the disintegration of marriage realized as a spectacle of the male and female protagonists’ incrementally violent verbal and physical interactions, the show can as easily qualify as a dark story. Added to that is the indirect way via which the story of Mira (Jessica Chastain) and Jonathan (Oscar Isaacs) apparently makes sense. This is visible in the way the film’s mise-en-scène of closed, theatre-like spaces where the spouses interact is used to convey the feeling of claustrophobia. This impression, which communicates the couple’s getting stuck in their marital routine, thus allows us to reflect on Scenes from a Marriage as a production where boredom indeed is the narrative subject.

16If, however, we look at the series from the panoramic perspective, we will also be able to see that this subject is aesthetically realized as a prolonged walk-and-talk sequence. Such a sequence, central both to mainstream narrative films and television serials, involves “(at least) two characters in conversation, typically moving across a corridor, an office or a street” in an effort to “discuss the subject matter reserved for [a] specific episode [of a story] [and] move through the [story world’s] familiar spaces, thus reaffirming its spatial parameters and glancing at subtle changes” (Çağlayan, Poetics 94). With this in mind, we “can see” the alleged subject of Scenes, that is, marital boredom, as not so much a lack of action to be predictably interpreted but rather more subtle patterns of “movement and rhythm, image and sound... that hardly requires interpretation but through [which... the] suspended sense of [marital] idleness” is managed (Çağlayan, Poetics 96).

17Seen from this angle, our “bored” spectatorship of the series can now begin life as a cinephiliac reflex of the practice of entertainment itself. Scenes from a Marriage offers us a sample of such spectatorship via e.g. the orchestration of its pre- and end-credit sequence. Typically, such a sequence, also called the serial’s cold opening, refers to the practice of jumping directly into the story at the beginning of the show before the title sequence and opening credits are shown. The function of such a sequence is, basically, expositional. It is there for us either to introduce us to a significant plot point to be developed later on in the course of the film or herald a key quality of a character’s identity (Dick 26–27). One way or the other, it is supposed to be approached as a formal experiment to capture the viewer’s attention with the hope of sustaining it for the duration of the whole series or film. The traditional role of end-credits, always prepared by the studio’s legal department and therefore rarely within the scope of the filmmaker’s decision, is, too, to provide a “curtain call-like,” hence extraneous to the plot, epilogue to a story (Dick 28–29).

  • 11 The final episode of the serial recapitulates this process, also in terms of—controlled—simulation, (...)

18Scenes from a Marriage, however, construes its pre- and post-credit sequence frame from the extra footage. As a result, each of the first four episodes of the series opens with a tracking shot (long take) of the leading actors in the process of their—very quick—transformation, under the eye of the entire film crew, into the story’s protagonists.11 Owing to the tradition of the tracking shot, which locates the latter (shot) in the practice of phantom ride—and hence, in simulation—we as the spectators unwittingly “take in our stride,” as part of the diegesisthe extra diegetic devices such as e.g. the sound on the set, or a shade of color, or else a gesture in staging, usually considered “unentertaining” precisely because they are non-narrative. Thus pushed to detach ourselves from the perception of the serial’s narrative as the only “pleasure-giving” cinematic element in favor of assuming a more game-like relationship with the entire cinematic object, we activate the more evocative—because more nuanced and more delicate—kind of spectatorship only to discover, as Tolkien once did, that, indeed, “[n]ot all who wander are lost” (192).

3. Boredom, Redux

  • 12 For an extended discussion of ergodicity as a maker of heterocosm in the context of Margaret Mitche (...)
  • 13 The etymology of the word “television” hinges on the Greek word-forming element tele- (“far off, at (...)
  • 14 This definition of the television flow as a “traveling narrative” comes from Buonanno (qtd. in Loba (...)

19When conceived of as “mind-wandering,” “bored” spectatorship, therefore, offers us, in the vein of a video game, a possibility of experiencing culture ergodically. In a nutshell, ergodicity, a quality of (dynamical) systems, helps tackle the reception of a product over time. It does so by differentiating this product according to a number of generalizations by which it has been appropriated (Pitrus 219). As a result, ergodicity not so much reveals to us how mathematically precise a product’s previously designed meanings are but rather aids us in generating its new (cultural) senses.12 Applied in the cinematic context, ergodicity will thus aid the medium of cinema to get reinvented as (mainstream) culture’s interactive strategy, a (new) world-builder of sorts. Regarding television, however, by definition propounding narratives to be both about movement and long-distance,13 the ergodic spectatorship attests not so much to our transcoding narration literally as mediated “travels,”14 i.e. ways to encounter, familiarize ourselves with, and once and for all construe a sense of an imagined “other.” Rather, the ergodic spectatorship allows us to see that the sense of the TV-mediated “traveling” rests in our constantly actualizing various narrative “othernesses,” (the cinema of) boredom included, in accordance with the idiosyncratic dynamics this concept culturally generates.

  • 15 After she gets translocated to Scotland, in time, Claire travels across this country, alone and wit (...)

20The Netflix serial production Outlander (2014–) seems to be cut for demonstrating, both on the micro- and macro scale, how effective participation in the cinema of boredom consists in processing questions that this medium hardly implies to be asked. On a microscale, this serial presents Claire (Caitriona Balfe), a former WWII British Army nurse, who goes to Inverness, Scotland to celebrate a reunion with her historian husband Frank Randall (Tobias Menzies) in 1946. As Frank conducts research into his family history, Claire, bored, goes plant-gathering near standing stones on the hill of Cragh na Dun. It is her unintentional touching of one of these stones that reveals Claire as, actually, not a bored housewife at all but a fully-fledged time traveler, as it turns out later on. Transported back in time to the Scotland of the year 1743, she meets, falls in love, and marries Highlander Jamie Fraser (Sam Heughan). Claire, from now on, experiences a long series of translocations via time and space15 only to settle—interestingly, as a pioneer—in colonial America just before the War of Independence. In thus performing as a highly, almost excessively, active diegetic element, Claire also suggestively confirms boredom to be Outlander’s major “gameplay.”

  • 16 Gonzalo Frasca speaks of effective interactivity of a video game with regard to its gameplay unders (...)

21Diegetically, then, Claire’s immoderate traveling inclinations first and foremost corroborate the traditionally understood cinema of boredom as, indeed, a medium with hidden interactive potential. In a video game, this potential is, however, tested not just by game mechanics, i.e. graphic and sound, both part of the film diegesis, but by the overall experience of playing—so also extra-diegetically.16 Regarding Outlander, it is the excessiveness of the practices selected to distribute (streaming) and receive (binge-watching) the serial, on one hand, which reveals the latter’s extra-diegetic competence of gameplay. Yet, how this story has left a mark on global tourism is what overtly authenticates Outlander’s power to culturally translocate cinematic boredom as an embodiment of mobility itself. We can thus say that, owing to the Outlander effect—i.e. the serial-inspired sightseeing of the spots around the world to which Claire and Jamie traveled (Szymczak-Maciejczyk 375–76)—(the cinema of) boredom has metaphorically pushed us to leave our own circle of “standing stones” and to risk becoming outlanders all.

22Essays need conclusions, they do. Yet, to conclude how an open practice—such as e.g. cinema/boredom/culture—works for viewers, after demonstrating, on ten pages, the very process, dangerously nears an extended tautology. The fundamental point of this text is that there exists no “objective” (cultural) vision of (cinematic) boredom; hence, concluding about the latter would equal denying the creative possibilities and manipulative, disillusionary, as it were, the effect of the phenomena in question. I do hope though that culture as much as cinema and boredom are there for us not so much to attach tags to them but rather to endlessly lead us on—into always playing new games.

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1 For an elaboration of the zero-style narration, see Mirosław Przylipiak, Kino stylu zerowego. Dwadzieścia lat później (2016).

2 For curation as the “unentertaining” business model (i.e. opposite to one which is algorithm-informed), see Frey 33-52.

3 Within HBO, such a serial model originates in the 1999-2007 The Sopranos, telling the history of Italians in America as a sustained hence slow-paced (on Rotten Tomatoes Season 6 of the series has been openly criticized for being too meditative) “experience of moral ambiguity” (Thorburn qtd. in Edgerton and Jones 64), an image different than the then typically action-packed embodiments of the mafia (e.g. Goodfellas by Martin Scorsese, 1990). For an extensive discussion of how The Sopranos transformed the subscription services into an “aristocracy of culture in American television (Anderson qtd. in Egerton and Jones 23), see Thorburn 61-70.

4 All serial models with the overall number of episodes amounting to more than eight are classified as the ongoing series.

5 On the whole, binge-watching, or the accelerated consumption of an entire season/seasons of a serial, is considered to be driven by the same mechanism that pushes us to reading several chapters of the book at one go, namely, motivation that springs both from the product’s ability to provide immersion (e.g., action, popularly considered the most entertaining quality of a cultural product) and its context (e.g. an occasion to prolonged sitting as e.g. during the pandemic) (Anghelcev et al. 130-54).

6 The seasons emitted so far (1 to 5) use the following parts of Gabaldon’s series: Outlander (1991), Dragonfly in Amber (1992), Voyager (1993), Drums in Autumn (1996), and The Fiery Cross (2001).

7 I refer to the traditional construction of a literary work, which hinges on an active, psychologically motivated protagonist trying to reach an aim set at the moment the conflict has been established. In traditional literature, the conflict is additionally antagonist-driven.

8 The name of the technique relates it to the montage practice prominent in American films of the 1930s and the 1940s. As Bernard F. Dick explains, a “typical American montage might consist of calendar pages blowing away as one month yields to another, while headlines proclaiming the main events of the time period are superimposed over the calendar pages. Another example... would be newspapers spinning across the screen announcing a murder trial as one headline obliterates the other. During the trial, one shot would wipe away another. The face of the judge would dissolve into the defendant’s; superimposed over the defendant’s face would be that of his anguished wife and, over hers, the face of the real murderer” (68).

9 For an extended discussion of this cinematic technique, see John Gibbs and Douglas Pye, The Long Take: Critical Approaches ( 2017).

10 “Can See” shot is a digital revolution-instigated result of Spielberg’s famous “Want See” technique. In the latter, viewers are supposed to take over, as it were, the curiosity (or other emotions) of the characters looking at e.g. an object invisible or poorly visible to film viewers (due to imperfect technological possibilities of the traditional filmmaking). The most famous instance of the “Want See” is probably Spielberg’s Jaws (1975). Contrary to the distance this shot still maintains between the viewer and diegesis, “Can See”—whose digital provenance (in the form of CGI) converges live and drawn action enabling us to e.g. see the dinosaurs in all their glory as in Spielberg’s Jurassic Park (1993)—creates the sensation of immersion and, by extension, contributes to the perception of cinematic experience as a “total.”

11 The final episode of the serial recapitulates this process, also in terms of—controlled—simulation, as it shows, in the final sequence, how characters Jonathan and Mira, while lying in each other’s arms, smoothly transform into actors Jessica Chastain and Oscar Isaac after the director’s command “cut” has marked the limen of the serial’s diegesis.

12 For an extended discussion of ergodicity as a maker of heterocosm in the context of Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind (1936), see Zawadka 119-43.

13 The etymology of the word “television” hinges on the Greek word-forming element tele- (“far off, at a distance”) and the the Latin nominative visio (“seeing”).

14 This definition of the television flow as a “traveling narrative” comes from Buonanno (qtd. in Lobato ix).

15 After she gets translocated to Scotland, in time, Claire travels across this country, alone and with her husband, only to escape to France (Paris), get back to Scotland again to prepare for the incoming Scottish rebellion (the Battle of Culloden), and from there, through time, to the Inverness of her own time. Pregnant, she reunites with Frank and they both move to Boston, where Claire becomes a surgeon. Twenty years later, on learning that Jamie did not die at Culloden, Claire returns to the eighteenth-century Scotland to live with her husband in his family estate of Lallybroch. The kidnapping of Jamie’s brother activates the Frasers’ new cycle of travels (the Caribbean and the North American Colonies) at the same time implicating in it their daughter Brianna and her beau as well as other people from Claire and Jamie’s past and present.

16 Gonzalo Frasca speaks of effective interactivity of a video game with regard to its gameplay understood as a set of manipulation rules (what players can do in the game), goal rules (what the goal of the game is), and metarules (how a game can be tuned or modified) (221).

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Electronic reference

Beata Zawadka, The Un/Bearable Lightness of (Slow) Watching: Audiovisual Boredom as StimulationEuropean journal of American studies [Online], 17-4 | 2022, Online since 26 December 2022, connection on 28 January 2023. URL:; DOI:

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About the author

Beata Zawadka

Beata Zawadka is an Associate Professor at the Institute of English, University of Szczecin, Poland. She is a literary scholar by education, southernmost by specialization, and an ardent cinefile. At present, she teaches mainly film. Her latest (postdoctoral) project entitled Dis/Reputed Region: Transcoding the U.S. South was published in 2018 (University of Szczecin Press).

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