Within any type of writing, there are times when the writer tries to communicate something to the audience indirectly. Usually, the content of these messages offer some kind of insight to to the work. I call these lines dual purpose lines.
DPLs are not the same as breaking the fourth wall. Instead of talking directly to the audience, these lines are directed at characters within the fiction. These special lines carry the dual purpose of being a part of the narrative/writing and communicating to the audience. Read this short poem and see if you can pick out the line(s) that seem to carry a dual purpose.
I learned about stars in Elementary
Books, and planets, and orbits,
But mostly far away things. My
Teacher used to point down into
The pages, finding the points and connecting
Them from the hundreds of stars on the page
With her fingers. I could never find
The shapes and figures at the end
of my brown fingertips. I searched anyway.
I remember pointing at the fish off the bridge
At the zoo, and turning my
Mother’s purse inside out for a quarter.
I turned a knob and out came a handful of feed.
Then I threw the whole fist in at once
Hundreds of little brownesses racing
To reach the surface of the water,
to touch the frenzied fish,
because my little arms couldn’t
Reach the waves.
But you, you’re a starfish.
You’re a star. And a fish.
Five points. Five Fingers.
You get to touch everything
Because you don’t have any eyes.
I guess that’s the point.
When I wrote this poem, I wanted to help the reader focus on the key themes from the outset. The first line of the poem hones in on learning, understanding, and the youth of the speaker: "I learned about stars in Elementary/Books, and planets, and orbits,/But mostly far away things." The motifs throughout the rest of the poem also bring a specific context to the opening line. The relationship between knowing and not knowing is paralleled through spatial distance. In this case, distance is measured by what the speaker can get his hands on, and everything else that is still out of reach to him. By the end of the poem, the speaker weighs the idea of being able to see/be exposed to more than he can understand and how that's a quality that's may not be exclusive to his youth.
When I submitted this poem through an advanced poetry workshop, professor Jack Myers commented on how he recognized the special quality to the dual purpose opening line. He describe the line as jumping out at him, which is an apt description considering that the line is partially directed at the reader/audience.
From the beginning of this video.
"Who are you really?" Naota
"I'm an illusion of your youth. A manifestation of the feelings in your adolescent heart." Haruko
When asked who Haruko is, she replies with this fanciful and poetic retort. When I first watched FLCL, I dismissed Haruko's reply as a joke or a line of nonsensical gibberish. I realize now that not only was my assessment of the line wrong, but reaching that conclusion is what the writer wanted me to think as evident by Naota's reply: "Where did you get that one from? Anime?" By referencing the same medium that the main narrative exists in, we are partially taken out of the story. FLCL commonly breaks time, space, and scene to make a joke. So, in this case, one more joke wouldn't be out of the ordinary.
FLCL is a masterful coming of age story about a young boy named Naota. To set the stage for this story, the creators took several creative avenues. The kids act like adults, and the adults like kids. Though these roles are reversed, the story still finds a way to make the characters function in their traditional roles. In other words, the kids may act like adults, but when pressured, they revert to acting like kids. The conflicting pressures of childhood life manifest in the story as robots that burst forth from the foreheads of the kid characters. Social pressures start this strange reaction, and action like only anime can depict finishes off each of the series 6 stories/episodes. And finally, the world of sex, love, and longing are housed in FLCL's most eccentric supporting character Haruko. In an innocent way, Haruko enter Naota's life and leaves mysteriously with Naota growing up a little in the process.
So the whimsical line that Haruko gives speaks to the core of FLCL's story.
In Spirited Away, Kamajii the boiler man delivers a slightly out of place, yet revealing line. Skip to about 9:00.
"She's my granddaughter." No. Chihiro is not your granddaughter. She's just a little girl that wandered into Kamajii's boiler room. I used to think that Kamajii gave this line to protect Chihiro. Perhaps by lying to Lin Chihiro could get a job at the bath house. But Lin knows that Chihiro is a human girl and that Kamajii is not human, eliminating the chance of any family ties. Also, Lin and Kamajii appear to be on good terms with each other. If Kamajii really wanted Lin to take Chihiro to see Yubaba for a job, he wouldn't need to lie to get it to happen. What's also interesting about the given title of granddaughter to Chihiro is that it isn't mentioned at any other point in the film. It's almost as if the line was never said.
The line wasn't written into the scene for for Lin. It was written for us, the audience. The movie, Spirited Away, is the story of a girl named Chihiro, an only child, who is spirited away into this magical world where she slowly comes to know new "family" and friends that create a support system that allows Chihiro to grow into a more confident individual. If Kamajii is Chihiro's new grandfather, then Lin is her big sister. Haku is her big brother. Zaniba, her grandmother (or Granny). What's important about realizing Chihiro's new family and friends, is that their love is the magic that transformed her. The link between magic (an element not of the real world) and work/love (elements we're all familiar with) is the glue that holds the film together.
Keep your ears open. DPLs are all around you.