Alice and Bob are having a discussion or argument. In a moment of pure angst, Alice turns away from Bob towards the camera, walks a short distance forward, and continues the conversation — now facing
away from Bob (and toward the audience), breaking any sort of eye contact with him. Surprisingly, the conversation continues as though nothing happened.
A Dramatic Downstage Turn is a theatrical method used for forcing the focus onto one of the characters, creating an artificial dramatic effect. In theater, the character usually moves slightly downstage (i.e., toward the audience), and may even move into a spot that has more stage lights illuminating it, emphasizing her over other characters in the scene. This maneuver is an extreme version of "Cheating Out", where actors orient their bodies unnaturally so as to be more visible to the audience. In TV or film, where the camera replaces the audience, the character may walk closer to the camera while other characters remain slightly behind in the background (and possibly out-of-focus).
The Turn is practically ubiquitous in melodramatic
works, where it is used in order to show that a character (usually female) is in a very emotional state. It also gives the actress a chance to ham it up a little, and may even be used to break into a soliloquy.
Please note: This is not an Internal Monologue
! The characters are still having a conversation here; it's only that one character (for no good reason other than the Rule of Drama
) is drawing focus by no longer facing the others. It's an unnatural positioning, which is usually very noticeable. Most viewers will simply accept it
, if the scene is gripping enough.
The position of the characters may persist for the entire rest of the scene if required. Bob might close the distance a little, but he will not
turn away from Alice nor remove his focus from her. He will keep looking at the back of her head as though she's still making eye-contact. This serves to keep the viewers focused on Alice too.
More often, the Turn is eventually broken in one way or another before the scene ends. Alice could simply turn around of her own volition. Alternatively, Bob can physically grab Alice by the Standard Female Grab Area
and spin her 180 degrees to re-establish eye contact. If this results in Slap-Slap-Kiss
, you win a Daytime Emmy.
For 500 extra cliché points, television gives us the possibility of a Downstage Turn Volley: Alice does a Downstage Turn, now facing the camera, with Bob in the background. Bob then moves in front of Alice and turns to face her, forcing eye-contact. The camera then jumps to a different position, and Alice makes another
Downstage Turn in this new direction. Repeat for more Narm
as required. A variation on the above is when a furious Alice Turns while explaining that she's furious
with Bob, then whips back around when he asks why, to give the dramatic Reveal
that she knows about his affair... and an ashamed Bob Turns the other way to mutter his excuses.
Since this trope appears constantly
in almost every Soap Opera
in existence, as well as Soap Within a Show
shows, examples from such shows are not required here. Please list only parodies or examples from other genres.
- The Australian skit show Comedy Inc parodied melodramatic period pieces regularly. In one skit, taking place in the 19th century, a man proposes to his beloved and she refuses. Throughout the entire skit, she constantly turns to face away from him wherever he moves. Eventually she explains that it's a medical condition that causes her to stare mistily into the horizon.
- The Chaser's War On Everything once did a candid-camera segment where one of the presenters went around inserting Dramatic Downstage Turns into everyday conversations.
- There are several instances of this during Star Trek: The Original Series, especially during dramatic scenes featuring female cast members. This should not be surprising, as it was very common in many TV series of the period. One simple example appears in a conversation between Leila and Spock near the end of the episode "This Side of Paradise".
- Quite common in the original Perry Mason television series. Especially frequent during the courtroom scenes to add movement and interest during witness testimony.
- In a recent episode of Covert Affairs, Auggie and Parker, by this time his fiancée, have such a moment when he "reveals all" while being held hostage.
- In Freelancer, there's a cutscene where Trent and Juni talk to Dr. Sinclair at her dig-site. She does the Dramatic Downstage Turn several times in close proximity, like a goddamned revolving door!
- Parodied in Greystone Inn, when the main characters are interviewing a woman who used to work for a soap opera; she keeps Downstage Turning, and they react the way one might expect if someone tried this in real life. Argus finally gets fed up and forces her to resume normal eye contact, at which point she admits that she can't work for a comic strip.