The Iris Wipe of Isolation

If you’ve ever watched a Looney Tunes cartoon, you would be familiar with the ‘Iris Wipe’. Wikipedia describes it as “…a wipe that takes the shape of a growing or shrinking circle. It has been frequently used in animated short subjects, such as those in the Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies cartoon series, to signify the end of a story. When used in this manner, the iris wipe may be centered around a certain focal point and may be used as a device for a “parting shot” joke, a fourth wall-breaching wink by a character, or other purposes.”

The last time I saw this effect in a film was in the 2007 Oscar-winning film, The Departed, directed by the amazing Martin Scorsese. The iris was used to show the isolation of Matt Damon’s character, Colin, as he moves further from his staff due to his faulty leadership, means of covering up his tracks and shady under dealings with his mob boss mentor. We as an audience are brought to his level of understanding and severe loneliness, which he brought upon himself, and are for a moment sad for him that he can’t share his pain and isolation with anyone. He doesn’t need to break through the ‘fourth wall’ (theatre and film term for when the character breaks rank and begins to talk and engage the audience, expressing stuff or what’s going on…think soliliquy in Shakespeare). We are able to see how he feels with that dark circle. He is alone and there is no one who can help. And often, during moments of trial, that’s how I, You and many others feel: stuck inside the Iris Wipe.

Think on it. If you believe in something and go back on it, or do something considered terrible, you don’t normally run to people and say your business. Instead, if you’re like me, you keep it all to yourself and think, “I can never let this out…they’ll never look at me the same way. I am alone. No one knows how I feel.” Troubles easily isolate the strongest people. And the higher up you go in the professional ladder or as you gain more influence, the harder it is to admit that you are alone, feel alone or are dealing with something all alone. And like Colin, you can’t see beyond the dark circle around you. You know people have your back but you choose to keep it in, which only causes more pain, resentment and isolation (the circle thus creates a vicious cycle). While we are created for relationship and need people to prop us up when we are at our lowest (and ugliest), we’d rather protect ourselves and our reps, which is the bare definition of selfish, is it not?  We’d rather work at covering things up, hiding under a box. We’d rather stay inside the Iris Wipe…noticed but not approached…everything visible yet nothing shared.

Today, I spoke to a friend from Newfoundland and as we spoke, I shared some areas that I am working on in my own faulty life, something that we both know is not like me but meaningful when it does happen, as we had many times like that as roommates in college. I was so relieved to know that he understood, related and was able to hold me up to become a better person. In one convo, he was able to break my iris circle and say I don’t want you to simply exist in there. More often than not, I feel that circle around me, as I’m sure you do at times as well. Sometimes it’s due to position, sometimes due to other stuff. The fear of confession can drive someone crazy and responsibility of accountability can place added pressure on anyone. But you know what else can? Acting. Acting is hard work and requires much concentration from every part of you. So imagine ‘acting’ like all is well ALL the time? Not for me…at least not now. I just don’t have that energy…there’s too much life to live to waste on THAT kind of acting. I know that God says that he won’t leave nor forsake. It’s also good to know that there are friends and family who live by that same principle as best as they can!

I love the movie idea of the Iris Wipe. I just no longer want to live in it. How about you?

I just realized that I’m going to have a daughter who will grow up to live in her own sometimes.



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