25 / 04 / 2013

Amerinsecta – Insects part of American TV shows

Did you noticed that some Set Decorators that work in American TV shows sometime use insects to decorate?

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If you are like me, you press pause when you see insects in the background of any TV show. If you do, you must have bothered a lot of your friends or your partner with it, but don’t worry I understand you.

Although, it’s heart warming as an entomologist to notice that in a lot of TV shows, you can find insects in the background and as props. I also try to, as an obsessed (or funny, your choice) entomologist, to identify the insects I see in the background. This is only possible when the resolution is good enough… What kind bizarre person you must think I am. Yes, I agree I am strange and I assume.

Therefore, why is the Set Decorator or Background Designer using insects? I analysed the use of the insects as the Background Designers does and I found 4 possible uses : to add a scientific ambiance, to add a freaky ambiance, to streighten  a personnality trait or put a feminine touch in the background.

Remember Gil Grissom in CSI? He was an entomologist and when he was sitting in his office we could see an insect collections in the background. They were well exposed in order to add a scientific ambiance to his office, but also to add creepyness and mystery to the character.  In a really obvious frame there, was a tarantula, we always had an evident big spider in the background of the scenes filmed in Grissom office.

Figure 1: Gil Grissom and the tarantula in the background

Figure 1: Gil Grissom and the tarantula in the background

Insects could also be appropriate in the appartment of a man that is known to collect different things just like Ted does in How I met your mother. Ted is an architect who has a weird and complex personality. He is also collecting strange things in his appartment which makes it crowded with different items such as a small insect frame just in front of his computer. This decor might streighten the personality trait of Ted such as weirdness and show that he has multiple interest.

Figure 2: Ted's appartment with an insect frame in front of his computer.

Figure 2: Ted’s appartment with an insect frame in front of his computer.

Sometimes the purpose is to feminise a background suited for precise character. In the TV show Revenge, they use butterflies in the room of Charlotte to show this room belongs to a girl. To identify a girl’s room, pink has been over used by decorators in the past and became, in my opinion, a cliché. Butterflies frames can certainly replace it.

Figure 3: Charlotte's room with two butterfly frames.

Figure 3: Charlotte’s room with two butterfly frames.

What you are looking for is a freaky ambiance? Putting insect frames on the walls could be a good idea and this decor could be well suited for a mad scientist. Although, in this case the decor shown in fig 4 is owned by a mad entomologist named professor Crawly in The Big Bang Theory. He is angry because he has been fired and some annoying students (Sheldon, Howard, Rajesh and Leonard)  look out for his office. If you look closely at the picture, you can see a really messy insect frame where nearly all the butterflies are broken and one of them is actually an Ornithoptera priamus male splited in two pieces.

Figure 4: M.Crawly's laboratory with insect frames in the background.

Figure 4: M.Crawly’s laboratory with insect frames in the background.

I will finish this blog with a comment Sheldon made to Rajesh in the entomology lab (My own translation) : «Interesting. You’re afraid of insects and women. Ladybugs must render you catatonic»

Special thanks to Clodyne Leclerc