Horror Television in the Age of Consumption

Mise-en-scene Concepts: Life as we Know it and Flipped Romantic Comedy Films


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“Life as we know it” is an American film in the romantic comedy category, produced in 2010 and directed by Greg Berlanti. The film tells the story of Peter and Alison, who get married and have a baby Sophie. After an accident that took the parents’ lives, Holly and Eric realize that Sophie’s parents had named them joint guardians for the baby. This is what made the two put aside their differences and begin a new life together in Sophie’s home. On the other side, the flipped film was directed by Rob Reiner in the same year, 2010. This film belongs to the same romantic comedy genre, just like the other film. The plot mainly consisted of two eighth-grade students Bryce Loski and Juliana Baker, who have love feelings for each other regardless of being totally opposite. This essay looks into the similarities and differences in the setting, costumes& makeup, lighting, and characters elements of mise-en-scene in the two films to communicate their significance to the connection between the films.

The setting

Whether a scene takes place in a set design or an actual location, the backdrop elements form the setting (Abbott, 2017). When the scene is acted in an actual location, the backdrop would consist of snow-covered mountains, calm seas, green landscapes, rocky seashore, and barren desert, among other elements (Abbott, 2017). Under such locations, the film director could utilize wind swaying away a lady’s hair or leaves falling off the trees to make a greater impact and enhance the dramatics. In most cases, sets are developed to present the director’s imaginations or recreate an actual location. They are also constructed to set the tone of the scene and film and create a land of fantasy. The setting does not have to be in an outside environment. In some cases, small settings exist in small rooms to tell the audience more about the characters. 

The two films have several settings that show similarities and differences, which tell a lot about the overall films. In one of the scenes in the film “flipped.” Bryce and Juliana are meeting for the first time. Here, Juliana asks for her mother’s permission to go to Bryce’s home in the neighborhood. When she arrives, she finds Bryce and his father unloading some goods from the truck. Bryce does not like the idea of seeing the young girl come to their place because of adolescence. When his father noticed his son was not comfortable with Juliana helping him carry the cartons, he tells him to go and help his mother. However, Juliana follows Bryce to the front door of the house when Bryce’s mother appears. The backdrop of this scene consists of a green landscape and a cloudy sky. There is also a house in the back drop and a tree that appears dry. On the other hand, the scene when Holly and Eric had their first date, the backdrop comprises of green trees which appear in the dark. When Holly was making a phone call saying that she did not have to see Eric again, it appears that Eric was in the backdrop watching her walk away in the dark. From the look of things, Eric seems to admire Holly while sitting on a motorbike. 

The setting of the two scenes for the start of friendship and a love relationship illustrate a strong connection between the two film and the overall respective film similarities. First, it is clear that there is a sign of uncertainty towards the future considering the settings. For example, having Bryce and Juliana meet for the first time in a setting where the sky seems cloudy and a mixture of green trees and one dry tree is communicative. The green trees and the beautiful grass could be interpreted to indicate that the future would be bright for the two. This could be accompanied by the happiness of Bryce’s mother who seems overwhelmed with seeing her son finally getting to meet the girl in the neighborhood. At the same time, Bryce’s father does not seem to like the idea of having his son and the Juliana get along. Just like the setting at the start of the film, the relationship between Bryce and Juliana ends up to be one filled with uncertainties and moments of affection. For instance, there are times when Bryce tries as much as he can to disappoint Juliana by dating other college girls including one who had a pretty bad relationship with Juliana. Despite these efforts, Juliana cannot hide her attraction to Bryce showing just how complicated this relationship was.

The uncertainty in the film “flipped” seems to be replicated in the film “life as we know it.” Here, the green trees appearing in the background seem to communicate the good moments that the two lovers would experience in the future. These exciting future moments could be read from the light that seems to enlighten the dark night giving it a sense of life. However, it is not possible to downplay the uncertainty which clouds the scene. First, having the light illuminate the dak scene does not do away with al the darkness. Instead, it seems that the light fails to overcome the darkness. Again, Holly declare that she does not have to see Eric again while Eric was in the background on a motorbike. By looking at the facial expression from Eric, it is clear he is tense and uncertain of his future with Holly. One would argue that the settings of the two scenes show a great connection in their very difference. Although the two scenes take place at different times, one during the night and the other in the day, it is clear that they communicate the same message of uncertainty and hidden feelings clouding the two relationships making the major part of both the films.

Costumes and Makeup

Under most circumstances, costumes and makeup receive less attention when writing screenplay. However, when the script must come alive on the acting, these two elements become extremely essential (Ramos Pinto, 2018). Usually, costumes and makeup are used to define financial state, mental state of a character, geographies, an appearance. For instance, if a character plays a part of a villager, they are mostly dressed in simple clothes while those playing the urban part get dressed in designer clothes to establish the lifestyle differences (Ramos Pinto, 2018). For instance, in the flipped film, Bryce always dresses in designer clothes whenever out of school. In several scenes, he appears in a complete suit and well-done hair. On the other hand, Juliana appears to wear casual clothes most of the times except at school where she occasionally appears in school uniform. Same is the fathers of the two kids. There are several occasions when Bryce’s father appears dressed in classic clothes like his son. On the other hand, Juliana’s father is does not wear suits in most cases. Instead, he is mostly in T-shirts. 

On the other hand, costumes seem play a huge role in the film “life as we know it.” For instance, during the burial of Peter and Alison, who are Sophie’s biological parents, the men in attendance wear black suits. The ladies all have similar designs of dresses although the colors differ a bit. However, every lady has a bunch of identical flowers. The question is, what do the costumes in the two films tell the audience about the characters and the overall film? First, the difference in clothes worn by the men and the women in the burial of Peter and Alison could be impactful in communicating the differences in perspectives existing between Eric and Holly who are destined to become Sophie’s guardians. From the burial scene, it is clear that the two people responsible for taking care of Sophie had divergent ideas and goals in their lives which would make the task difficult. This could explain why the two had to look for other people in the family who would be willing to adopt Sophie. The reason why they accepted to move into Sophie’s home was that no one would accept to be Sophie’s foster parents forcing them to take responsibility. 

Similarly, the difference in costumes worn by Bryce and Juliana show the difference in their life perspectives. The difference can be seen more vividly due to the costumes worn by the fathers of the two kids. It seems the families have a totally different culture. in addition, the dressing differences could prove the fact that Bryce and his family had just migrated into this neighborhood which implies that they had different lives from the locals. There must be significant lifestyle differences between the two families which cannot be hidden.

The costumes in the two films communicate significant similarities between them in various ways. On one hand, we have Bryce who dresses in classic designs and Juliana who wears casual clothes most of the time. On the other hand, we have male mourners who dress in black suits while no lady appears in a black cloth. The two scenarios could show the differences between the two sides of the main characters in the films. By this I mean the hero and the heroine.  However, a difference exists in the two films for various reasons. For example, the hero and heroine in the film “life as we know it” appear to dress in classic clothes in most cases. Also, despite the differences in color of clothes worn at the burial of Peter and Alison, it is clear that the costumes are classic designs. In contrast, Bryce’s family especially him and the father seem to dress differently from Juliana’s family who could be taken to represent the locals. In this case, it is clear that the differences in the family lifestyle in the film “flipped” keep the movie going. This could also explain to an extent why Bryce and Juliana have pretty different perspectives despite admitting to like each other’s through their interactions with other students at school. The two scenarios show that the differences in the heroine and the hero in both films is not ewual. There sems to be a greater rift between Bruce and Juliana than there is between Eric and Holly. This could explain why in the end, Eric fails to board his plane and goes back to the house only to find that Holly had left for the Airport to convince him not to leave. They get together after all the difficulties and forge ahead together. However, this is not the case with the film “flipped.” Although the relationship is still alive, there seems to be less progress on bridging the differences that in the film “life as we know it.”


This is one of the key elements of the mise-en-scene concepts. It is primarily used to set the general tonality and mood of a film’s scene (Ramos Pinto, 2018). For instance, soft lighting is used to represent romantic scenes. On the other hand, low lighting is important in illustrating suspense and horror (Ramos Pinto, 2018). For most film directors, lighting has a more detailed meaning than the object that illuminates the scene. This is a tool used to communicate depth, intensity and character emotions. Again, the director may use front lighting when they wish to eradicate shadows from the particular scene. This technique is common when a scene is shot outdoors during peak sunlight. In addition, side lighting could be utilized to make an object produce sharp shadows. Backlighting is primarily used to lighten the object edges.

The two films utilize this element in several occasions to show significance of the genre they represent. For instance, in the film “flipped,” there is a scene when Bryce and his father visit the place where Bryce’s favorite tree was although it was no longer there after it was cut. The director uses low lighting to illustrate the suspense that clouds the conversation that Bryce and his father have in this scene. The topic is all about Juliana and is started by Bryce’s father who wishes to convince his son to develop better relationship with Juliana. This qualifies to be a thoughtful scene where Bryce seems overwhelmed by his father’s advice. In the other film, the director uses low lighting during the burial of peter and Alison. Although it appears the ceremony was carried out during the day, the director ensures that the forest behind the cemetery is almost completely dark. The reason for this lighting is to communicate the aspect of grief that had engulfed the family for losing the two people who were parents to a very young kid Sophie. The message that is clear from this lighting is that of a real-life situation and how people’s emotions would be affected with such a tragedy. Therefore. One could argue that the directors of the two films used the same lighting to communicate different messages. This could be used to highlight the differences between the two films in passing their message of romantic comedy to the audiences. Again, this is an indication of a significant rift between the two directors and the film scripts.


Actors usually form a critical part of the mise-en-scene concepts. Pundits argue that expression appropriateness is very important when studying a given film (Abbott, 2017). This appropriateness includes the behavior of characters and their facial expressions. Usually, these expressions indicate whatever is going on in the actors’ minds. For example, the audience shares in the sadness of an actor who is quiet and frowning. Characters use the movement and expression appropriateness to develop a sense of realism (Abbott, 2017). This implies the actor must be able to control the two all the time to ensure the script does not lose meaning. A good example is the scene where Bryce and his father visit the scene where his favorite tree was before being cut. Bryce seems silent and keen to listen to his father’s advise on relationship. From Bryce’s facial expression, it is clear that he is probably troubled by something and also thoughtful about the father’s words. A similar scene occurs in the film “life as we know it” when Holy and Eric are called to be informed that Sophie’s parents had named them the joint guardians for their baby in the event, they were dead. During this session, both Eric and holy show identical facial expressions. While listening, they seem deeply concerned and troubled may because they could not tell the reason why they had been summoned or may be because they had Sophie in their thoughts the whole time. Their faces are suddenly filed with an indication of surprise when the news is finally broken to them that they would be Sophies foster parents. Their expressions could be used to show their unpreparedness to nurture a kid which is evident when they finally settle in Sophie’s home. 

Although the two scenes in the two films seem to have a huge similarity, they send different messages to their audiences. For instance, the scene in the film “flipped” was aimed at explaining to the audience that the purpose of the film was show comedy accompanied by romance. By having Bryce’s father advise him to mend the differences between him and Juliana, the director is able to keep the audience on the topic about romance despite it being a comedy. This scene also shows how important the director had considered the aspect of romance in the performance. This is because this advise is likely to make Bryce find more time to spend with Juliana which would bring out the message more clearly. On the other hand, the scene does not seem to further the idea of romance. This is because with or without Sophie Eric and Holy would still find way to be romantic. To a large extent, the facial expressions in this scene are meant to communicate the sense of responsibility. This is because the two characters are bout to enter into parenting which is more of a duty than romance.  However, the differences may not completely outshine the similarities. This is evident because having Eric and holly sharing the same house as Sophie’s parents would still bring them closer and possibly increase the chances of the director communicating the aspect of romance.

Other scenes combined facial expressions with movements to tell the audience more about the film. For instance, in the film “life as we know it,” Sophie, Eric, and Holly use the two aspects of the character element in mise-en-scene. This is in a scene when Eric and Holly engage in a heated conversation about their adopted child. Eric and Sophie were seated while Holly was on her feet. Due to the argument and Holly’s answers, Eric and Sophie have a facial expression that would have the audience think that they were disgusted with Holly. At the same time, Holly’s face could easily tell the audience that she was mad at her husband. Due to the anger, both Holly and Eric engage in a short-lived physical confrontation. This communicates the existence of differences in the opinions of parents on parenting. It also shows the challenges that people normally experience in marriages.

Again, in the scene when Bryce and Juliana met for the first time, the two have similar facial expressions once they accidently hold their hands when Bryce was trying to push Juliana away. Their facial expressions tell a lot about the romance in the film which is actually the main component of the action. Although the two kids seem to have liked each other, Bryce’s mother comes out of the house making her son to almost drawn in shyness. After noticing that they had been caught, he makes haste and gets behind his mother trying to hide from both his mother’s and Juliana’s faces. This scene communicates a lot about the film using the facial expressions of the characters and their movements. First, the director succeeds in showing the audience that Bryce would have been nurtured in a culture of fearing relationships with girls which would explain why he could not sustain the idea of having his mother watch him and Juliana hold hands. On the other hand, Juliana is not afraid at all. This shows that the movie comprises the feature of cultural conflict between the locals and the newly migrated family.



Abbott, S. (2017). Masters of mise-en-scene: The Stylistic excess of Hannibal. In Horror Television in the Age of Consumption (pp. 120-134). Routledge.



Ramos Pinto, S. (2018). Film, dialects and subtitles: an analytical framework for the study of non-standard varieties in subtitling. The Translator24(1), 17-34.

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