Anyone who has seen It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia knows the infamous Charlie Mail Room Scene from the episode “Sweet Dee Has A Heart Attack.” If you haven’t seen the show… please watch it, it’ll make your life 10x better. Okay maybe not, but it’s great.
The use of pictures, boards, and hand movements in the scene reminds me of Vonnegut on The Shape of Stories. Obviously Charlie looks severely crazed and sleep deprived, but he tells the Pepe Silvia tale following the shape of a story. He starts at the beginning, introduces the main points, traps the listener, and then perfectly ties up his conspiracy theory. Although Mac proves that Charlie is out of his mind, the story is still captivating and the conspiracy is convincing.
Now let’s take a deeper look into the shape of the story. Do all stories have the same shape? Similar to (y)our stories, we all take different paths to get to our end but that doesn’t mean it’s not a story. I imagine the Mail Room Conspiracy shape looks a lot like Charlie’s mail room wall: truly crazed connect-the-dots, which has a stark beginning and end.
Another reason I chose this scene from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia is because video is a type of digital storytelling. If this was just read off of a script in a drafting room would it be as funny as the scene that aired on television? Definitely not. Each aspect, the casting, lighting, music choice, props, etc., creates a sense of setting and realness for the viewer that can’t always be established from just staring at words on a piece of paper. Charlie starts out his story by saying:
This company is being bled like a stuffed pig Mac, and I got a paper trail to prove it. Check this out, take a look at this.Charlie Day
He tells Mac exactly what he is going to talk about and then starts, a perfect beginning to a story I’d say. He then, without a breath, proceeds to ask Mac a lot of questions and tell him about the Mail Room Conspiracy. The whole time he is speaking he infuses intense emotion into the story and walks the reader through each step of his process (much like we have to do with our assignments). Although I really enjoy Charlie’s conspiracy, my favorite part is when Mac says:
Okay Charlie, I’m gonna have to stop you right there. Not only do all of these people exist, but they have been asking for their mail on a daily basis. It’s all they’re talking about up there. Jesus Christ, dude. We are gonna lose our jobs.Ronald McDonald, aka “Mac”
I think this is the single quote that really ties the whole story of this scene together. The point of Charlie’s story in the show isn’t to prove some crazy mail room conspiracy, but to show that Charlie has lost his mind. Hence, Barney. For me, this really tied the scene to the rest of the show because it showed how inept Charlie generally is (much like the other episodes).
Although the Mail Room Scene doesn’t have hypertext, hyperlinks are still available through the various viewing options. The entirety of the show is available on streaming services (such as Hulu), cable TV, and DVD due to the show having several seasons and being quite popular. Viewers have to consciously click to watch, record, or save the show (an option due to hyperlinking in sites and apps that embed the videos in order). How can I understand a story if it’s not told in order? How can I finish a story if I can’t select where I left off? The answers to these questions are the reasons why hyperlinking is one of the essential components of the digital storytelling process.