Thursday, August 18, 2022

Who shot who?

I have often been accused of over-thinking.

But I believe I don’t over-think, I think just the right amount, which is usually a little more than the average person.

Case in point:

In Barry Manilow’s 1985 hit “Copacabana”, the climax of the lyrics states: “There was blood and a single gun shot, but just who shot who?”

Who shot who, indeed?

Did Tony off Rico for hitting on his girl Lola?

Or did Rico kill Tony in self-defense?

The song employs a technique known as “deliberate ambiguity”.  During the ensuing chorus and instrumental interlude, the listener is forced to ponder the fate of both men.  A sense of satisfaction develops as one comes to one’s own conclusion with the limited number of facts presented.

This sense of satisfaction is fulfilled in the final verse.  We learn that Lola has “lost her youth and she lost her Tony, now she's lost her mind”.

Yes, it is now certain that Rico shot and killed Tony.

Or did he?

The lyrics only say that Lola has “lost” Tony.  It doesn’t say she lost him to death.

Perhaps she lost him to prison?

Maybe, in the struggle, Tony got the gun away from Rico, turned it on him and shot him.  Then Tony would have gone to prison for the death of Rico.  And maybe that’s how Lola “lost” him.

On the other hand, that’s pretty shallow of Lola to “lose her mind” over Tony when she could easily visit him in prison.

Unless ... Tony received a death sentence and was executed!

Please don’t mention in the comments that a 1985 TV film (and subsequent musical) settled the issue.  This isn’t a story about the star-crossed lovers Tony and Lola.  It’s an essay about “deliberate ambiguity”.

It can be very effective when used as a plot device in a novel (or a song lyric).  By not answering all the questions, it gives the reader (or listener) an opportunity to “fill in the blanks” for oneself.  My version of Lola’s story will almost certainly be different from yours.  And that’s okay, because that allows me to own my version.

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