Where to Draw the Line

In order to really enjoy something, you often have to suspend disbelief. If real life were as interesting and exciting as fiction, we wouldn’t need fiction. So sometimes things that can’t happen in real life happen on the screen. That’s why we watch. Some people have come to realize this fact and gladly accept the unacceptable, in its entirety, for the duration of the program. Others believe anything they see. My advice is to stay away from the second category of people. They will eventually be lured to their deaths by road runners. I’ve seen it a million times. People crushed beneath anvils, tiny umbrella in hand. Tragic. Then there is a third category. These are the people who draw a line and decide, past this point, I refuse to put up with this crap any more. Now, normally this is a healthy and sensible attitude. My problem, and this is something that we are all guilty of sooner or later, is the thing people decide is the last straw.

Here is an example. I was recently watching Shark Tale with a friend who shall remain nameless. ( I guess he had lazy parents.) Afterward, we asked how he liked the movie. One of his gripes had to do with the buildings the fish lived in. ‘They had elevators. Fish live in the water, they can swim. They don’t need elevators.’ Yes, they are using elevators. THEY ARE ALSO TALKING! Were I to question the realism of this CARTOON, I would have started with that. But that is how it always is. People will accept the absurd details but reject the mundane ones. Superman can stop bullets with his chest and reverse time, but no way can he use his laser vision without melting those glasses. Well of course the Enterprise can fly through space at warp speed, but come on, everyone speaks perfect English? Those people came back from the dead and have an insatiable appetite for brains, sure, but they’re running? They expect me to believe that?

No, they don’t expect you to believe that. They expect you to enjoy that. We don’t want to see James Bond sit in an attic listening to phone conversations, or spend months subtly infiltrating the upper echelon of a foreign power. We want him to blow up a tank with his cuff links. We don’t want to see the hacker steal a password, download a useless file, and disconnect just to see if he could. We want to see all of the screens in the pentagon turn red with dancing skulls and have all of the tape drives start spewing sparks. Reality is boring, and it is boring mostly because of the details. The whole point of entertainment is to get rid of some of the details. Movies are “What if” , not “What is”. Heck, even reality shows have little or nothing to do with reality. You know what a reality show without any of the creative gimmicks is? The news. In fact, even the news makes it seem like a whole lot of stuff is always happening all of the time, and since everybody doesn’t actually experience all of it, there are probably those that doubt that too. These people are left with one option. The window.

Perhaps the most infuriating form that drawing the line takes is so called “Rivet Counting.” For the uninitiated, Rivet Counters are people who can’t appreciate the architecture because they are too busy counting the rivets. These people are often quite willing to accept any absurd, impossible, or contrived event you show them. They then log it away in a private mental bible, so that in the event that anything so much as hints at being contradiction to the now immutable fact, they fly off the handle. They force a reality to play by its own rules. That’s all well and good. Internal consistency makes a show or film more immersive, but over the years it can stunt its growth. Look at Star Wars. I don’t know why they keep on shoe horning events into what amounts to a twenty or thirty year span of time in a galaxy far far away, but in the interest of creating a more engaging story, George Lucas stepped on his own toes and BOY, did fur ever fly. Fanboys began frothing at the mouth. “Obi-Wan didn’t meet him when he was that young! And he didn’t meet him on that planet!” Yeah, okay, fine. Good. Something went awry. The film also had awesome effects and fight scenes. This, it would seem, doesn’t matter. A large hunk of the intended audience allowed themselves to either become so consumed by nerdrage that they would not allow themselves to enjoy the film, or they whisked themselves away to their underground nerdlairs to sift through volumes of literature to try to reconcile things so that they could allow themselves to enjoy it.

I’m not saying we give writers a free ride. If you are trying to show me a psychological thriller in which a hacker puts a computer virus into your refrigerator that causes all of your food to become poisonous I am going to cry foul. What I’m saying is a slavish adherence to reality will produce films where the knight in shining armor cannot rescue the maiden in the highest room in the tallest tower because, due to the fact that the flying buttress was not in widespread use, a tower of that height with windows of that size was unlikely to be constructed during that period, disregarding the fact that a person of great value would more likely be kept in a ground level, highly fortified and highly defensible room that provided means of immediate evacuation and relocation in the event of an emergency situation. If that’s the kind of movie you want to see, turn on the history channel. If not, stop complaining about the character who had B negative blood in season 1 episode two giving a transfusion to a character who had A positive blood in season 3 episode 4 (Deleted Scene) and start enjoying the freaking movie!


About Decoychunk

Editor, Writer, and general Knower-Of-Words, if there is text to be read on BrainLazy, Joseph Lallo probably has his fingerprints on it. As the final third of the ownership and foundation of BrainLazy, Joseph “Jo” Lallo made a name for himself when he lost the “e” from his nickname in an arm wrestling match with a witch doctor. Residing in the arid lowlands of the American Southwest, Joseph Lallo is a small, herbivorous, rabbit-like creature with the horns of an antelope. He sleeps belly up, and his milk can be used for medicinal purposes. Joseph Lallo is also author of several books, including The Book of Deacon Series, book 1 of which is available for free here.