Communicator (communicator) wrote,
Communicator
communicator

True Lies

I found this discussion on Matthew Yglesias' weblog a good read. It's a commentary-level discussion of the degree to which people found it easy or difficult to suspend disbelief while watching X2 (the just-out X-Men movie).

It is more entertaining that a single person's weblog entry on the subject, because everyone baulks at a different thing. And while you can intellectually engage with the reasons why something 'doesn't make sense', if it doesn't bother you then it just doesn't.

For example, Matthew Y says he can go along with everything except the fact thast when Mystique copies another X-man, she does not gain his-or-her 'special powers'. My reaction - huh - you are bothered by that? I think it makes perfect sense, in that it allows the narrative to exist at all. If Mystique could become any other mutant, down to the powers, the structure of the narrative would collapse into itself. i.e. Mystique would essentially be able to do everything, she'd be an uber-ubermensch.

Another poster says she is bothered by nothing exept the fact that in the sequence around the reservoir and the dam (no spoilers) the water is liquid although the temperature is clearly supposed to be well below freezing. I can see what she means but I can't say it bothered me, or even occurred to me at the time.

I could literally go through the posts one at a time, commenting in a similar way, and no doubt you could too, with different reactions. Comments on comments.

Why does one piece of 'wrong-ness' bother us (sometimes to the extent of ruining a story), while other equally egregious problems do not? Why is this response so idiosyncratic? It is a problem for people creating SF and fantasy in particular, because they have to try to avoid or overcome the imaginative resistance of the audience. Hard-SF at least has a purported discipline to follow in maintaining consistence with the actual or extrapolated laws of physcis, while soft-SF has the internal discipline of remaining 'true to human nature' I suppose, and fantasy stories must confine themselves within the arbitrary meta-rules imposed by the writer.

But these meta-disciplines are not enough to win the reader over in themselves. Nor is it just a matter of the style and skill with which the narrative is executed. My suspicion is that the level and degree of imaginative resistance is as personal and various as the impulse that makes us like one person more than another, and just as unfair.

FWIW here are a few of the places where my imagination baulked (like the horse in 'True Lies' funnily enough)

- The entire premise of Planet of the Apes (even the original film)

- The appearance of Gallifrey (sorry that's probably how you don't spell it) in the Tom Baker Dr Who

- The whole funny foreheads phenomenon in Buffy (much more than in Star Trek, strangely)

- the computer link to the alien ship in Independence Day

- the idea that humans could be used as a power source by the machines in the Matrix (this didn't ruin the film for me though). Why didn't they just make it that the unused brain capacity was used in a gigantic multi-parallel processor?

But other no doubt equally dumb stuff doesn't bother me at all.
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