Monday, November 14, 2005

Suspension of Disbelief

The following is a series of quotes from people who see "suspension of disbelief" and internal fictional continuity differently than I do. "THEM" is multiple people, if you'll pardon my grammar. This isn't a conversation, reproduced in its entirety, so don't think STATEMENT B immediately followed STATEMENT A or my response to it.

If you can "believe" a story about guys shooting lasers out of their eyes, what is so difficult about marital status?

Anyone who "believes" fiction . . .I don't get that. You're reading a story. You can be entertained by it, enlightened by it, or not. But you don't need to buy it, to believe it. That's crazy talk.

ME: " I believe there is such a thing as "suspension of disbelief." I believe that it has value. I'm pretty sure I'm not crazy.
Okay, I am, but for completely different reasons.

Those who don't care about spoilers or who don't need to "buy into" certain concepts or fictional elements - you have a gift. Enjoy.

Those of us who dislike knowing the end of the story before reading the beginning and middle... or who can only suspend our disbelief so much*... we have a gift, too. "

PETER DAVID, apparently: "A shared universe, like any fictional construct, hinges on suspension of disbelief. When continuity is tossed away, it tatters the construct. Undermines it."

THEM: "The first statement is that fictional constructs hinge on suspension of disbelief. I call total horseshit on that."

ME: Does bullshit trump horseshit? Okay. I call bullshit on your horseshit.

Some people are unlimited in their capacity to suspend their disbelief. You can read a tale that's just outside the scope of reality, note an element in that story which interferes with its internal consistency, and continue reading without that element interfering with your ability to enjoy that story? Lucky you.

I tend to think there are far more of us who can suspend our disbelief enough to "believe a man can fly," but not believe a "regular" boy can survive the introduction of a crowbar to his grey matter. Call us crazy. Oh, you already do.

If nothing else, the internal "rules" of such fictional worlds makes this hard for some people to swallow. Superman's from another planet and his physiology allows him to fly and perform other amazing feats. The Jason Todd character is a boy with a gift for acrobatics, among other things. Unfortunately, none of those things includes an advanced healing factor. So, when that boy gets his brain tenderized, but LIVES, *some* of us have a hard time swallowing that. We need help choking that one down. Maybe with a little help, we'll succeed. If we don't,... *psst* the problem isn't necessarily with the reader. Maybe it's with... *gasp* the writer.
THEM: "Suspension of disbelief is a stupid little crutch that people fall back on when they don't like how something is being done or portrayed."

ME: Denial is often the stupid little crutch of people who can't or won't accept the fact that other people may be able to see things they can't. Guess what? There are plenty of different people in this world. Maybe some of them see the world differently than you do. And maybe, just maybe, they have good reasons for that.

Other than being "stupid" or "crazy," that is.
THEM: "That's silly. It's some weird anal need for everything in the world to fit together neatly. It doesn't, so why should it in fiction?"

ME: That first sentence is a good description for why some people can't or won't accept the possibility that other people's opinions might ACTUALLY have merit.
THEM: "When continuity is tossed away, it frees writers to write stories."

" Let writers write. If they want to tie stories into something else, that's great. If not, don't force it. You'll get a poorer story for it. And loosen up. For proponents of such escapist fare, these continuinerds get all worked up about it. Enjoy the stories you enjoy and ignore the ones you don't. But don't bring other people down because you want everything a certain way. Grow up and let go." "

ME: What this argument and so many others like it fail to address is the fact that the stories these people (re: "continuinerds") "get all worked up about" are those that the publisher claims are WITHIN continuity. There are some that the publishers clearly state are NOT within established continuity. Where are the loud and irrational opponents of such "Elseworlds" and "What If...?" stories? Few and far-the-fuck-between. That's where.

There's nothing wrong with expecting people to do what they say they're going to do - in this case, consumers are expecting internal consistency in comic book "universes" when publishers say that's what they're giving us. There ARE people who tend to get fanatical about it, but there are also those who fail to differentiate between the obsessed and the rest. Now THAT'S crazy.

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