Thursday, October 8, 2009

Suspension of disbelief

While at a play recently, a friend of mine pointed out to me a few things which he said didn't suspend his disbelief. In most artistic media, suspension of disbelief is important it either proves that things are real, or makes them seem as though they are possible. It makes stories more compelling because we get more enravelled in them; we learn to accept the stories' worlds as our own, which makes identifying with the characters easier.

Nowadays, however, it is very difficult to suspend disbelief. Many of us know so much trivial information that it sort of ruins our acceptance of a story if it includes something which contradicts those facts. In addition, things are always so focused on being as accurate and detailed as possible that we can't help but build up this mental database of trivia. And, on the most part, it's not entirely a bad thing to know a lot of different things. We value things are are depicted very accurately, and rightly so. This clears up a lot of biases that people have towards things, which can be a great boon.

In the realm of artistic expression, however, this isn't entirely helpful. In order to make things very believable, to suspend the belief of the audience, the artist has to really do his homework. I mean that he has to research in depth all aspects of his creation and reflect all of this in his work. That's not to say that it's a bad thing, but putting so much work into a secondary aspect of a project really does detract from the primary purpose of one's creation.

My friends and I are the type of people to go into a sci-fi movie and whisper to each other about how certain things aren'y physically possible, or about how things aren't accurately portrayed on-screen. I have gone to some historically fictive films and made a list of things that were historically inaccurate. Then I've separated those inaccuracies based on whether they were essential to the plot or not. I may be a geek - and a proud one, I might add - but I know that I am nowhere near alone in noting these types of discrepencies, though I will admit I'm one of the few to actually jot them down. I feel like this is a product of our well-educated and information-ready society.

Think, if you will, to about thirty-five years ago. A pleothora of horrible horror movies existed which were much more effective than today's, despite today's flicks having much nicer computer-generated graphics and more realistic make-up and stuff. As great as the original Star Wars movies are, I still turn away from the horribly choreographed sword-fights. On the other hand, I just saw the second Transformers movie. It was a ridiculously bad movie, but the graphics were beautiful and worth seeing. Again, I know that I am not alone in this regard.

Regardless, the times, they are a-changin'! The damage is done, and so now, we can only hope to move forwards. I realize that not every movie or television series can be as accurate and intense as Eureka or Battlestar Galactica. But, hey, Lost tries, and despite its occasional fact-bending, it's not so bad overall, not to mention that it's a great series.

Yes, I may be to blame for my lack of tolerance of incorrect facts and inconsistencies, but I'm sure that the number of people who agree with me are growing. And really, is it so hard to get things that right? But at the same time, I definitely think we need to learn to look past this kind of stuff a little more, so that we can appreciate something for its message while artistic media tries to catch up with our demand for high quality. I can definitely appreciate the fact that it gets very tedious and annoying, and requires quite a lot of work, but it's worth the effort in order to have a much more convincing world in place. The more convincing the picture, the more likely we are to see the artist's message without getting distracted.

Unless, of course, the point is the distraction itself.

1 comment:

  1. I suppose we are simply repeating history. The Renaissance was all about portraying the human form in a believable manner, not necessarily the ideal form. Our culture is going through, in every essence, a reawakening of Humanism. I can only guess that as the economic disaster this country is in continues to worsen, we will find ourselves in more of a desire for a message within the art rather than the "believability" of it. And so history repeats itself.