Posts Tagged ‘Suspension of Disbelief’

Suspension of Disbelief

July 21, 2018


Image credit: @ToniMacAttack on Twitter

So, I believe I have talked on here about the concept of “Suspension of Disbelief”. I know that if I have, it has been a while and either way, I felt like revisiting it because it is such an interesting concept. Now, I believe my greatest strengths as a consumer of fiction are my memory and my suspension of disbelief. Suspension of disbelief is a term for submerging yourself in the story and not surfacing until the story is over. That means that you are not picking at details, you are not wondering where you have seen that actor before, and you are completely buying the story. Some people are better at that than others. That is not a knock on people who cannot seem to accomplish it. Lately, I have begun to wonder about the people who are not as good at suspension of disbelief. I honestly do not know if it is a burden or not. I feel like I enjoy movies and television a lot more than some people but without being in their head, maybe I am missing something that they are getting.

Fake Baby

I am not completely immune. It was not my choice when I went and saw American Sniper. While I do try to challenge myself now and then, I almost never choose nationalist movies about the glory of our US military. As much as they try to paint them as heroes, the story is almost always our guys in another country, bullying and killing people. This is basically what American Sniper was to me. And yet, I was still in the story of this guy who kept going to Iraq to shoot people in the name of freedom. I might not have gotten the same jingoist pride out of the whole thing, but I was still invested. Right about until halfway through, Bradley Cooper and his wife had a baby. Except, they apparently ran out of casting money because they used a baby doll instead of a live child. Look at the gif. I do not know how you experience it but I see embarrassment in the eyes of Bradley Cooper. He realizes that we can all tell that this is a fake baby. Instead of using the power of movie magic and acting to make the baby live, they leave Cooper on his own in this shot. He tries to salvage it by using sleight of hand to make the baby move but it only tricks you for a split second. It took me out of the movie but after that, I shook my head and dove back in.

Recently, I went with my friends to watch Antman and the Wasp in theaters. As I already wrote, I was excited to see the sequel because I loved the first movie so much. I also have loved whatever Disney has done with the Marvel properties. I thoroughly enjoyed the movie and, as with most of their franchise, I did not notice a single flaw. As we walked toward our cars, my friend said something that triggered the writing of this post. She said something along the lines of “That was a great movie even though it didn’t make any sense.” We all looked confused and asked for clarification. She explained that the science used in the movie did not make any sense to her. My brain made a record scratch noise and then I said goodnight and got into my car and drove home. I did not want to get into it right there because that statement revealed how fundamentally differently I experience fiction. The way she thinks is not wrong but it is very different. If you thought something similar after or during a movie, do not take this post as offensive. I honestly am trying to understand it.

Science in movies is generally not like science in the real world. Science in the real world is fascinating and something we absolutely need to know and trust because it makes our lives and our decisions easier. However, science in the real world is rarely very exciting to the average person. Science in the real world is more subtle and works much slower and experiments do not always work as expected. So, science in the movies is often flashier, more effective, and fast-working. The rule cool and the narrative often force writers to skip a few scientific principals. If I am watching a movie and they explain that gravity suddenly makes people fall into the sky, then I roll with it. I do not get bogged down in the details and I do not try and compare movie science to real-life science. In fact, if you look back at science in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it is mostly treated as magic. In Captain America: The First Avenger, we only get a few buzzwords as Steve Rogers is transformed into the good Captain. In Thor, practically nothing is explained aside from a few buzzwords in Thor 2 when they are scanning Jane Foster. In the Antman franchise, they use a lot more science buzzwords because Hank Pym is much more of a pure scientist than Banner or Stark or any of the other scientists in the franchise. So a lot of what Pym says sounds like science but it probably does not have much that is consistent with real-life science. However, nothing in that world has ever been very accurate in the first place.

But what I am saying is that it does not matter to me. If I am told that if you were able to shrink yourself to a small enough size that you would basically enter another universe, I will accept it. If I am told that growing to a larger size makes you expend more physical energy and tires you out more then I will believe it. What grabs me is the action and the characters and the clever dialogue. However, I also realize that I am more of a poet than a scientist. A lot of my friends are scientists. They went to college for science and they work in scientific fields or science-adjacent fields. It may be similar to when I see legal things in shows and I make a mental note about how they are wrong. However, I have rarely let that take me out of the story. I guess I just have a difficult time understanding how it is difficult to suspend your disbelief.

Professional Wrestling

March 29, 2009

I am total geek. This is something I accepted as far back as high school. My interests fall largely on the uncool side of the cool/uncool divide. But what I end up liking I really, really do like a lot. Sometimes I don’t know why I like something but I find it affecting the way I think and sparking my imagination. And one thing that I’ve liked since somewhere around the mid-nineties is Professional Wrestling. My love for it has only grown over the years even as I’ve learned more and more about it.

Interestingly enough I was introduced to the world of wrestling in a more legitimate way. The memory of what age I was escapes me but when I was in elementary school I wrestled as a sport. I don’t remember actually competing but I remember rolling around and attempting various holds and pinning combinations. Nothing complicated, really, but I remember doing it. I don’t know if that imprinted on me much or what. The fact that I remember it at all speaks volumes, I guess.

I later tried my hand at so-called amateur wrestling during 8th and 9th grades because my brother had joined the team. I had mixed results during those two years but I came away with one third place medal in a competition because the bracket wasn’t crowded. My brother continued with wrestling long after I quit and was nearly unstoppable. He became a team captain and dominated his opponents sometimes outright embarassing them. I like that.

A friend introduced me to pro-wrestling in the mid-nineties and like most new fans I thought it was real. They acted so serious about the rules on screen even if some of the competitors were really weird personalities. I mean, seriously, I became a fan when Doink the Clown (1) was still around.

I almost instantly became a fan of Shawn Michaels (2). I was pretty small through my childhood (I’m still not very big) and Michaels has always been a little dog in a big dog’s fight. I was impressed with how much the announcers talked about his resiliency and his never-say-die spirit. I didn’t even care that he had been a bad guy in the past (or present) he was just too impressive to me. In a world where I never really cared much about sports, pro wrestling was my sports. Watching a wrestler hit their finishing move was like a home run to me.

Of course, finally someone let the cat out of the bag and I found out that the show wasn’t real. Of course, I was shellshocked. That meant that the announcers and wrestlers on the screen had been lying to my face the whole time. I felt like a fool. Pretty soon I got over it and soon enough the Monday Night Wars started up and I had more than one wrestling show to watch and then I had three (Thunder was crap).

There was a whole new world of storylines and characters that were opening up in front of me. I had developed something important that would serve me well: suspension of disbelief. I could sit there and watch the shows and enjoy it the same way you or I might watch Indiana Jones save the day while knowing that it’s Harrison Ford.

Eventually I came to peek more and more behind the curtains, looking at the insider info and appreciating the art of putting a match together. Wrestlers are an odd mix of athlete and performer. They go out in front of the crowds and the cameras and they have to entertain the folks out there. Also, watch this and tell me that pro wrestling doesn’t recquire athelticism (5).

I got to know the wrestlers as performers as well as their characters. I became a huge fan of Mick Foley, an everyman sort of guy who not only put on a great match but also was brilliant with a microphone. I’ve read all three of Foley’s autobiographies and I just admire him as a nice guy and a brilliant mind. Funny how that mind hasn’t been dulled by so many blows to the brain.

So, basically what I’m saying is that I’m not embarassed that I like wrestling because I know why I like it and I really do like it. Also, at least I don’t watch reality television. Here’s a few videos to show you just what I mean. Watch them or don’t.  I just wanted to say my piece. As Mick Foley says, “Have a Nice Day!”

(1) Doink the Clown vs. Mr. Perfect

(2) Shawn Michaels’ theme song.  I’m still amazed the guy could sing his own theme song and look so tough wearing those outfits. I’m not gay, I swear.

(3) Mick Foley getting nearly killed by the Undertaker.  This was actually scripted into the match and not an accident. And yes those are thumb tacks about two thirds through. (Graphic: Weak stomachs don’t watch)

(4) Mick Foley again this time it’s on the mic. It’s safe to watch this one.

(5) Here, here and here is some athleticism.

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