Friday, 8 November 2019

Scary Words: Plot Holes

This is going to be the last one for a while, I'm getting tired of these.

So last year, YouTuber Patrick H Willems released a video entitled "shut up about plot holes". Not long after, a range of TOTALLY rational and intelligentresponse videos came up mostly along the lines of "NOOOOOO, THAT'S PRETENTIOUS!!! YOU THINK YOU'RE BETTER THAN ME?!? NOBODY'S BETTER THAN MEEEEEEE!"

It's a weird thing, because at no point did Patrick insist that the people who focussed on plot holes were in any way inferior, yet nobody wanted to take on Moviebob when not long after, he made a video agreeing with him, but then going further to suggest that people only look at plot holes as a backdoor into making racist/sexist statements. THAT'S someone suggesting their better than you, but it's from a bigger channel, isn't it?

So you know what, let's talk about plot holes. Not as a phenomenon that has overtaken everything in discussions about popular culture, but as a weapon. Because that's what Scary Words is about: taking words that people use a weapons and disarming them until they're as effective as whispering "boo" to take down a howitzer. So let's talk about it.

The general idea around the plot hole as a criticism is that if something doesn't make logical after being argued every which-way possible, it therefore takes people out of the moment and is "bad writing".

Is that all there is to writing, though? A logical progression of "x therefore y"? What about tension? What about character progression? What about creating a satisfying conclusion to the whole story? Are we really going to sacrifice enjoyment of a story to CinemaSins?

In fact, since so many plot hole criticisms start with "why didn't (he/she/they) just..." a lot of them can be answered with "because it would be boring."

Why didn't Superman give the spear to Wonder Woman?

Because it would be boring- seriously, are you going to rid us of arguably the only moment in Batman v Superman with emotional weight just so it can be logical FOR THIS PARTICULAR MOMENT? 

Why didn't Thanos just make more resources in the snap?

Because it would be boring- Are you telling me it would be more interesting if there WASN'T a fight with Thanos? If he just made more resources and Tony an Co just said "Right, hitchhiking home it is"?

Why did Captain America just land the plane?

Because it would be boring- as much as I hate this scene, Cap coming back heroically would have robbed us of the best scene in The First Avenger where he wakes up in modern day America.

In all of these examples though, there's another implication in the question- the critic insists that the character should act in the same way the critic does. The character, in essence has to stop being themselves. Superman giving the spear to Wonder Woman (who he doesn't actually know at this point) instead of using it himself is profoundly un-Superman. Thanos deciding to kill nobody is pretty out of character from someone who has spent most of his life turning people into Jackson Pollock paintings. Captain America... well, he certainly kept the attitude of Captain America as he went down, so there's that.

But let's entertain the idea that every plot hole makes the story nonsensical for that moment. So what? Is the character's emotional journey therefore invalid? Are the themes of the story somehow diminished? If the answer's "no," does the plot hole really matter?

Allow me to suggest a theory: see, very few people talk about the plot holes in The Dark Knight or Avengers. And that's for a simple reason. When you like a movie, you aren't looking for plot holes. You aren't looking to prove that the movie you didn't like was bad, because you liked it. People outside of joking about it don't care that Captain America didn't land the plane because oh man, we're *this* close to an Avengers movie now. If your mind is finding plot holes, chances are you don't like the movie as it is and if that's the case, why? Is the tone not connecting? Do the themes not hold true for you? Or is it just a movie made for an audience that you're not a part of?

I think, like all things, this word just boils down to insecurity. You don't like something? That's okay. Yeah, I'm not one of those people that judges morals or intelligence based on whether or you like something. The rise of the digital age means that we need to defend our religious beliefs, our political beliefs, our choice of sandwich filler, our preferred sock colour; can't we have one choice that we DON'T need to defend? Can't we just like what we like and not what we don't? It's just comics. It's just movies, TV, video games. Nobody's going to be sentenced to death if you like Zack Snyder movies, nobody is getting wrongfully put into prison because you prefer Joss Whedon. The great thing about pop culture is that it's ultimately frivolous. So let's treat it frivolously.

That's the end of scary words. I hope that no matter your opinion of any pop culture... thing... you can feel comfortable in what you enjoy. That what all of this used to be about, after all. We keep telling everyone that these things make us happy.

So let's let them.

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