Suspension of Disbelief

Another one of these things. I'm talkative for some reason. Oh well. Not sure how long this one will be. Could be standard length, could be three paragraphs. Let's find out!

The idea for this one came when I was sitting watching an episode of M*A*S*H* the other day (What? Alan Alda was funny to me). It was one of the later episodes, and because my mind works weird, I suddenly recalled reading the show's Wiki article, where it mentioned how the later seasons usually consisted in some kind of message the main characters gave to an incoming "regular army" superior officer. Y'know, the importance of life, the effects a war has on those who aren't even in it--shit everyone should know, but somehow doesn't. And then, as I thought about it--hell, as I was watching the show itself--I realized it was right. But it was a pattern I'd never noticed until someone brought it up. That happens to me a lot.

Don't get me wrong. I'm a very observant person. I notice clues in a story, I pick up tones in people's voices that let me know their true feelings even though they're trying to hide it. But chances are, I'm not going to notice the "formula" of a plot. There's a reason for this. I'm not trying to. I don't see the point. The moment you start picking something apart and noting how similar it is to something else is the moment most people start becoming unhappy with whatever they're watching. The fact is, "true" originality went away centuries ago. Break a story down enough and the plot to Star Wars sounds just like a plot to a Western. (I've seen it done.) Its all in the details now, folks.

But more importantly, why do we do this? Why do we feel the need to pick apart whatever we watch and give it some sort of arbitrary litmus test for originality? Or, a better question...what the hell ever happened to Suspension of Disbelief? It seems like that's been missing from society for at least a decade, if not longer. I guess now its been stigmatized with its new name: "turning your brain off". But there's nothing wrong with that. Suspension of Disbelief is simply born out of a desire to enjoy a story--a pure desire that tells your brain to not pick something apart for what's utterly ridiculous and what's within the realm of possibility and just enjoy it as is.

Whatever happened to that? Does anyone know? We as a society were once capable of believing that all it took was a suit, tie, and a pair of glasses to turn Superman into mild-mannered reporter Clark Kent. Now the only reason we take him remotely seriously is because he's a cultural icon that's been around since the late 30's. (And even THEN we can't seem to drum up a decent story for him in mainstream media.) Why did we piss away our Suspension of Disbelief, and what lead us to start downing Cynicism Pills so we could walk around and bitch about every little thing we see in a story? (I recognize the irony; shut up, I'm trying to make a point.)

I'm a little guilty of this too, I admit. But I'm working at it, and I've always been a little better about it. When I sit down to watch something new, I'm already wanting to be entertained. If I had something more interesting to do, I'd be doing it. If I'm there, I obviously don't have something better to do, so I'm very willing and happy to be drawn in if the story gives me the chance. Of course, some stories fail utterly at this. And then again when I watch or read something I don't just see a story, I see another world--another universe, and chances are if I wouldn't want to live there, I probably won't enjoy whatever it is. (Hence my distaste for dystopian, post-apocalyptic tales, horror stories and generally anything overly depressing.) But I digress. My point is, I walk in with the desire to be impressed and drawn in. Do you? The whole thing shouldn't fall on the story--you have to want it to, or else what's the point?

(Huh. Just five paragraphs. Oh well. Summer 2008 Anime Picks up next.)

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