Fiction is not Reality

Yes, this is not realistic. And how was this filmed? If that bothers you, stay home.

This story was originally published on Thursday, January 7, 2016 after Star Wars TFA came out.

The negativity that has been heaped onto Star Wars: The Force Awakens is troubling, but not surprising. Anything loved by the masses these days is an obvious target to get a mastodon-sized turd launched on top of it by the nit-pickers out there.

The Huffington Post released this jackass blog post titled: 40 Unforgivable Plot Holes in ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’. I could only stomach a few paragraphs before I stopped reading. Thankfully Matty Granger-someone with far more patience than me-finished reading the Huff Post trash and replied point-by-point fantastically here. I love his essay, and especially how it wraps up at the end. Great job, Matty Granger!

What’s been nagging at me lately with the Star Wars critics, and even more broadly with overall film criticism in general these days, is the overwhelming trend to view fiction films—fantasy especially—as if they are operating under the same Newtonian mechanical constraints as our day-to-day reality. They are not. Even the most realistic films ever made are fiction, farce, make believe, pretend, etc. They operate under a very specific visual language that would not hold up to any reality-based scrutiny. All films can easily be torn down and dissolved under even a simple scientific reality-based fault-finding mission. Art and literature, too, would all collapse under those seeking realism, probing for holes, or any other such nonsense. The world does not look the way Vincent van Gogh painted it. And there are no magical portals to Narnia in anyone’s closet.

Even the way films are shown, with a magical omniscient point-of-view camera jumping around to specific points and spots in time, is entirely absurd if you can’t just sit back and accept what is being presented.

Imagination—arguably humanity’s greatest asset—must be employed to create art as well as appreciate it. Snarky, assclown criticisms of fantasy that come at it from a rigid, reality-based point of view are pretty much the most unnecessary thing in the world. We don’t need anyone, anywhere, ever, to tell humanity that Star Wars (or any fantasy) is not realistic or does not operate correctly according to some preconceived set of angry rules that are based on real-world mechanics.

We all know the real world. We get into fender benders and a dent the size of a quarter costs us thousands of dollars. We twist a knee and we have recurring pain for six months. Some of us like to escape from reality from time to time. We don’t need bitter, faux, high-brow film critics to tell us what to think. We want to escape to a magical land from time to time that does not need to adhere to the same mechanics as our daily universe.

Although I’ve written this before, I feel it needs repeating: Come to art and entertainment and give yourself over to it. If you only ask what a film could be, rather than just accept it for what it is, then you will never enjoy anything. And I think there is a huge tide of people lacking of enjoyment out there. I suspect people are having a harder time enjoying film and media because the Internet and realistic CGI have complicated what need not be complex. You don’t need to pick at films like scabs. Either you like a film or you don’t. Let your gut, not your intellect, decide for you. If you don’t like something, move on. Once you decide what you do and do not like, this will be your taste developing. Congratulations. If fantasy is not for you, find something that is.

If you hate sushi and decide to order chicken while your friend eats raw fish, are you going to sit there at the table and tell your friend how disgusting you find it to put raw fish in your mouth? I hope not.

I suspect the realism that CGI has brought to the table is partly to blame here, too. With traditional animation (and older less believable SFX in films), sci-fi/fiction/fantasy, and the slightly more outrageous depictions that often accompany them, we never question them as unrealistic—think Miyazaki anime, Akira, or any Disney/Pixar film. Star Wars definitely trends heavy into the fairy tale zone, with unrealistic events and cheesy dialogue such as, “Great shot, kid. That was one in a million!”

Since films today are all entirely photo realistic, many people assume that whatever is seen on the screen is supposed to operate the same way our day-to-day lives operate. People bring modern-day science baggage to films along with our modern understanding of time mechanics, Newtonian mechanical constraints, and Einstein’s theory of relativity. Then we just expand our current scientific ideas into some scientific-based, far-off future where all this crap—lasers, spaceships, light sabers—have all been invented and are real. This approach is wrong. There is no sound in space because there is no air in space. So the moment you accept explosions and laser noises in the dead of space in Star Wars, you have suspended our known reality for the sake of fantasy. And you don’t get to pick and chose here. This is not a buffet. If you were on board the Millennium Falcon and it spun like it did in the film, you’d be dead. The G forces alone would cause you to pass out or die. And going from zero to light speed would kill anyone. But remember, if you suspend your disbelief, then you can accept quite a lot…even a farm boy who uses the magical force to know exactly when to fire a torpedo at a Death Star portal. Or a wildly unrealistic but fantastically fun barrel ride in The Hobbit.

More unrealistic story telling
These barrels would have sunk quickly in real life.

In Star Wars Clone Wars or Rebels, the unrealistic depictions are questioned far less, scrutinized less, and often enjoyed way more. The Huff Post is not bothering with the “cartoons” because they are under their radar. Cartoons are removed from reality and are given more leeway by viewers and critics alike. If you come at Star Wars or any CGI-based fantasy film with the same frame of mind you might view Snow White or Toy Story, then you will enjoy everything more. Try cutting some slack not just to the films you view, but also to yourself. You are not obligated to be a hard-assed critic just because the Internet has given you a voice.

Not Newtonian mechanics being depicted here.
That dirt bridge would collapse, right?

We need to be more lenient with our fantasy films, as we are with our fantasy animation. And we also need to be more accepting of the fact that even though contemporary films may look real, what we are watching is not an extension of our reality, but a fantastical depiction where more is possible. After all, that’s the whole point, right?

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