As countless children eagerly await the arrival of a fat, bearded man in a red suit who travels in a sleigh pulled by eight flying reindeer, I thought it was an appropriate time to talk about suspension of disbelief.
You’re familiar with the phrase, right? It was coined in 1817 by poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge. He suggested that if an author could weave “human interest and a semblance of truth” into even the most outrageous fictional tale, the reader would suspend judgment about how implausible the narrative actually was.
In other words, as a reader or viewer, we’re asked to sacrifice realism and logic for the sake of entertainment (or, at this time of year, presents).
Maybe I’m just too literal, neurotic about personal hygiene, or a stickler for truth, but there are certain situations or story lines in movies, on television and in novels that I just can’t wrap my head around.
Actually, there are things in real life—like the unbelievable crap that has come out of the mouths of Trump and his minions—that have me yelling “Are you kidding me???” at the television.
It’s not just fiction
that demands we suspend our
disbelief these days.
But I digress.
So, setting aside all the crazy-making election mishegas, here are a few movie, TV or fictional scenes or situations about which I have a hard time suspending my disbelief:
- When someone’s driving a car and talking to the person in the passenger seat, and keeps looking at the passenger instead of where he/she’s going, I just want to scream, “Keep your eyes on the effing road, you idiot!” I can’t believe that they don’t veer into oncoming traffic or drive off the road, and I get so nervous on their behalf that I can’t even concentrate on the dialogue.
- In a rom-com or drama when couples wake up in the morning with their faces about two inches apart and they start talking to each other with absolutely no self-consciousness about (or reaction to) morning breath. Seriously? Jaysus, at least pop a Tic Tac!
- One of the most egregious examples of this was the 1987 movie “Ironweed” in which Jack Nicholson and Meryl Streep played homeless alcoholic lovers with rotten teeth. Maybe if I were in that situation, oral hygiene wouldn’t be my first concern, but to this day I remember wondering how in hell they could wake up and start kissing each other. Ew.
- Another scene that stuck in my craw was in a Clive Cussler adventure novel I read decades ago. In it, the hero Dirk Pitt—the “ultimate man of action”—rescues a woman who’s been held captive in some remote desert hovel for weeks, unable to bathe or change her underwear. Yet the first thing the hero and his odiferous damsel do upon reuniting is sneak away to a sand dune to have sex. Really? I couldn’t help but think if a woman had written the story, there would have been a hot shower, hair-washing and leg-shaving before the shtupping.
- It also gets me when couples wake up in bed after we’ve seen them have sex the night before while buck naked, but in the morning they’re wearing their underwear. So I’m supposed to believe that after all that passionate intimacy they put their underwear back on before falling asleep? How many women do you know who want to sleep in an underwire pushup bra?
- Oh, and those wilderness/survivalist shows? Their aim is to create tension and suspense (“Will he make it out alive?”), yet all I can think of is the fact that there’s a freakin’ camera crew there, filming the star’s every move. So if he (and it’s usually a “he”) were really in trouble, the crew would likely just call for help and airlift him out, right? And if he doesn’t find an animal or bug to eat for dinner, won’t the crew just give him some of their food?
- And speaking of being in the wilderness—what’s with all the movies or TV series about people marooned on an island or living in a post-apocalyptic world—and they have no facial, underarm or leg hair? Does it just stop growing? Did they manage to stockpile an endless supply of razors? Or have they figured out how to do waxing? It just defies logic, y’know?
One of the best responses I’ve ever heard when something seems unbelievable is attributed to a guy my friend’s husband knew in college. This fellow student was a young man from Persia, and he had both a heavy middle-eastern accent and a somewhat tenuous grasp of American idioms.
So now when I watch or read something that seems absurd or implausible, I simply quote him and say, “Are you sheeting me or pooling my deek?”
Go ahead—say it out loud.
So what about you? What fictional scenes in books, movies or TV shows challenge you to suspend your disbelief? Or are you able to let go and simply enjoy without getting all judgey like me? Please share! Oh, and have a merry Christmas–I hope Santa brings you great presents!