A blog about writing . . . and a lot of other things

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Suspending disbelief

One of the most important tricks of fiction is getting readers to suspend their disbelief.  Most of the time readers are happy to do this.  Delighted, even.  Let's be honest.  We're not swarming to the latest super hero movie or reading The Hunger Games because we're desperate for some gritty realism.  We don't expect it to be factual or even necessarily plausible.

When author Richard Ford was on The Colbert Report he argued that novels are better than lies because "novels can actually aspire to be the truth."  I think that because novels are freed from reality, they can reach for a truth that is higher than a simple recounting of facts.

However, this may simply be an attempt to justify spending a large percentage of my life reading books that are chock full of nothing useful.

Anyway, I do think it's funny how inconsistently we as readers and viewers are able to suspend our disbelief.  My last blog post (can you remember back that far?) was about distractions in literature and how these distractions often ruin the story for us.

Jacob and I were discussing it in reference to the NBC television show "Grimm."  I like this show because it is filmed in and around Portland.  I've even seen them shooting.  If you haven't watched it, you should, if only because I want TV stars to keep hanging around my neighborhood.

One of my favorite episodes this last season was "Leave it to Beavers."


Near the end of the episode, Nick "sends a message" by shipping the severed heads of a couple of reapers back to Germany from whence they came.

Jacob didn't like this.

"What?  You didn't think he should have chopped the heads off?" I asked.  Admittedly, this behavior was a little extreme for a police officer.

"Oh, no.  I loved that.  Great message.  I just didn't know how he got the address of where to send the heads."

So what is too much for Jacob?  He has no problem with there being fairy tale creatures like reapers and the big bad wolf or with Nick being the only guy who can see these fairy tale creatures because he's a Grimm.  He doesn't even mind Nick decapitating a reaper or mailing severed heads internationally and them arriving in pretty good condition.  What Jacob couldn't handle is that Nick somehow knew where to ship the heads.

I figure the guy's the cop.  Surely he can track down an address.

Personally, the thing that has tested my belief is the sheer quantity of people that Nick has shot in the line of duty.  We've had a lot of officer-involved shootings in Portland over the last few years.  We've even had a cop who was involved in more than one of those shootings.  Let me tell you, the residents of Portland do not take that sitting down.  There would be riots if Nick the cop were actually responsible for killing several citizens.

Again, I have no problem with Nick being a Grimm or women being part tarantula or Monroe being the big bad wolf who is a vegetarian and does Pilates.  But the residents of Portland allowing Nick to stay on the job when he shoots someone in episode after episode?  No way.

Which reminds me.  The second season of "Grimm" starts up in a couple of weeks.  You should check it out and keep the ratings up.  Maybe if the show keeps filming here, I'll manage to squeeze my way into a scene.  Keep your eyes peeled.

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