Friday, April 17, 2020

I Don't Care About Plot Holes

In the world of criticism of fiction, for whatever reason in the last few years, it feels like increasingly more and more emphasis has been placed upon pointing out literally every possible plot hole as a negative. What once was a game that came about from watching the same movie over and over, realizing that it's not perfect at following its own rules, has evolved (or devolved) into a downright obsession with picking apart every possible inconsistency, and to be honest, I've kind of stopped caring.

I'm not saying that pointing out plot holes or inconsistencies is invalid, as it definitely is a problem if it is bad enough that it ruins your immersion in the story. This is not a call to "turn off your brain", as I think it's good to think about pieces of media that we consume and analyze them. No, I think the problem is when the time is spent constantly nitpicking things that seem like plot holes or inconsistencies. But of course, having a standard definition of what a plot hole is would be the best place to start this discussion, and the definition I will be referring to is the one that shows up on Wikipedia, as it is the first response to a Google search.

"In fiction, a plot hole, plothole or plot error is a gap or inconsistency in a storyline that goes against the flow of logic established by the story's plot. Such inconsistencies include things as illogical, unlikely or impossible events, and statements or events that contradict earlier events in the storyline. The term is more loosely also applied to "loose ends" in a plot – side-lined story elements that remain unresolved by the end of the plot."

So, of course, a story should try its hardest to avoid contradicting itself, but one aspect of criticism for plot holes that personally bothers me is the assumption that characters making poor decisions falls under the umbrella of plot hole. It doesn't. The "obvious" solution to one viewer may not be so obvious to another viewer, so naturally, expecting it to be so obvious to the characters in the story is unreasonable.

Slightly related to that, having the story not go the way the viewer wants it to is also not a plot hole, though that also gets into the subjectivity of writing as well. Basically, much of the common things that are considered plot holes aren't actually plot holes.

So what of the ones that do fall under that definition, the actual plot holes? Certainly I must care about those, right? Well, yes and no. Yes because, as said, the less effort a story puts towards following its own rules, the less the audience is going to care. Duh. But by the same token, if we're going to start throwing a fit over every instance of "unlikely or impossible events", good luck finding any media to consume. Not saying it's impossible, but considering how many "cinematic masterpieces" have huge plot holes (the Storm Troopers should have shot the escape pod, nobody was in the room to hear "Rosebud," etc), making a list of movies completely free of plot holes is certainly a project.

Admittedly, this whole thing is super subjective. It's a question of how much one is able to stomach. That's actually why I struggled finding a title for this article. I didn't want to steal from the video everyone's seen entitled "Shut Up About Plot Holes", but wanted to emphasize that I personally don't care about plot holes. Not that you shouldn't, especially when they're particularly egregious. I personally like Alfred Hitchcock's perspective on the subject. "They don't (x) because it's dull." Basically, if, in fixing the "plot hole" the story gets less interesting, I'd rather it not happen. Sure, it would probably be better if the plot hole wasn't there at all, but if the rest of the story is interesting, I'm not going to throw a fit if not everything makes perfect sense.

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