Monday, October 01, 2007

Back to Basics: Suspension of Disbelief

I watched another of the season premieres this past week.

The show was Moonlight about a vampire private investigator. I won't be watching it again.

"Why?" you may ask.

Because of a bit of writing advice I have taken to heart, what Samuel Taylor Coleridge called "that willing suspension of disbelief for the moment..."

Coleridge, writing in 1817, was referring to the fact that readers will often suspend their disbelief in the fantastic in order to go along with the writer on a ride that promises to entertain them.

Wikipedia defines the concept this way: "It refers to the alleged willingness of a reader or viewer to accept as true the premises of a work of fiction, even if they are fantastic, impossible, or otherwise contradictory to 'reality'...the audience tacitly agrees to provisionally suspend their judgment in exchange for the promise of entertainment."

I think (although I'm not absolutely certain) it may have been Stephen King who said that readers will forgive a writer one really large suspension of disbelief; however, you must honor your contract with them and not keep throwing another and yet another inconsistency or plot hole at them. If you break covenant with the reader, s/he will put your book down and walk away without a backward glance.

When I sat down to watch Moonlight, I was willing to suspend my disbelief and accept the show's premise that a 90-year-old vampire named Mick St. John might be working as a private detective in Los Angeles. The opening "interview with the vampire" was a silly device, but I went along with it because I really do like vampire stories.

The dealbreaker for me was when Mick and a pretty TV reporter named Beth broke into the apartment of a victim of a serial killer and stole crucial blood evidence. Then Beth casually handed the evidence over to the cops, suggesting they might want to test it. Instead of going apeshit and throwing her into the hoosegow for tampering with chain-of-command, the detective checks the evidence out and then agrees that it does connect the suspect with the killings, but says just-as-casually, “but, of course, now the evidence is inadmissible.”

Give me a freaking break.

Here I suspended my disbelief to go along with the show’s fantastic (in the “fanciful and unrealistic sense,” not the “tops in quality” sense) premise, and they throw this kind of garbage at me.

Maybe if the show had been fantastic in the “tops in quality” sense I might have overlooked this.

Naw, I don’t think so. AND this show was mediocre at best. A pretty-faced hero ain’t enough to cut it.

Two thumbs down from me and Samuel Coleridge.


Sherrill Quinn said...

Well, I'm willing to give the pretty-faced hero another go. Cuz I'm shallow that way. LOL But I agree with everything else you've said. I was quite disappointed in the show. And the heroine is a twit.

But the hero's cute... *G*

Maya Reynolds said...

Sherrill: I'm not a "cute" kind of gal. I didn't really start jonesing for Robert Redford until he got past that "cute as a puppy dog's tail" stage. I like a man with a bit of a roadmap on his face.

Of course, all bets are off when it comes to Johnny Depp *G* I'm a sucker for a man who really LIKES women. And you can tell Johnny Boy really does like the distaff gender.

Marie Tuhart said...

I agree with both of you :)

The show was a bit of a disappointment, but I'll give it a couple more shows before I write it off. I remember the first time Star Trek: The Next Generation aired, and it was very bad. But it did get better.

The hero is cute, but the show will have to become better for me to keep watching.

David Roth said...

I'm OK with it once I get past the reality that this is "Forever Knight" set in LA instead of Toronto.

Maya Reynolds said...

DAVID!!! There's no comparison. Nick Knight makes Mick St. John look like a wimp.

And the commodities trader doesn't compare with Nick's vicious friend (whose name escapes me).

David Roth said...

Agreed - but then, that 'Knight' was pretty much independent. 'Moonlight' is network, hence the difference in originality and quality.

Maya Reynolds said...

David: You're absolutely right.

I remembered Nick's friend's name--LaCroix. I was always amused by his name given the fact that they were vampires.