When you pick up a book or watch a movie a certain suspension of belief must take place to make the story real for you, the audience. The writer has to touch the audience’s emotions and make them care. Otherwise the world isn't real and you can’t buy into the characters, and therefore the story.
An audience is a tricky thing. While they willingly suspend belief when reading or watching a story, if the writer doesn't stick with the rules set out in the initial world building or the characters act contrary to those implied rules, your audience becomes irate. Writers, regardless of the medium, have to maintain a strong plot and character continuity especially in series. In a book, this is usually the point where I tend to toss the book across the room in disgust, “You have got to be frickin’ kidding me!”
My husband and I were having a discussion on the matter of suspending belief and writers, especially Hollywood writers, who have no regard or respect for their fans. Well, to be honest, it was more of a…heated debate.
As I mentioned last week, I've been watching the first season of Grimm. I really like it because it’s a mix of my favorite genres—police procedural, suspense, kick ass action, romance, paranormal, and a touch of fantasy. I’m a season behind Dan. I've actually seen parts of season two. I know more of what’s going on because when my husband gets disgusted with certain things writers pull, he has to tell me why something isn't working.
|Grimm season premiere promo|
In season two of Grimm one of the main characters, Juliette, has lost her memories of Nick. This is a result of a spell. What is unsettling, to my husband, is the way the writers have changed the character’s core personality because it plays false to the original world and character building.
Season one the writer’s spend quite a bit of time establishing Juliette as a strong and confident woman. She’s funny, feisty, supportive, and she’s likable. In season two she becomes a wimp and unlikable. If you read some of the show’s fan forums it’s apparent that Dan’s disgust is felt by many of the fans. They don’t like her anymore and they want her gone.
I suggested that part of the core change would understandable. If these two characters were living together for three years and their lives were so closely entwined, if separated it could leave her feeling out of sync —at least subconsciously. That sort of dichotomy could, logically, assault her sense of confidence and self worth and cause fear and other personality changes. She may not know what happened consciously but unconsciously pieces and sense of time are missing. Dan maintains there have been no foreshadowing or psychological clues of that sort of disorientation happening. He further maintains, as do many of the fans, that if she can remember everything but Nick, her basic personality should remain the same and have the benchmarks that would have drawn Nick to her in the first place.
I do understand his frustration. I've felt the same about popular shows. Like Lost (purgatory? Really?) and this season’s Bones. C’mon, this latest villain is a computer “genius” with more power and capability than is possible in the real world, even with a team of people at his disposal. The idea of one man having all that power, genius or no, is ludicrous. The writers have played false to the initial premise of their world building and the intelligence of their audience.
|Star Trek wall poster|
Another is Star Trek and the latest version of the stories for the last two movies. Basically, J.J. Walker has rewritten established franchise history. I've been a long time fan of the Star Trek franchise. I spent a great deal of the first movie thinking or saying to my husband, “wait a minute that never happened. How can they do that?”
What happened, of course, is Walker (with writers Orci and Kurtzman) created an alternate timeline version of Star Trek. He made a choice to develop an alternate reality created by time travel. They needed the original story elements and characters (and fanbase) but wanted freedom from the franchise continuity constraints. Okay, I get it. It’s still disconcerting. I can suspend belief under those circumstances.
Dan and I laughed midway through our debate over people in movies, TV shows, and books. These aren't real people and yet we discuss them as if they were. It’s all fiction and meant to entertain. Writers feel justified in taking leeway with established characters in the name of entertainment.
Fans are a tough audience, though, and loyal. They feel betrayed when writers step out of sync with their favorite characters or world. When that happens, even if the story is good, they are distracted by the inconsistencies. They’re not buying into the story or the characters. Chances are the writer has lost not only the trust of their fans but also a portion of their established audience.
What are your thoughts?