Saturday, April 26, 2008

Continuity Error Freaks

Here is a place where you could spend the rest of your miserable lives.

I say this knowing that the 'Continutity Error Freaks' (CEFs) thus addressed might feel just a tad peeved. Still, I am unrepentant and without much affection for those practicing Continuity Freakery on a more than 'casual' basis, but also partially in a spirit of compassion. After all, as a constructor of complicated worlds I really have to have moments of Continuity Freakery myself, or else my stories would really suffer.

But Continutity Freakery as an activity for its own sake is a lot like Art Criticism. It serves no other purpose but to self-glorify the CEF (that's the Continuity Freak) by demonstrating to himself and the rest of the world just how clever he is, and at the same time taking down the story-teller by a notch or a lot of notches. And, yes, I know, some CEFs justify their activity by saying that CEs just 'irritate' them or that they're just a bad thing or something dumb-ass like that. But what people say is rarely directly representative of what they really do, intend or feel and think.

The sad thing—or just a bit of instant Cosmic Justice, depending on how you look at it—is that by focusing on continuity errors CEFs basically lose the plot; pardon the pun. It doesn't matter whether the plot being criticised in question is good or bad, meaningful or trite and shallow, has hardly any continuity errors or is riddled with them. The moment one drills holes into it in what is usually a mean spirit, the plot and the story is lost to the driller.

So, I ask these people—and I could also ask Art/Music/Movie/Literary Critics the same thing; but they're beyond salvation, so I won't waste my time or breath—the same question I've discussed some blogs back:

What do you want?

Specifically, what do you want out of a story—be it verbally told, from a book, or told in a movie or play? Like many other things in life that's a decision most people don't even know they are making. Why? Because by and large it's not the kind of thing people think themselves about. Least of all—if I may get another gratuitous stab at these Foxtrots again—professional, or just habitual, critics.

Thing is, there are good and worthwhile things to be gotten out of the vast majority of stories told across the spectrum of 'media' available today; even those stories qualifying, on certain levels and viewed from certain perspectives, as...well, I'll be kind and call them 'deficient', often severely so. The truth is that it often—maybe 'usually'—doesn't matter. Because there is what there is and there is what the recipient perceives as being there.

The best advice for anyone being in a position to have to decide whether to become or continue to be the recipient of a story, in whatever medium, is to just stop when it doesn't 'speak' to you anymore. Things is, when it reaches that stage, even if you continue, often only from stubbornness or a sense that that's what you're obliged to—but why should you be 'obliged' to do anything 'optional' like that?—the likelihood that you've closed yourself off to receiving anything useful from the tale is so great that you might as well close the book or walk out of the movie. So you wasted a few dollars. So what? Is it really worth it, just to get your investment's worth, to waste the most precious commodity in this life—time—on something pointless like that?

There is, of course, a remote possibility that something will come up that will change your mind, or show you stuff that completely turns around your perception of the story you're reading or watching or whatever. That possibility is always there. It's yours to assess and act accordingly. In my experience it is too small to be considered a guide for action. I'd rather close the book.

But if you chose to watch something you found tedious, pointless, unappealing, uninspiring or devoid of anything that would speak to you...if you chose to watch it to the end anyway, then have the good grace to acknowledge that it was your choice. Don't gripe about its deficiencies; though you may well bemoan the reality of life and the media world that allows enormous sums being spent on producing some irredeemable shit, while many better things linger in obscurity. That's just the way things are. Best you can do it help to promote the good stuff with whatever means are in your power, and basically ignore the crap. Because energy expended on trashing crap is wasted. It doesn't promote the higher-quality competition. Never has.

Which is why, with a very, very few notable exceptions, avoid reading or writing negative Amazon reviews. And taking a movie to bits because of its continuity errors... Hey, life is full of Continuity Errors. Haven't you noticed?

Oh—and, just in case you wonder, as well you might, what I was doing on moviemistakes.com, I chanced upon by reference from an Amazon review of a movie. And, no, I have no intention of gracing it with more of my time than the 5 minutes or so I wasted there. Really, folks, what's the damn point? There have to be better things to do with one's life.

Ahh, yes, now that's another topic altogether...

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