Entertainment as King, Believability as Servant

A World of Imagination

image from ewao.com

There are people like Spock in the world.

The rational, logical, sensible, reasonable people, who would point out that the preceding sentence is invalid based on its inclusion of an imaginary alien.

A mind so logical it leaves no room for the nurturing of the imagination.

Yep, those types. The boring ones, who, when confronted with something beyond the rigid rules of their beliefs, respond as Susan did when she entered Narnia: “Impossible.”

I used to be this way, an oldest child full of cold-hearted logic and a refusal to let my imagination go anywhere because I needed to be rooted in the solid ground of reality.

Thankfully, I’ve been cured, and now I can’t get enough of the unrealistic stuff. It’s like being a prisoner freed from the chains restricting him to explore the possibilities the world has to offer.

I know most of the things I find awesome will only ever exist in books and movies, but that doesn’t matter.

  • I don’t care that it’s illogical and impossible for something to be bigger on the inside, or for a wardrobe to lead to a magical land where animals can talk.
  • I don’t care that fantasy worlds exist only in the mind.
  • I don’t care that people can’t fly, survive a plane crash into an ice field, or sprout blades out of their knuckles.

Here’s why:

1. The main purpose of books and movies is to provide entertainment

Unless we’re talking historical fiction or a story that takes place in our world according to the way it currently functions, sticking to the rules of reality is secondary. That’s why it’s called fiction.

We’re conditioned for this. We willingly suspend reality when we enter the land of the imagination. We know it’s not real, and that’s okay. It’s not as if we read books and watch movies expecting everything to reflect reality as if it’s a mirror.

As long as the story sets up the rules of operation for its particular world and doesn’t violate them, we can enjoy it without freaking out every ten pages or half-hour when something unrealistic pops up.

This allows us to accept magic, superpowers, time travel—things that make the world of entertainment a better place.

2. Impossibilities ignite the imagination

Imagine a Eustace-shaped world, where all the books are “books of information,” where pictures can’t transport us to another place. A world void of imagination, creativity, and “cool” things in favor of the hard shell of Vulcan logic.

How boring would that be?

Books that lack themes or have content shallower than your summer kiddie pool could be better. The best stories happen when compelling plots, real-life characters, well-drawn settings, and profound themes mesh in a beautiful and moving way.

But entertainment isn’t about revealing truth, speaking on certain issues, or persuading an audience in a certain direction.

That’s a by-product. The scenery on the road trip but not the destination.

As Jeff Gerke says, books (and by extension, movies) have only one purpose: engage the reader. That’s why we read fictional tales, and it’s why preachy books are frowned upon as fiercely as weeds in the flowerbed.

If I want a sermon, I’ll go to church, thank you.

I’ll admit, as a spec-fic lover, I’m biased in this area, and I know people can enjoy less bizarre fiction. Nothing wrong with an honest historical novel.

But we can’t discount certain books and movies because they have ghosts, dragons, x-ray vision, or a plethora of other impossibilities. That’s the fun of it.

So unshackle yourself from the demands of rationality and let your mind be free to imagine, dream, and explore.

Why do you think entertainment is more important than believability? To you, what’s the chief purpose of books and movies? I would love to hear your thoughts.


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