Archive for December, 2015

This is a true story …

Wednesday, December 16th, 2015


As a child I remember going along to our local cinema to watch the Saturday morning ‘flicks’. In one of the episodes, Batman was in a truck that then drove off a cliff. This was the literal cliffhanger at the end of the reel and we all had to wait until the following week to discover what happened to him. As it looked impossible for him to escape death in that particular scenario I was keen to learn how he got out of that fix.

A week later I watched intently as the next episode unravelled. He escaped by jumping off the truck just before it went over the cliff. Unfortunately for the filmmakers, I had a pretty good memory and I could vividly recall the final shot from the previous week where the truck went over the cliff with no sign of Batman leaping off anything.

As I left the cinema I felt uneasy, like something had been stolen from me.

Then as a teenager, I remember watching ‘The Shining’ at the cinema. For those that haven’t seen it, malevolent ghosts affect a writer and his family who are caretaking a snowed-in hotel over winter. There is a point in the film where the wife manages to lock the husband in the enormous larder once she becomes aware of his murderous intentions. At one point a ghost appears to the protagonist in the form of a voice from the outside of the larder. The ghost convinces the prisoner to commit murder then unbolts the larder door to free him.

It was at precisely this point that I lost interest in the film.


Because the suspension of disbelief had been destroyed. The premise was that the ghost influenced the husband with murderous ‘thoughts’. Once the ghost managed to perform a physical act, the premise was made redundant – if the ghost can move metal, it can wield an axe too and so the use of a human agent to realise its evil intentions becomes unnecessary – the ghost might as well perform the murder itself.

Then recently, as an adult, I was watching an episode of The Bridge, a Scandinavian detective series, highly regarded by critics and viewers alike. In one scene, the main protagonist—Saga, apprehends a dangerous suspect. She handcuffs him whilst her male partner catches up with her. It then cuts to the police station where the trio march into an office within the police station. At this point, Saga unlocks the handcuffs and turns away from the suspect who promptly produces a concealed weapon and starts shooting.

The point of this scene was to demonstrate how incompetent Saga had become in her duties as a police officer. Except, the lapse was absurd. Searching a dangerous apprehended suspect is so obvious that it is beyond basic training. And even if she had missed this fundamental procedure because of a deranged mental state, her partner would surely have noticed that she hadn’t searched him and reminded her.

Then we have the police station. Presumably there is a procedure for processing the suspects brought to the station for questioning and part of that procedure must include a logging of their possessions before they enter the building so even if Saga had neglected her duties, the station would have forced a search.

I won’t even start on the popular CSI franchise that has so many unrealistic plot devices that it must be categorised under ‘fantasy’.

So why am I so upset by this lack of veracity in this and the other examples I’ve given? Well, apart from ruining a good drama, it also signals a much bigger problem I’ve noticed in society at large – the abdication of analytical thought by the general public.

If the public is prepared to accept any absurd plot hole without question then it’s not unreasonable to extrapolate that they will just as willingly accept any creaky story that is offered to them by the media or representatives of authority. Either a story ties in with reality or it doesn’t. An uncritical acceptance of an ‘official’ story is bad for democracy.

So now we have a society where literally anything can be explained away by one simple story.

Take for example, the financial crash of 2008. I remember the panic-stricken news reports at the time of crisis meetings in the US where the bankers were trying to rescue the situation they had created by giving themselves even greater powers of authority. Today however, I learn that this story has been adapted to discredit a British Labour government; apparently they caused the crash by ‘overspending’. It is, of course, no surprise that it is an opposing government that is spreading this lie. Don’t let the ideologies confuse the understanding of the issue– a Labour government can lie just as readily as any Tory or Liberal government.

My point is that it is such an obvious lie but yet it still needs to be explained to people who (presumably) experienced the crash for themselves and watched the real story on mainstream media news. It begs the question, why don’t they remember the original story? If a false story is repeated often enough will people alter their own memories?

And the effect is cumulative; with every story that passes without criticism or analysis, the perpetrators realise that they can get away with even bigger ‘plot holes’ or even employ fictional stories altogether that don’t even make complete sense in themselves.

Maybe I’m over-reacting in this analysis but I remember now what it was that made me feel so uneasy when, as a child, I walked out of that cinema on a Saturday morning all those decades ago; I had been robbed of my innocence.