Friday, March 15, 2019

Defying the Laws of Physics

Imagine you're speeding down the highway and a police car suddenly appears in your rear view mirror, lights flashing. You panic. With pounding heart and a mouth as dry as the Sahara you frantically try to pull over--right as the cop screeches past you into the night.

I felt sweaty just writing that! Look, I've gotten a ticket before and it's no big deal but the lizard part of my brain freaks out anyway. You'd think I had a body in the trunk or something. Which leads me to my point--how detective shows want us to believe a person would just go about their business after committing a heinous crime. When the worst thing a character ever did (before committing murder) was jaywalk, how did they suddenly turn into a sociopath? Where's the guilt, the remorse? Where's the Lady Macbeth trying to wash the blood off her hands, or the narrator who hears the tell-tale heart of his victim beneath the floorboards?

Every work of fiction asks the reader to suspend their disbelief to a degree. The author may condense time or sprinkle in some amazing coincidences, but the reader doesn't mind. The reader wants to believe. Otherwise, there would be no Harry Potter, no Game of Thrones. But there is a line that cannot be crossed, at least for me. Okay, two lines. The first is the Hannibal Lecter syndrome I just described. The other is when the writer defies the laws of physics. When a hundred pound woman kills her rival and moves her body down several flights of stairs and then hauls her away in a car to bury her in the woods I lose my mind. I can't even carry ten pounds of groceries that far. Yet it happens all the time, people effortlessly moving bodies hither and yon without anybody seeing them. Not only that, there's an episode of Castle where a woman supposedly hangs a body upside down from a catwalk. I need to know who her personal trainer is. Why isn't she entering body-building competitions instead of murdering people? She missed her calling.

One of my favorite scenes of tongue-in-cheek self-awareness is from the film, My Cousin Vinny, where Vinny questions a witness.

Vinny: How could it take you five minutes to cook your grits when it takes the entire grit-eating world 20 minutes?
Mr. Tipton: Um... I'm a fast cook, I guess.
Vinny[across beside the jury] What? I'm sorry I was over there. Did you just say you were a fast cook? Are we to believe that boiling water soaks into a grit faster in your kitchen than any place on the face of the earth?
Mr. Tipton: I don't know.
Vinny: Perhaps the laws of physics cease to exist on your stove! Were these magic grits? Did you buy them from the same guy who sold Jack his beanstalk beans?

Yes, Vinny, the laws of physics do cease to exist on TV, but if you miss them you can always switch off the TV and pick up a book. No, that won't work either. Why don't you carry a heavy bag of groceries up and down the stairs and then bury it in the woods? I promise you the laws of physics won't disappoint.

1 comment:

  1. you'll be when youNi ascend
    in the Rapture (defying the law).
    With Almighty God,
    anythnz possible...
    even my spelling's
    ferociously horrendous
    Cant wait to see you Upstairs, dear.
    God bless you.