As a fan of science fiction and fantasy, I know that a suspension of disbelief is required to enjoy a story. Even one set in modern day New York City is going to ring a bit untrue to many of us unless we’re willing to accept that it’s not going to be perfectly accurate in every way. The whole point of fiction is to transport you to another world, so even if it happens in a location that exists, the events aren’t bound by our reality.
It’s part of the fun, letting go of what you know and jumping into a world created between the covers of a book, or on a television or movie screen. But, even in those worlds, things still have to make sense. If you establish that cars can fly, then they all have to fly unless you have a really good reason why one is stuck on the ground. It’s the same for motives and actions. They have to make sense within their own world, or the story simply falls apart. Which is why it drives me nuts when good is dumb.
I know, the good guys can’t have all the answers the minute a story starts or there isn’t a story to tell. They have to find clues, uncover conspiracies, and discover the truth a little at a time. But, if the character is a cop who’s been on the force for twenty years, then he ought to be able to notice the guy telling an obvious lie if the audience notices. I think Lord Dark Helmet said it best in Spaceballs. “Evil will always triumph, because good is dumb.”
There are a couple of shows out there right now that are suffering horribly from this problem. In Once Upon a Time the sheriff is completely oblivious. Sure, she gets that the Queen/Mayor is evil, but she’s incapable of trapping her in a single one of her convoluted lies. She’s been outsmarted so many times that I’m actually beginning to root for the Mayor. If our tight-pants wearing, perfectly coiffed, sheriff just spent a few extra minutes thinking instead of primping,then maybe she’d figure things out. But no, she’s completely clueless.
Another show that has nearly killed me with dumb is Terra Nova. Now, admittedly this show is just killing me in general and may be disappearing, but when you have the tech to get yourself transported to an alternate past Earth, shouldn’t you be smart enough to survive? If there are dinosaurs that like power cables for dinner, then use your fancy tech to shield the stupid cables or bury them deeper. Really, just a wee bit of common sense and the medical tent would be a lot less busy.
I want to root for the good guys. I really do. But when good is dumb, I start hoping evil not only wins, but stomps good into the ground and pulverizes it into dust.