Suspension of disbelief

Warning: Minor spoilers for Jurassic World.

Recently, I was involved in an online discussion about Jurassic World. In particular, we were talking about the scene where Claire outruns the T-Rex in heels. Someone pointed out that a T-Rex could run 35 MPH. Someone else commented that the problem with a lot of people today is that they’ve lost the ability to suspend their disbelief. I completely disagree with that, but it got me thinking about suspension of disbelief.

Jurassic World is a science fiction about DNA. I can accept that they can find DNA in preserved mosquitoes and other, unnamed sources. I can accept that they can combine DNA from different dinosaurs to create a super dinosaur. I can accept the ridiculous idea that if you add DNA from a fish that could camouflage, suddenly, the dinosaur can camouflage. I can even accept all the stupid decisions the people that designed and ran the park made. (Really, you’re going to have balls for people to ride around it, completely in control of the customer and NOT have a way to recall it?) In this kind of movie, you expect things like that. Even the outrunning the T-Rex in heels wouldn’t have been so bad if the fact that she was wearing heel hadn’t been specifically pointed out that she was wearing heels and that it was a terrible idea. Suspension of disbelief only stretches so far.

Suspension of disbelief is essential for genre fiction. You have to be able to accept that ships can travel through hyper space. You have to accept that magic is real. The story, particularly the first 25-50%, tells you the rules of the world. It establishes the parameters by which everything works. In essence, it tells you what things you must suspend your disbelief on. You can’t suddenly add new rules at the end. That’s what breaks suspension of disbelief. All the ridiculous science in Jurassic World is fine because it’s established early on that it’s a movie about ridiculous science. Where in that is the ability for a woman to outrun a T-Rex in heels? It doesn’t exist, which is why in a movie about cloning dinosaurs and genetic engineering of new species, so many people focused in on a 60 second scene about a woman with improper footwear.

1 Comment

  1. Greg Little
    Jul 27, 2015

    Nice post. You get to the heart of the issue. Though in defense of the movie, I’m not sure the kind of shoes would matter in the end 😉

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