Monday, February 18, 2013

The Quibbler

I favorited a tweet last week about The Vampire Diaries. One of my tweeps observed that Elena—who’s a vampire—was carrying water on her hike, asking, “Why are you carrying water, Elena? Do you drink water?”

I laughed when I read it and was like, hehe, I noticed that too—go us! But then a few days later I read Dalton Ross’s article in this week’s EW: "How We Transformed Into Nitpick Nation.” Ross points out that we don’t just watch TV anymore, we nitpick: our fingers are on constant alert poised over our keyboards, ready to point out the next gaffe or implausible scenario.

He’s not wrong. I mean, I was feeling all smug about noticing that a vampire doesn’t need water, and feeling a sense of community that I wasn’t the only one. Meanwhile both of us clearly watch a show every week that’s about not only teenage vampires but also werewolves and the only reason Elena was hiking in the first place is that all the characters are currently on some ridiculous nature quest LOOKING FOR A MYSTICAL CURE FOR VAMPIRISM.

Why isn’t that the part that bothered me?

I could go all smarty pants and claim that I’ve engaged in what Coleridge called the willing suspension of disbelief in order to enjoy the story. And I could claim that the audience has a right to expect that the writers will adhere to self-consistent rules within the confines of the crack-smoking crazy universe they’ve created. That’s great and all, but I’m afraid it still doesn’t change the fact that Ross is right—I’m part of Nitpick Nation.

I think nitpicking probably goes with obsessive fandom like soup with crackers. First, if you watch something more than once, you’re going to notice little stuff. If you make your hobby splicing scenes into gifs, you’re going to notice even more. And then there’s the fact of the online forum. In Olden Times, when we might have discussed our favorite shows in person at school or work the next day, it was perfectly acceptable to rehash major plot points. But by the time you log on to Tumblr, the major stuff will likely already have been covered. We all want to contribute something new to the conversation. So we need to look closer. It becomes important whether or not our characters are carrying logical beverage choices. For example. 

Ross also points out in his article that entertainment used to be viewed as disposable. We were watching a movie on the National Film Registry in my Media Studies class last week. One of the archivists mentioned that one major studio actually threw away all their silent films in the fifties, because there was no thought that anyone would ever want to see them again. Imagine the idiot who made this decision in a room full of modern-day film history buffs. They’d tear the poor dude into pieces. Today, we watch and re-watch. We buy blu-rays, we download. The notion that a given piece of entertainment is only designed to fill one hour of airtime, and then never be viewed again is a thing of the past. This truth makes programs such as Buckwild or Dance Moms more difficult to understand.

But maybe no matter how much we nitpick, some mysteries just can’t be solved. 


  1. I find myself guilty of this too, especially for those shows I've watched numerous times. I like to think that it's at least partly a writerly exercise to scan for the implausible, the plot hole, the anachronism. But yeah ... sometimes it's just nitpicking and we need to focus on getting lost in the story.

  2. I like your take--we're just being writers! I just really thought the EW article was talking to me this week ;)
    I usually do want to get lost in the story--maybe the flip side is those inconsistencies are what pull us out of the story world.

  3. On the other hand, I tend to nitpick certain shows with friends who are big geeks and fangirls (just like I am). We love TVD, without doubt, but it's the little nitpicky moments that can be so much fun for us. (Like, why are the vampires all bundled up in winter coats? Are they cold?) Maybe it helps us not take it all too seriously, maybe it just shows that yes, we pay so much attention to the shows we love that we notice the absurd little details -- and enjoy them too.