Archived Discussion

This is discussion archived from a time before the current discussion method was installed.

Sneebs: i09's take on the matter

Adonic Meki: "Although, put of the device is used to deal with a man in a diving suit" - I can't wrap my head around what this is trying to say.

Looney Toons: Yeah, I was going to ask about that myself — it looks like the writer started one sentence and ended a different one entirely.

LTR: He's trying to say "part of the device is used to deal with a man in a diving suit"

Incase you haven't seen the movie, the ATAC computer had a small self-destruct charge built into it to prevent it from falling into enemy hands. The ATAC operator was killed before he could trigger it, so it never went off. Bond pockets the explosive charge, and later uses it to blow up a bad guy who attacks him underwater in a fullbody dive suit.

And personaly, I don't think the ATAC is a Mac Guffin, it's the whole motivation for the movie, we know from the beginning what it is, and what it does and why Soviet spys are killing people for it. We know exactly what will happen if they get thier hands on it. There's no element of mystery or "what the heck is it" that surrounds mysterious cases whos contents we never see... It's no more a Mac Guffin that the stolen nukes in Broken Arrow , yeah, they don't do anything other than get stolen so the hero can chase them down, but they're hardly inconsequential

Whogus The Whatsler: An air of mystery isn't necessary for a MacGuffin. Even if it's described in great detail and is truly interesting and the consequence of the heroes not obtaining it/destroying it/doing whatever they need to do with it are dire and well-emphasised, it's still a MacGuffin if it's the thing that makes everyone do what they do, that gets people moving. For instance, the One Ring from the Lord of the Rings novels and films has been described as the ultimate MacGuffin.

Morgan Wick: That defintion may be a bit broad. For me, a MacGuffin also has to be, ultimately, immaterial to the plot. It doesn't have to have an "air of mystery", it's just utterly exchangable for anything else without having any appreciable impact on the plot. If the One Ring were a credit card, for example, Lot R wouldn't be much different a story. But if Joe and Adam are fighting with George over the captured scientist Mike, and Mike ultimately has a significant part of the story, you kind of have to make significant rewrites to your ending if you replace Mike with the Ultimate Weapon.

(random passer-by): The origin of the term "MacGuffin" is from an old joke they used to tell in Scotland a few generations back, and maybe still do.

Man walks down road with huge sack slung over his back. Curious and nosy person walks up to him and says: "What's in the sack, my friend?"

Man carrying sack says, "It's a MacGuffin."

Nosy person says, "A MacGuffin? What's that?"

Man with sack replies, "A MacGuffin is a trap for hunting lions. I'm on a lion hunt, you see."

Nosy person exclaims, "But there are no lions in Scotland!"

Man with sack replies, "There aren't? Then this must not be a MacGuffin," and continues on his journey without saying another word.

Does this imply that it's only proper to call something a MacGuffin if the scriptwriters never made it explicit what it actually was?

Ununnilium: Originally, but the term's evolved away from that.

(random passer-by): More MacGuffin stuff can be found here,

It seems to go back at least to the silent film era as an acknowledged plot device.

ralphmerridew One MacGuffin detecting trick I've found helpful is to try separating the parts of the story relevant to the object from the rest of the story, or try switching it with an object from another story. If it's possible to do that cleanly, the object was a Macguffin.

Seth: Doesn't the finish myth qualify this as one of The Oldest Ones in the Book?

grixit: Or the Golden Fleece. All that gets done with it is to display it like a trophy. At least you can use the Holy Grail for healing.

Branfish: Is there any way to remove the space from this article's title? We could still have a redirect from "Mac Guffin", but since there isn't meant to be a space in the term, it just looks clumsy.

Gorgon: Huh. No. The space between Mac and Guffin has nothing to do with wiki-wording. It is left there to piss off Scots. Just for the fun of pissing off Scots.

Arilou: Shouldn't the Ankaran Sarcophagus from Vampire: The Masquerade: Bloodlines be mentioned? It is most certainly a MacGuffin (with a nice twist at the end....)

That Other 1 Dude: Didn't Katara's necklace also end up showing Pakku that she was the granddaughter of the woman that ran away so she didn't have to marry him?

Levi: I am not sure that the One Ring counts as a MacGuffin, considering the fact that its powers of invisibility and corruption are important to the plot at numerous points, as well as the fact that it makes Frodo's journey increasingly difficult by becoming an increasing physical and mental weight as they come closer to their goal.

KJMackley: I don't think the current Avatar example fits the trope at all. The MacGuffin has nothing to do with its relationship with the characters, but with its placement in the story. Aang is a Fetch Quest item to Zuko, but hardly a MacGuffin.

KJMackley: I added a mythology example, and erased the Cloverfield and Avatar examples. For Avatar, the fact that Zuko couldn't care what it is that restores his honor doesn't make it a MacGuffin. For Cloverfield, you can't exactly change it into a tiny, killer rabbit and have the same effect. The characters don't have any clue about the origin of the creature and supplimentary material really doesn't count.

KJMackley: I began a discussion on trying to define this trope better, since many of the examples wouldn't count under the strict Hitchcock definition. It didn't really go anywhere, so I just added a note about the Mac Guffins that can actually do something like the Indiana Jones objects. This was just so that the examples fit. There was a mini-debate on whether the One Ring counts as a MacGuffin under even the modern variation. I believe it is, because even though it has a justification for why people desire it, the invisibility power doesn't become invaluable to the story progression. The story is about everyone wanting the ring, not what the ring does. To avoid an Edit War, I just made it a debatable suggestion instead of a hardfast yes/no.

The island in Lost Could be added.
Vampire Buddha: Did a chainsaw edit on a bunch of stuff, and here's why:

A variation of the MacGuffin has it being valuable and/or its' powers being clearly defined, then being used at the climax of the story. That it was just a desired object for most of the story doesn't subvert this trope.

No. That's wrong. The most important part of the definition of a MacGuffin is that it doesn't actually get used in the story.

* The Dragon Balls in, well, Dragon Ball start off as MacGuffins in the first season, but move away from this later as the specific nature of the balls and the dragon they summon becomes important.

Yeah, but they end up being used to bring several characters Back from the Dead and thus directly affecting the plot. Not MacGuffins.

* In Outlaw Star, in a manner similar to One Piece, there is The Galactic Leyline is somewhere in the galaxy and is really important and everyone, from theives to the government want to find it. Most people think it has lots of treasure, but in reality it some kind of sentient being that can manipulate reality (as in grant wishes) andwas created by an advanced, and long extinct race. The main characters want to find it, and the bad guys want to kill them so that they don't find it first.

But the characters reach the leyline, and end up using its power. Just about not a MacGuffin.

** After running into Mewtwo, this troper would be wary of opening strange pokeballs, too.
** Apparently the GS Ball was going to have Celebi in it and lead to some big arc, but when Celebi got the head role in the Fourth movie, the arc got scrapped. They dumped the GS ball with Kurt and hoped fans would forget.
** A far better example, Pikachu itself is a living MacGuffin. Half of the plots involve Pikachu getting lost or stolen and needing to be rescued, especially by Team Rocket (Who, might I add, have been chasing this specific Pikachu for over ten years just because it is "special" for reasons which have never even been described). Possibly this frustrates Ash.
*** It's considered "special" because Team Rocket, in their first appearance, mistook the Power of Friendship for just plain power.
*** Maybe it IS just plain power. Ash has been training that Pikachu for ten years straight, it's bound to be level 99 by now...and let's not forget, it regularly beats Pokemon against which it has a Type Disadvantage.
*** Should be, but isn't. He also regularly loses to Pokemon he has a Type Advantage against.
This is the kind of natter we don't tolerate round these parts, boy.

** What do you mean, "no reason whatsoever"? It's the Winslow. That's more than reason enough.
*** Not to mention that it's immortal, one of a kind, indestructible, all good things to be if your're a religious icon. And the Winslow is capable of speech, at least the word "Hi".

So's that.

* One could cite the ATAC from the James Bond film For Your Eyes Only in this. Although part of the device is eventually used to deal with a bad guy, its real purpose is to drive the plot. It doesn't stop the movie from being a good one.

If it gets used, it's not a MacGuffin. This one sounds somewhat ambiguous, however, so I invite someone who knows that film better to prove me wrong.

* Debatable is the One Ring from The Lord of the Rings. While it is mostly an Artifact of Doom that needs to be destroyed, it does grant the ringbearer certain "gifts" and corrupts even good men into desiring its power.
** The Ring's "personality," its jumping from owner to owner and trying to corrupt people to its will leads this troper to see the Ring as more of a Captured Super Entity.
** More so are the eponymous Silmarils in the Silmarillion. They engender psychotic possessiveness in most of the characters and thus drive most of the plot of the second part, but they don't do anything.
*** And it's not so much magic as just greed, because they're SHINY.
*** Actually, the Silmarils Glow In The Dark, with a light that is somehow different than sunlight. And when Melkor seizes one, it burns his hand bad. And when that wolf-thing eats one... Ouch. Remember, Power Glows.
The One Ring is not a MacGuffin. Yes, the story is about everyone trying to get their hands on it, but Frodo uses it to become invisible at several points. Using an item disqualifies it from MacGuffinhood

* The Traveling mirror of The 10th Kingdom serves a very important purpose in the story. It is introduced at the very start of the story, and remains a key element until the very end, as it is the only means by which the heroes can return home (or so they think). But its theft and subsequent passage from one set of hands to another is what drives the plot of the whole movie, forcing the heroes to journey across the Nine Kingdoms and setting everything else in motion, landing it firmly in MacGuffin territory. This is even lampshaded twice: once, just after its disappearance from Little Lamb Village, Wolf thinks to himself in the novelization that "magic liked to move around". The second time, even more blatantly, after the heroes have sneaked into the Evil Queen's chambers to find the other Traveling mirror, Virginia exclaims, "We've been led here all along! It was never the mirror. It was just a way to bring us here, to meet her!" (The Evil Queen)

Now, see, the very fist sentence of this example proves that it isn't a MacGuffin. It also ends up being used right at the start of the story, so it doesn't qualify.

* The arch-villain in Bioshock turns out to be a diversion (thought not a Dragon) from the real Big Bad.
* Dracula, in the Castlevania Series of video games. The reason Dracula keeps coming back is mainly, excluding the crazies who resurrect him, because of a stone that contains his soul; ironically, it is also what gives him his vampiric powers, a result of another soul residing with his.
* Master Li in Jade Empire is somewhat of a MacGuffin ... first you are on a lengthy expedition to rescue him, only to find out that he has used you as a MacGuffin, kills you, thus furthering his use as a McG - as you must then get revenge against him and "fulfill your destiny".

Really, how can a character be a MacGuffin? Especially one who affects the plot to the degree that Dracula does?

* Uncharted: Drake's Fortune has Nate searching for the titular fortune throughout most of the game, even though it serves as a pretty important plot point towards the end what with it making people into crazy zombies and all that.

If it directly affects the plot of its own nature, it's not a MacGuffin.

* While we rarely think on this in our everyday lives, money is actually a fictive entity of value. Basically, the only reason money can be worth a slice of pizza is that the pizza-guy is willing to accept it in exchange. The materials money is made from could make kindling, insulation, or weapons and electronics, but still. Money is a MacGuffin. And I'll be damned if I'll let you anywhere near mine.
** Actually, if this troper recalls correctly, money is slips of paper because it was a lot harder to carry around actual items of trade, gold, etc. etc. with you everywhere and evolved from bank notes which represented an amount of gold the person possessed. And while this troper sometimes sees the value of gold as something of a MacGuffin, it does have its own practical functions and to my understanding is actually not THAT valuable when compared to say, titanium.

No. The entire purpose of money is to be exchanged for goods and services. Not a MacGuffin. The nukes are, however.

Neenee: So what is the trope for a character that is hunted by everyone because of his special powers? It's not a real MacGuffin, but it's not really MacGuffin Girl or The President's Daughter either. Do we have a trope for it?
Eriksson: Added a picture. Now, if I could just get said picture to work properly...

Masami Phoenix: I made some changes to the Kingdom Hearts entry. The Keyblade itself is not a MacGuffin, as it's importance and practicality throughout the series is clearly visable (it can lock the hearts of worlds, it can fight the darkness, etc). Sora himself is definitely not a MacGuffin, as he's found way too early in the plot (and does way too much on his own) to be considered that. Finally, Kairi is only a partial example. In the first game, she acts like a MacGuffin for the first half of the game, but once you rescue her she does several important things, such as rescue Sora, and then gives him a powerful weapon. In the second game, she's way too active to be a MacGuffin, as she helps Riku regain his light and helps fight the heartless.

KJMackley: I know this would likely be controversial but I feel it is important to detail this. The original macguffin is irrelevant to the story, but many well-respected professional filmmakers and critics have identified macguffins that actually have power and even a climactic influence on the plot. The Indiana Jones items have actual powers that are used and identified as such by Steven Spielberg and co. Roger Ebert has refered to the one ring and the Allspark as being macguffins. Peter Jackson and co. also called the one ring a macguffin. It may not fit the classic definition but when legitimate professionals use the term in that way who are we to argue.

PLEASE clean up the games examples. If something is not used by the protagonist / is not part of gameplay and only used in a cutscene it is so not a McGuffin. About half examples should not be here.