Created By: sadmac on November 24, 2012 Last Edited By: sadmac on November 25, 2012

Characters Don't Suspend Disbelief

Even other characters in the movie don't find the action scenes believable when they hear about them second hand.

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Trope
The Hero has just invoked Rule of Cool seven times in a single ten minute action sequence. His daring escape has involved acrobatics on an upside down airplane, turning a nearby tank of flammable gas into an improvised jet pack, and single-handedly defeating an army of henchmen using nothing but plastic utensils...

...and when someone tries to explain this to anyone who happened to be off screen at the time, it comes out sounding just as ridiculous as it is.

Strangely enough, characters in works that seem to tax our suspension of disbelief to no end sometimes seem to operate on the same notion of "plausible" that we do, and when something that happens offscreen is explained to them, they don't believe it any more than if your friend had told you Superman had stopped a trainwreck on the six'o'clock news last night.

Related to Cassandra Truth

Examples

Film
  • In License to Kill James Bond is able to frame a henchman for stealing a large amount of drugs from The Big Bad. Part of the evidence is that when the henchman describes how James stole it, an action sequence involving water skiing behind a sea plane then climbing up and punching out the pilot, The Big Bad immediately assumes he's lying.

  • In The Dark Knight, when an underling at Wayne Enterprises finds out that Bruce Wayne is really Batman, he tries to blackmail Lucius Fox or else he'll tell the public. Lucius, despite knowing the truth, merely laughs in his face at the idea that anyone would believe the CEO of a major corporation was dressing up as a bat and fighting crime.

  • Subverted in Superman. Police officer Mooney has just told his sergeant about his encounter with the title character.
Mooney: Sergeant, you don't believe me. I swear! Flying, with a big red cape! And bright red boots as well! Quick as a wink he was gone! Flew up in the air again, he did. Like a big blue bird.
Sergeant Dolan: [snip] Like a big blue bird.
Mooney: You don't believe me.
Sergeant Dolan: With bright red boots. [snip] Why don't you take the night off and go back to Murphy's bar and continue what you started. I'll be off myself in a few minutes and meet you there myself.
[They go outside and see Superman flying away]
Sergeant: Mooney, the first bottle's on me. I'll get my hat.

Community Feedback Replies: 16
  • November 24, 2012
    SeptimusHeap
    One, these examples should be linked to their work.

    Second, No New Stock Phrases please.
  • November 24, 2012
    WeAreAllKosh
    I've read, and I understand, the explanation for why there are to be No New Stock Phrases (we don't want to confuse merely saying a particular line with an actual trope), but I've observed that something like a stock phrase can sometimes be the most concise way to title a trope. This particularly--how would you, in just a few words of title, describe what this trope is in non-dialog language? Big Bad Doesnt Believe Henchmans Explanation For Failure is already a lot of words, and even that doesn't nail it down specifically enough.

    I'm generally of the philosophy that rules are guidelines--as sometimes, they don't work. What non-stock-phrase title would you give this? And it appears to be a good trope--I get what it's aiming for anyway.
  • November 24, 2012
    SeptimusHeap
    As far as I know, No New Stock Phrases is a hard rule. And for the record, I don't see how this phrase relates to the description at all.
  • November 24, 2012
    WeAreAllKosh
    Make A Cassandra Out Of might work. I ignored the Dark Knight example because I haven't seen the movie, but now looking at it, this trope isn't just about turning Big Bads against seemingly-failed (or doublecrossing) henchmen (fitting the Bond example above, and something I've seen on Burn Notice a lot), but it does seem to be about doing seemingly impossible things, and exploiting the unbelievability of the situation to generate suspicions where you want to, or otherwise make it difficult for someone to be both truthful and believable. Again, hard to phrase or describe concisely. Make A Cassandra Out Of may be as concise as you can make it, but that is only useful as a verb.
  • November 24, 2012
    WeAreAllKosh
    Actually the Bond example is related to Framing The Guilty Party--in this case, framing a Dragon or other targeted henchman (who's done plenty of other evil stuff) in the eyes of his Bad Boss, so a sort of variation of category 1. Also a form of Divide And Conquer.

    I guess this trope is related to the method (doing the seeming impossible to exploit disbelief) rather than the overall ends, because the ends in the two examples differ considerably. The Dark Knight example also involves doing the impossible, but this time for no specific purpose of framing (Batman does what he does all the time)--rather, pointing out to someone that they won't be believed if they spill the beans on it, so they might as well not bother.

    The only things that relate the two examples are: a) doing the seeming impossible, and b) relying on the fact that any witness to it won't be believed. Which may make a good trope in and of itself. Would Go Ahead Cassandra be an acceptable title (since, while in dialogue-type language, this is something that at least to my knowledge was never a line actually used in a work), or does "stock phrase" mean anything that sounds like it could be dialogue?
  • November 24, 2012
    WeAreAllKosh
    Sorry for all the thinking-out-loud here--just trying to flesh this out.
  • November 24, 2012
    WeAreAllKosh
    Maybe Exploiting Disbelief--now that's concise. Is it too broad (because it could be exploiting likely disbelief in anything, not just incredible physical feats), though?
  • November 24, 2012
    CarrieVS
    I think this is a subtrope of Genre Blindness. It also sounds a little like an inversion/subversion/something of This Is Reality, where they dismiss something true as unrealistic.

    Based on that, some title suggestions:

    This Is Not Reality; This Reality Is Unrealistic

    Any good?

    EDIT: Is is specifically about the Big Bad refusing to believe it, or is that just the most common situation?
  • November 24, 2012
    Arivne
    The first two paragraphs of the description should be re-written so they aren't just about a henchman talking to the Big Bad about the Hero's exploits. The trope isn't limited to that, but the way it's written people who read it will think it is.

    Im Telling You He Just Flew Away violates No New Stock Phrases because it sounds like a line of dialogue, i.e. something a character might say. Note that Head Em Off At The Pass would also be illegal, since it's a Stock Phrase in old Westerns.

    Sometimes, after the authority figure doesn't believe their subordinate's story, undeniable proof of the truth of the story appears and convinces them that their subordinate was telling the truth.

    Film
    • Subverted in Superman. Police officer Mooney has just told his sergeant about his encounter with the title character.
    Mooney: Sergeant, you don't believe me. I swear! Flying, with a big red cape! And bright red boots as well! Quick as a wink he was gone! Flew up in the air again, he did. Like a big blue bird.
    Sergeant Dolan: [snip] Like a big blue bird.
    Mooney: You don't believe me.
    Sergeant Dolan: With bright red boots. [snip] Why don't you take the night off and go back to Murphy's bar and continue what you started. I'll be off myself in a few minutes and meet you there myself.
    [They go outside and see Superman flying away]
    Sergeant: Mooney, the first bottle's on me. I'll get my hat.
  • November 24, 2012
    WeAreAllKosh
    ^ Re: "Note that Head Em Off At The Pass would also be illegal, since it's a Stock Phrase in old Westerns."

    See that's the thing about that rule though. How else would you phrase the tactic of heading off or flanking an enemy at a natural passage in the terrain?
  • November 24, 2012
    SeptimusHeap
    Stealth Flanking Maneuver or something akin to this?
  • November 24, 2012
    acrobox
    what about Unbelievably Awesome or something along those lines, Have To See It To Believe It, It Sounds Crazy
  • November 24, 2012
    Pig_catapult
    So this trope is kind of hanging a lampshade on Willing Suspension Of Disbelief via a character in the work not suspending their disbelief when told about something second-hand, making it a very specific variety of Cassandra Truth.

    . . . I am personally drawing a blank for a name that's both Clear and Concise, let alone Witty. >_>;;

    Edit: Too Cool To Be True ?
  • November 24, 2012
    Stratadrake
    Definitely needs a better name still. "Internally Implausible" has nothing to do with, say, Internal Consistency or Contrived Coincidence (or worse, Fridge Logic or Plot Hole).
  • November 24, 2012
    sadmac
    Updated with yet another name. Of the suggestions, Too Cool To Be True and It Sounds Crazy are also decent.
  • November 25, 2012
    Arivne
    This is very close to The Truth Sounds Crazy, another proposal currently on YKTTW. Maybe they should be merged?
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