Deliberate Flaw Retcon YKTTW Discussion

Deliberate Flaw Retcon
The flaws in a work are deliberate (or so they claim)
(permanent link) added: 2012-02-06 05:34:30 sponsor: Folamh3 (last reply: 2014-01-04 07:16:37)

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So your new film is coming out, and you're really proud of it. It's got interesting characters, an original storyline and unusual, stylized visuals. The only problem is, everyone hates it. Critics accuse the characters of being flat and one-dimensional, claim that the visuals are so heavily stylized that it's impossible to tell what's going on and that the pacing of the film is impossibly scattershot and all over the place. So what do you do?

You can acknowledge that the work had its flaws that really could have used a bit of ironing out. Or, you can retroactively claim that the "flaws" in the work were entirely deliberate. The characters aren't really one-dimensional: they just seem that way because the audience is viewing events from the protagonist's POV. The heavily stylized visuals aren't done for their own sake; they're a way to visually represent that the protagonist is colour-blind (even though this colour-blindness is never actually mentioned in the film itself). And the Pacing Problems aren't unintentional, they're a way to show how boring and monotonous growing up poor in 1950s Yorkshire was.

Naturally, some will believe you, and some won't.

Essentially, this is any work which, once consumer or critical reaction came back negative, had its failings handwaved by claims that these failings were intentional. These claims can be executed by the creators of the work or by fans of it, as the case may be. The motivation for the supposedly intentional flaws can vary a great deal: some writers will claim that their work was intended as a parody or satire, others that it was meant as a homage to an earlier work. For bizarre and incomprehensible works, some writers will claim that the audience being confused and alienated was the entire point (for whatever reason). There is no end to the variety of excuses a dedicated writer can invent.

Compare Stylistic Suck (which is what people employing this trope often claim to be doing) and Intended Audience Reaction (in this case, the creators intended one reaction but retroactively to have had a different one in mind when creating the work). In software and video games, compare Ascended Glitch (which is when an unintended glitch is made a deliberate feature in a later instalment). Parody Retcon is a subtrope (specifically, the claim that the work was meant to be understood as a parody or satire, even though it wasn't). A relative of I Meant to Do That and "Just Joking" Justification. See also Poe's Law, Author's Saving Throw and Irony. Can be related to Indecisive Parody and Indecisive Deconstruction. Contrast Springtime for Hitler.



  • Most of Tommy Wiseau's excuses for The Room fall under Parody Retcon. However, when asked about the character of Denny, he claimed that Denny's strange, abnormal behaviour was deliberately written in order to indicate that Denny was mentally retarded (even though none of the characters in the film seem to find his behaviour particularly out of the ordinary).
  • Space Mutiny. Cisse Cameron tried to claim it was intentional Stylistic Suck, but nobody's buying it.
  • This article argues that M. Night Shyamalan's decidedly poorly-received film The Happening is a work of genius, the "flaws" being deliberately worked in to subvert the tropes of the B-Movie horror genre.
  • Used on many occasions by the writers of the 2009 Star Trek to justify numerous inconsistencies with the franchise, for example about the Vulcan sky suddenly being blue (It's a season thing now) or the Federation spaceships being way too advanced for their time period (The Starfleet engineers made use of scans from Nero's 24th century mining ship).


  • Terry Pratchett claims that any plot holes or inconsistencies in the level of technology in the Discworld are the result of the History Monks messing with the timeline (although this might be an example of this trope being Played for Laughs).
  • Claims that the incomprehensibility of House of Leaves (and presumably many other "difficult" works as well) is the entire point of the work itself are not uncommon.
  • Orson Scott Card, in his introduction to Ender's Shadow, says that any differences between that book and Enderís Game are "deliberate, to show the differences in the experiences of the two children." And then lampshades it by saying, "As my programmer friends would say, 'There are no bugs, only features.'"
  • Certain fans of Rex Stout's work (think Nero Wolfe) have been known to ascribe any continuity errors in it to deliberate homage of Arthur Conan Doyle's writing style (whose Sherlock Holmes stories Nero Wolfe borrows heavily from) .


Video Games

  • Yahtzee of Zero Punctuation sometimes does this on behalf of games he's particularly fond of, such as claiming that the clunky, awkward combat in the Silent Hill series is deliberate, because the protagonists of each game are not combat-trained and because the game is scarier as a result of the poor combat.
  • Certain fans of the series have made serious claims that the mostly-text second disk of Xenogears is for artistic merit rather than being something the creators did when they ran out of time.


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