Created By: Folamh3 on February 6, 2012 Last Edited By: Folamh3 on January 4, 2014
Troped

Deliberate Flaw Retcon

The flaws in a work are deliberate (or so they claim)

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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.

Examples:

Film

  • 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).

Literature

  • 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 Ender's 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) .

Music

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.

Other


Community Feedback Replies: 25
  • February 6, 2012
    Duncan
    Alanis Morissette claims that the lack of actual examples of irony in her song "Ironic" was intentionally ironic.
  • February 6, 2012
    Topazan
    • 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.
  • February 6, 2012
    LoopyChew
    Seeing as "retcon" has a very specific meaning to it (short for "retroactive continuity," or something that alters existing canon), the title should probably be changed to something else. Deliberately Flawed Work, maybe?
  • February 6, 2012
    Folamh3
    Loopy Chew, I only chose it because the same terminology is already in use for the earlier trope Parody Retcon. Besides which, "Deliberately Flawed Work" sounds like something akin to They Plotted A Perfectly Good Waste rather than this trope, which is about people claiming their works were deliberately "flawed".
  • February 6, 2012
    JobanGrayskull
    I would recommend something like Deliberate Flaw Retcon or Stylized Flaw Retcon, and I do agree that you can use the word "retcon" to refer to the meta-continuity of the work.
  • February 6, 2012
    Folamh3
    Deliberate Flaw Retcon is fine by me, but until someone can think of an appropriate alternative to "retcon" we'll have to stick with that for now.
  • February 6, 2012
    arromdee
    I've seen 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.
  • February 6, 2012
    DracMonster
  • February 6, 2012
    MichaelKatsuro
    The Zero Punctuation example should be changed to avoid I Am Not Shazam.
  • February 6, 2012
    SKJAM
    "It's not a bug, it's a feature!"--Attributed to Microsoft executives.
  • February 6, 2012
    KamenZero
    Tommy Wiseau. Once The Room came out, and was criticized for it's bland acting, story, and everything, Wiseau claimed it was done on purpose to make it a comedy of sorts.
  • February 6, 2012
    captainpat
    If this is gonna require Word Of God, then it's trivia.
  • February 7, 2012
    Folamh3
    captainpat, I agree. Come to think of it, Parody Retcon should probably fall under that designation also.
  • February 7, 2012
    TBeholder
    One, there's Authors Saving Throw. Two, this boils down to "I know what the author really thought!"
  • February 7, 2012
    Folamh3
    T Beholder - Authors Saving Throw is slightly different. Authors Saving Throw is about retconning the effects of an unpopular creative direction within the continuity of the work itself, whereas this trope is about a writer trying to excuse an unpopular creative decision by retroactively claiming that the decision came about by intention rather than by negligence or by bad writing. Supposing you have a show, and one episode introduces a new heroic character who is widely disliked by the fanbase. If the character subsequently disappears without explanation the next episode, that would be Authors Saving Throw. But if the author retroactively claims that they intended for the character to be disliked (in spite of a lack of evidence that this is the case) that would be this trope.

    And I'll admit the trope is partly subjective in that one can never know for certain what an author's intentions were while creating the work. But one can make an educated guess. The criteria for this trope are similar for the criteria for Parody Retcon. Good signs that a writer is simply retroactively claiming that their work was intended as a parody include: the work not being marketed as a parody, the writer not being well-known for their parodic or comedic works, the writer giving no indication during production that the work was intended as a parody etc. The same applies here.
  • February 9, 2012
    moriwen
    Orson Scott Card, in his introduction to Ender's Shadow, says that any differences between that book and Ender's 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.'"
  • February 9, 2012
    Irrisia
    Might want to fix that last example, you've got Enders Game listed twice instead of Ender's Shadow the first time and Ender's Game the second.
  • October 20, 2013
    Alvin
    I don't know how to use this, but I read on an A&E(the network) board once that some people ascribe any continuity errors in Rex Stout's(think Nero Wolfe) work to a deliberate attempt to imitate A. Conan Doyle's(whose Sherlock Holmes stories Nero Wolfe borrows from) style.
  • October 20, 2013
    captainpat
    we never use "This Troper" on this wiki. Hold on, why does fan reaction matter? Do you want this trope be trivia or an audience reaction.
  • October 21, 2013
    Ominae
    • The second season of Hikonin Sentai Akibaranger has a series of retcons that don't match with the first season. Since it's a parody of sentai shows, this is intentional and it gets to be a major plotline.
  • October 21, 2013
    Folamh3
    You're right, I don't know why it says "This Troper" there. I intend this to be a Trivia trope - really, Parody Retcon should be as well, but isn't listed as one for some reason.

    There's a crowner here to list Parody Retcon as a Trivia page, if any of you are interested in voting for it it'd be appreciated: http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/posts.php?discussion=7hmzjqzf8jytltqvjdadxidj&page=41#1006
  • October 21, 2013
    DAN004
    Compare Ascended Glitch when a glitch (the flaw in this case) is made deliberate later.
  • October 22, 2013
    tardigrade
    This article http://www.denofgeek.com/movies/26050/looking-back-at-m-night-shyamalans-the-happening argues that M Night Shyamalan's "The Happening" is a work of genius, the 'flaws' being deliberately worked in to subvert the tropes of the B-Movie horror genre. I'm not 100% sure I'm convinced. But, if it is simply a bad film, I'm shocked at just *how* bad it is. So maybe there is something to this.
  • December 26, 2013
    Himbeergeist
    • 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) .
  • January 2, 2014
    DAN004

Three days must pass before this YKTTW is Launchworthy or Discardable

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=ms6rklw5g5go9iw9yrmp5hf1