Showmanship vs. Craftsmanship
Which is more important: polish or productivity?


(permanent link) added: 2013-06-04 16:20:39 sponsor: krimzonflygon (last reply: 2013-06-04 17:30:29)

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This trope is the backing of a classic confrontational scenario. In one corner you have a guy who is REALLY good at what he does. Cooking, blacksmithing, whatever, what he makes is the most triumphant example of what it's supposed to be as far as function is concerned. The food tastes like heaven, or is so nutritious you can feel yourself getting stronger even as you eat it. The swords he forges can slice through solid buildings with one cleave.

But they sure don't look good doing it.

The food may taste good, but it looks like slop, or tastes so vile you can barely keep it down, nutritious as it may be. The sword is just a sharp hunk of metal: no luster, no shine, just what is necessary to keep it as sharp as it needs to be. As far as the creator of these things is concerned, the true measure of something is how well it does its job, not how flashy it looks doing it.

In the other corner, you have the other guy. He may not be as good a chef or blacksmith as the first guy. In fact, he may be downright terrible. But whatever he does, he looks REALLY good doing it.

His food may taste horrible, but makes for great photographs, and watching him juggle knives while preparing it always brings a smile. His swords may not be battle-worthy, but hanging them on your wall will get all the neighbors talking about just how beautiful it is. This guy is the polar opposite of the first guy, putting style over substance.

So what happens when these two clash in, say, a Cooking Duel? Really depends on the tone of the work. Sometimes, style beats substance, sometimes substance beats style. Sometimes they find a happy middle, learning from each other and making something that does its job well and looks good doing it.

Examples:

  • Pokemon has an episode with two trainers running two restaurants. In the Style corner we have a Mr. Mime, who puts on a show with its Psychic powers while creating food that looks heavenly but tastes horrible. In the Substance corner we have Sneasel, who creates crude, sloppy looking food that tastes wonderful. In the end, they find a happy medium.

  • Soul Sacrifice takes this to its logical conclusion with the story of the Cyclops. Originally a blacksmith, he created crude-looking weapons and armor that was renowned as the best around. He rationalized that a weapon's worth was measured in how well it kills things, and thus do not require decorations. Then a younger blacksmith appeared who put Style first, creating slightly inferior products that looked dazzling to the eye. The people decided that Style was more important, choosing the younger blacksmith over the older one. Incensed, the older blacksmith sold an eye to the Chalice, wishing for the ultimate weapon, which manifested as a hideous trident covered with eyes that homed in on its targets. The townsfolk were, as expected, disgusted. Enraged, the blacksmith decided to prove his weapons were the best by slaughtering everyone he met.
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