More clarification apparently necessary: Mac Guffin

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So, we have a good definition up at this point for a Hitchcockian or classic maguffin. What would the rock-solid definition of this new class of maguffin be? After that is established, we can look at soft split versus hard split. There is clearly a distinction.
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27 KorKhan4th Jan 2011 03:14:42 PM from The Sun's Orbit
I think I agree with Dragon Quest Z on this one. Keep MacGuffin, the established term, flexible and use it as a Super Trope for any of the narrower definitions (i.e. use the term in the same way as George Lucas, Peter Jackson or Roger Ebert). This allows us room to analyse the more specific subtypes - including the "classic" or "pure" definition of the "Hitchcockian MacGuffin", as well as the "useful" or "plot-integrated" MacGuffin.

The "Hitchcockian Macguffin" and the "Plot-Integrated Macguffin" would be mutually exclusive. The "plot-integrated" version simply shares almost all the characteristics of the classic MacGuffin as an object that drives the plot, but with the important distinction that it possesses some plot-important functions that may become especially valuable for the resolution.

edited 4th Jan '11 3:20:40 PM by KorKhan

Is there a single word that means "connected at the end"? That's how I always imagine it- the Holy Grail and the Lost Arc get brought in at the end in order to help them feel important and worth the attention.

Gosh, my vocabulary is awful.
Don't just tell us the facts; tell us the memes, tell us the archetypes, tell us the catchy ideas and symbolic roles that get planted in pe
29 DragonQuestZ4th Jan 2011 04:41:11 PM from Somewhere in California
The Other Troper
But the All-Spark in Transformers is useful before the end, so even that isn't a requirement.
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I kind of like the Green Destiny Sword analogy made earlier. Yes the MacGuffin was used but the scene could have been done with an ordinary sword and achieve (more or less) the same effect.

I think the idea behind the modern incarnation is that writers are crafting a story and the exact nature of the "MacGuffin Analog" is subject to be altered according to the final draft. That's where Lucas' MacGuffin remark originated from, as he was deciding upon what to make Indiana Jones go after in the next film while the script was still being developed. I think with more traditional Mac Guffins the actual item is decided upon with little thought to what it has to be (especially something like "Government Papers").

As another example, the AllSpark originated as the Matrix Of Leadership (which was never seriously considered because of The Matrix) and then became The Energon Cube and was just a massive power source. Even in the final film although it has the power to give machines life (and does so) it's actual use in the finale isn't so much different as if they used the Maltese Falcon as a blugeon.
So, a Plot Coupon is something that has to be recovered and used to advance the plot (it's necessary to continue the journey; your adventure is effectively on hold until you get the appropriate Plot Coupon), while the general MacGuffin supertrope is "something that drives the plot", which is divided into Classic Mac Guffin which is simply desireable in and of itself and Useful Mac Guffin which is sought after to achieve a specific purpose.

In other words, a Plot Coupon is simply an intermediate step on the way to your ultimate goal, while a MacGuffin is the ultimate goal, either because it's a Classic Mac Guffin and they just want to own it or because it's a Useful Mac Guffin and they want it to do something with it. In Ocarina of Time, Link collects the Spiritual Stones (Plot Coupons) in order to get to the Triforce (a MacGuffin) before Ganondorf, who wants to use its power to conquer Hyrule (which makes it a Useful Mac Guffin). If they were instead fighting over, say, a golden statue of Tingle, then it would be a Classic Mac Guffin.

As an aside, is MacGuffin actually capitalized like that, or should it be "macguffin" and we just CamelCase-ified it to make it a Wiki Word? I have no idea what the etymology of the word is.
32 shimaspawn5th Jan 2011 07:24:27 AM from Here and Now , Relationship Status: In your bunk
It's a MacGuffin, one word, technically. One word like the Scottish name. I actually kind of like your idea of the two subtropes of it. Classic (going back to Hitchcock) and Useful (looking at it from the more modern perspective).

edited 5th Jan '11 7:24:43 AM by shimaspawn

Reality is that, which when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away.

-Philip K. Dick
And then there's examples that kind of blur the line, like the crown in Tangled. Mostly, it's just there as something to fight over/ chase Flynn over/ use as bait for Flynn etc, a classic MacGuffin. However, there is the one scene when Rapunzel tries on the crown that later plays a small role in helping her realize she is the lost princess. The plot would have probably worked exactly the same if the crown had been some other kind of valuable object instead, but it does technically have significance to the plot that it is the crown of the lost princess and not something else.
34 Madrugada5th Jan 2011 08:46:25 AM , Relationship Status: In season
In Tangled, could the crown have been a "lost necklace of the princess" or "lost cloak of the princess" and have the scene work the same way? Then it's a Classic MacGuffin — what the item is doesn't matter, only that the item exists.
...if you don’t love you’re dead, and if you do, they’ll kill you for it.
35 shimaspawn5th Jan 2011 11:53:59 AM from Here and Now , Relationship Status: In your bunk
Yeah, I agree with Madrugada, Tangled was a Classic MacGuffin. It could have been the signet of the royal family just as easily. Just because something does something minor in the plot doesn't mean that it's not interchangeable.

edited 5th Jan '11 11:54:21 AM by shimaspawn

Reality is that, which when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away.

-Philip K. Dick
36 Daremo5th Jan 2011 02:42:28 PM from Parts Unknown , Relationship Status: If it's you, it's okay
The Cat Who Walks by Himself
Troping Marches On, eh?

Of the options presented so far, I'd favour the soft split, being more on the side of descriptive than prescriptive, though I don't consider a hard split wholly bad. But based on just this topic, there's going to be considerable confusion and overlap between the two.
The Creed of the Happy Pessimist:Always expect the worst. Then, when it happens it was only what you expected. All else is a happy surprise.
So, are some people proposing that MacGuffin go the way of Mary Sue?
38 KorKhan6th Jan 2011 02:44:32 AM from The Sun's Orbit
Not entirely. If we take this approach, there shouldn't be that many subtypes- there are just two so far, and I don't see us needing any more. Also, if we can make good, clear definitions, MacGuffin should be a perfectly objective and uncontroversial trope. Mary Sue is notoriously subjective and YMMV.
Truthfully, it looks like the vote is going the way of a soft split as opposed to a full split, so it isn't even that big of a change.

I think I have a semi-workable way to define them:
  • Classic Mac Guffin- The exact nature and capabilities of the item are irrelevant to the progression of the plot. It merely exists as something that motivates people to be involved and may even be discarded or discovered to be worthless before the end.
  • Useful Mac Guffin- The exact nature and capabilities of the item are very well defined and those powers may even be used within the story. The key is that the exact powers, name, origin and/or the physical form can be altered with no discernable impact on the core of the plot.

IE the Lost Ark could have been just about any other Artifact of Doom and it still would have killed the Nazi's at the end, the fact it is the Ark of the Covenant doesn't matter.
Oh I thought we were going for: is used for the most part like a classic Macguffin but is eventually brought in to fulfil a plot role with some arbitrary or magical property.
Don't just tell us the facts; tell us the memes, tell us the archetypes, tell us the catchy ideas and symbolic roles that get planted in pe
^ That's more or less what I was trying to describe, just said in different words. The core of the plot is the same but the item is used for a key moment.
42 KorKhan22nd Jan 2011 09:25:47 AM from The Sun's Orbit
Slight necromancy on my part again, so apologies. I was just wondering if we'd reached an agreement with this. Are there any objections to the idea of splitting off "macguffin classic" as a subtrope? Would it also be necessary to split off "useful macguffin", or can we just keep that in the (more general) main article?

If we're okay with this, we could think about making a YKTTW for "macguffin classic" soon.
43 DragonQuestZ22nd Jan 2011 10:53:01 AM from Somewhere in California
The Other Troper
No, the useful one should be split as well. It would be wrong to make the original version separate, but not the new one.
I'm on the internet. My arguments are invalid.
My interpretation of the Lucas version is that the item is interchangeable. It may do something, but anything else would do. For example, Indiana Jones could have gotten Jesus's Wizard hat, and it still could have had the exact same powers.
Everyone Has An Important Job To Do

45 DragonQuestZ23rd Jan 2011 12:07:58 PM from Somewhere in California
The Other Troper
Yes, both interpretations state the form doesn't matter. The point is that one definition is no effect, and that another is that there is some effect.

It's the difference between the glowing thing that kills in Repo Man and the glowing thing that people are willing to kill for in Pulp Fiction.
I'm on the internet. My arguments are invalid.
By the way, the latest NostalgiaChick video had a debate about the Hitchcockian and Lucasian Definitions of MacGuffin, if anyone is interested.
47 DragonQuestZ23rd Jan 2011 01:37:26 PM from Somewhere in California
The Other Troper
I found she did an actual strawman with Douchie, in that her argument was weak (the old "well this guy has a degre" line), so needed a counterargument that was even worse to make her's look good.

Just going to leave it at that though, since I think we all agree on splitting the two types anyway.
I'm on the internet. My arguments are invalid.
48 Madrugada23rd Jan 2011 02:12:30 PM , Relationship Status: In season
...if you don’t love you’re dead, and if you do, they’ll kill you for it.
49 ccoa23rd Jan 2011 02:22:44 PM from the Sleeping Giant
Ravenous Sophovore
I prefer the option to make MacGuffin a supertrope, since the term is evolving.
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50 Madrugada23rd Jan 2011 02:30:30 PM , Relationship Status: In season
It already is a supertrope. There are about twenty subtropes listed on the MacGuffin page.
...if you don’t love you’re dead, and if you do, they’ll kill you for it.

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