The Trope Name is clear. The seems like the description was clear at some point but has since meandered. The examples are now primarily of the of the 'apparent' type as defined below and are cases of YMMV without clarification. The page quote for instance, referencing Firefly is one such case since in Firefly, spaceships are science fact. "I should know, I live on one."
Not sure what to do, I did an analysis of the trope, which will hopefully illustrate the issue. The analysis might also be a workable first draft to clarifying the trope and was written with that intention. Still learning local formatting code however.
Arbitrary Skepticism is a conflict, real or perceived, between belief and skepticism in a character. Contrast to Skepticism Failure, which is a fictional universe designed to humiliate a skeptic by having something supernatural or pseudoscience be true.
Arbitrary Skepticism can be sub-divided into instances perceived by the viewer or in-universe.
Apparent: Arbitrary Suspension of Disbelief; Where A is common in-universe, but B is skeptically received. - Example: A is superheroes with powers in a super-hero-verse, B is a 'ghost'. To the viewer B might be as plausible as A, but in universe the ghost would be a suspected super if not a hoax, the result of telekinesis, intangibility, illusions, etc.
Example: Using Space-ships to make psychics sound plausible in a setting where space-travel is common. This is equivalent to invoking toasters in the real world to make psychics sound plausible. It only works is space-ships or toasters run on psychic powers, in which case it doesn’t belong in this trope.
Reason: In a setting with FTL travel, FTL is science fact, not fiction. In a setting with magic, magic is not supernatural, but a part of that world(e.g. natural). Hence Twilight Sparkle, a talking unicorn pony, giving a speech to a young dragon that supernatural things aren’t real. This Lampshade Hanging on this trope seems to have caused Mindscrew instead.
Apparent: Arbitrary Plausibility; Where A was something not believed to be true, but turned out true. Typically A being true is a given reason to give B a chance. Proof for A doesn't prove B however, only A. - Example: Advanced robots were found to exist, but mentioning a talking gorilla gets odd looks. It might turn out to be a robot after all.
Example: Flash in Justice League mentions he met a talking gorilla and quickly counters skepticism by mentioning he has a martian on speed-dial and deserves the benefit of the doubt. Sometimes invoked unfairly be demanding the new thing be believed immediately.
Reason: Proof of A is not proof of B. Exception/Aversion when A is B (e.g. Cursed Teapot, therefor maybe Ghosts, as opposed to Robots therefor Ghosts). Viewers will report this because of expectations for Fantasy Kitchen Sink/All Myths Are True, “If aliens, why not ghosts and psychic powers?”.
Actual: Sacred Cows; Where A and B are both fictional, but A is believed without question, but the character is skeptical of everything else. Reality is Unrealistic is an Aversion(A is actually true, it just seems ridiculous).
Neti Pot and Brain Eating Protist are both true, this from a science comic that often debunks ‘Alternative Medicine’.
Example: A vocal/obvious skeptic casually believes in something supernatural or pseudo-scientific. If House or Monk casually mention belief in ghosts/aliens/bigfoot/faith healing, etc, they would be examples.
Inverted: Skepticism of something real, like pirates in the Bones example. This might more accurately be skepticism of modern portrayals of jolly swashbuckling pirates, but not being clear on the point becomes this.
Actual: Arbitrary Belief; Where A is obviously true but disbelieved while B is believed without proof. Common in any story where some supernatural group hides their existence, and a local normal frequently sees plenty of proof, but they are saved because that normal believes in something else.
Example: A super-hero knows someone in normal life that is an occult fanatic, but thinks super-heroes in spandex outfits are essentially a stupid hoax. Will end up at least once believing a super to be something occult, like mistaking a flying brick for a vampire. Occult may or may not be true in universe, it's the dogged disbelief in the obviously real group that matters. Likely to become a running gag.
Clarification: It doesn’t matter whether A is common knowledge in-universe or not, only that A is common knowledge to the viewer. Example: Fairies in Fairly Odd Parents. If A isn’t common knowledge in universe, then the character affected needs clear evidence of A which is then ignored or reinterpreted to prove B.
(Contrast) Weirdness Censor affects the general public, Arbitrary Skepticism is one person or a small group doing this.
edited 25th Apr '12 3:18:13 PM by ValorPhoenix