Idiot Plot, I believe, depends more on a viewer's Willing Suspension of Disbelief being shattered (which is probably much of the reason why this is labeled YMMV). The plot depends so much on the characters doing illogical things that those characters (and, consequently, the story premise itself) become much more incredibly difficult, if not completely impossible, for one to willingly believe in. When Roger Ebert coined the term, he was certainly insinuating that an Idiot Plot is, indeed, a bad thing largely for this very reason.
You have an excellent point there, especially since it's not our term originally. If we restrict Idiot Plot to situations where the plot depends on character idiocy to the point where it damages suspension of disbelief, though, I feel like we need another name for situations where it doesn't, if only so we can tell people where to put examples like Romeo and Juliet. I'm not your guy for thinking up names, unfortunately.
Okay, so it's been weeks since I contributed. I don't think the precise number or percentage of the cast being stupid is really relevant to whether something is an Idiot Plot. However, if one (normally smart) person is just being a complete moron for the duration of the story — as in the Iron Man example I gave earlier — I have a really hard time calling that an Idiot Plot. He got handed the Idiot Ball for the duration of this one story, but he's only one of a large cast. An idiot plot seems like something that requires most of the primary cast* to be out of whack. At the very least, a majority of them. I think an Idiot Plot is almost always a bad thing (if it's not intentionally done for comedy value). It implies that the writers couldn't find any way to make the plot happen, besides just having nobody able to think up a way out of it, when one or more solutions are obvious to the audience. Romeo and Juliet are making a lot of bad decisions, but it doesn't seem to rise to the level, at least to me.
- When I say primary cast, I mean the ones who are most central to the story. Star Trek may have nearly a dozen regulars, but a given story usually revolves around only three or four of them.
edited 5th Oct '12 2:34:07 PM by Escher
It'd be much easier to keep Idiot Plot as simply about the idiocy without bringing viewer opinions into things.Heck, it would be "easier" for all YMMV and Audience Reaction articles if they didn't bring viewer opinions into things... but then they also wouldn't be YMMV concepts or Audience Reactions anymore. Without making this about all existing YMMV's and Audience Reactions though, is there any compelling case to be made as to why this page should be uniquely isolated and turned into a completely objective article above all others? The one big thing that I think sands in our way of doing that is, to repeat what elwoz said, this isn't our original term. Idiot Plot being a pre-existing term that we didn't originally define, I think, means it would be next to impossible for us to make radical changes to the definition, unless we can also radically change the name.
edited 5th Oct '12 4:24:00 PM by SeanMurrayI
A Wizard boy
Yeah, if this has a Wikipedia page, I'd say that a complaining cleanup is the maximum we can do.
There's precedent for TV Tropes "neutralizing" pre-existing terms that were meant as insulting in the past (for instance, Manic Pixie Dream Girl). And beyond that, I just don't see why "plots stemming from everyone being an idiot that audiences dislike" should exist separately from or in place of the simpler "plots stemming from everyone being an idiot".
Because it isn't "plots stemming from everyone being an idiot that audiences dislike". It's "plots stemming from everyone being an idiot that make it difficult or impossible to willingly suspend disbelief".
edited 5th Oct '12 9:13:46 PM by SeanMurrayI
It has been said there are examples that are just complaining. Mind pointing them out?
the complainer who is always wrong
I can you right now this is a thing, I re-call reading a book in High-School where the entire progression depended on stupidity, there were several point where the story would have ended if anyone did anything smart or reacted realistically to what was going on.
"It's not that simple. We are all both, good and evil, we have rage and compassion, we have love and hate...murder and forgiveness."
Oh, it's definitely a thing. (I could have sworn it was in the Turkey City Lexicon, too.) I think Mackley's distinction between the two is the best so far - I don't approve of redefining it. It seems like trying to fit more things into the definition that don't naturally belong in an attempt to make it critically useless.
World's Toughest Milkman
I think we're mostly agreed here. The term is a pre-existing one, even listed on The Other Wiki, so we can't change the definition. As for complaining and misuse, those are things that can always be cleaned up without asking for TRS permission. I see no reason to keep this thread open. However, we might want to fix the mention of this on Idiot Ball, because I don't think it's accurate, and it may be contributing to the misuse.
"Existential Despair" is an oxymoron.
There's precedent for TV Tropes "neutralizing" pre-existing terms that were meant as insulting in the past (for instance, Manic Pixie Dream Girl).I still see no reason why this needs to be so specific, particularly in a negative way.
There's precedent for TV Tropes "neutralizing" pre-existing terms that were meant as insulting in the past (for instance, Manic Pixie Dream Girl).I'd love to see what a "neutralized" definition of Mary Sue looks like. The closest I can think of is, as phrased by Wikipedia, "a character who is inexplicably unable to fail at anything they attempt". Which misses a whole boatload of additional baggage and connotations that are not just associated, but almost required to satisfy the term.
edited 15th Dec '12 11:00:15 AM by Stratadrake
I think part of the problem here is that readers/viewers/audience members seem to have an unspoken "understanding" that everyone involved in the story is always smart or level-headed enough to do the "smart thing" to resolve the plot quickly. Of course, there's always the fact that YOUR idea of "the smart thing" to do would be even worse than whatever it is the characters end up doing, which means maybe they're not being idiots after all. For example, someone noted how in Scooby-Doo, the protagonists never bother to stop and thwack the monster of the week with a crowbar. The implication is clear: It's just some old guy in a mask and the gang should really stop being scared of everything by now. I'm fine with that. However, the trooper's specific solution involves thwacking the monster with a crowbar, and I have two problems with this specific approach. Problem the first: A well-aimed crowbar attack will likely KILL whoever's in the costume. The Scooby gang becomes a roving pack of murderers by thwacking every idiot in a costume they see. Wouldn't fly as a kid's show, and realistically, ending up in jail for manslaughter ISN'T a smarter idea than running away. Problem the second: On the off chance it really IS a monster or a ghost? You've just pissed it off -and- made yourself vulnerable. (Or maybe it IS an old guy in a costume, but the costume provides enough padding to deflect a crowbar swing, and now, realizing that this kid is trying to KILL him, might just up the ante and try to kill the kid first instead of just scaring him off) Sounds to me like running away to collect your head, gather clues and plan a trap is a far smarter thing than accidental manslaughter or pissing off a legit monster. There's also another factor to this I have issue with. Watching/reading fiction is a lot like watching a sport. Like in American football (or any spectator sport), you usually have a three-quarters, birdseye view of the field. And a lot of times, you're like "Go left, go LEFT, the coast is clear you can break away- aw crap" and the guy gets tackled. HE doesn't HAVE that 3/4 view, all he saw was guys running at him from all directions. The same thing in fiction: YOU're just lounging back, watching TV or reading a book. YOU'RE not the one being chased by monsters or who's just lost a loved one, you can come up with ways to solve the problem. The characters? They're too busy panicking and dealing with grief or both and can't always be expected to do the rational thing (whatever that "rational thing" is in your mind, see above)
I'd love to see what a "neutralized" definition of Mary Sue looks like. The closest I can think of is, as phrased by Wikipedia, "a character who is inexplicably unable to fail at anything they attempt". Which misses a whole boatload of additional baggage and connotations that are not just associated, but almost required to satisfy the term.Mary Sue is... not exactly the best choice for a counter-example.
This is a problem we have with tropes in general, any sufficiently popular work will incite strong emotions and everyone has the capacity to make any given trope example become an editorial. Idiot Ball and Idiot Plot are inherently about the examination of the choices made by characters within a story, and less about a concept that is purposefully used by the writers to tell the story. As such it incites strong emotions in editors that can and already has gotten away from the actual trope. I feel if it is well curated we can keep them in check, it won't be a one-time fix. As a side note tropes like Mary Sue and Big Lipped Alligator Moment by all accounts should be objective tropes but aren't for the same reasons as mentioned above.
I'm not even really trying to "neutralize" it, as such. I'm just saying that making Idiot Plot "plots stemming from everyone being an idiot that interfere with the audience's suspension of disbelief" is making it an extremely narrow trope. (I mean, do we need to split off Idiot Plot But The Audience Can Believe It now?) And if the sole justification is that it's how the term was originally used, then I don't think that's good enough.
I think you underestimate humanity's ability to tell stories badly. :P And, thinking about that point you raised - I think the defiance of Willing Suspension of Disbelief is what makes this tropeworthy in the first place. "All the characters share the common trait of idiocy" is either not a trope, or at least a trope along the lines of World of Badass or Everyone Is Bi, whereas Idiot Plot should be closer to talking about when basic competence is an Informed Attribute for everyone involved in the plot.
Idiot Ball and Idiot Plot are inherently about the examination of the choices made by characters within a story, and less about a concept that is purposefully used by the writers to tell the story.And like #42 said, these characters don't have the ability to make choices based on factors that they are unaware of in their personal field-of-view. If they made the best choice they could at the time, given what they knew at the time, that is never an Idiot Ball (much less Idiot Plot), even if the audience knows things that make the choice look stupid.
Exactly. The notion of "a concept that is purposefully used by the writers to tell the story" would be in line with the hypothetical World Of Idiots.
Yes, and the misuse of the trope is that people are using it to say "A plot point I thought was stupid or unrealistic" and not "they made a stupid choice considering the information they had available." If the only problem with the trope was debating with other editors the quality of choices based on the information they had I don't think there would be any need for a TRS.
edited 21st Dec '12 11:29:07 AM by KJMackley
...Sorry, who was that directed to? o_O