That version of the interchangability test is a little weird; I mean how far can you boil down the plot to make this determination? Is the whale in Star Trek IV a MacGuffin
? Can I replace it with the Mona Lisa? For most of the movie it doesn't really matter that they're after a whale, but most of the significant plot points revolve around the fact that they're trying to get a large water-dwelling mammal into their spaceship without everyone in the past noticing.
If the specific qualities of the plot motivator are important to the plot, then it's not a MacGuffin
. Can I replace the One Ring with the Maltese Falcon and not change the story? No, I can't — the qualities of the Ring, primarily Sauron's curse on it and the power it can grant — are driving focal points of the story.
If it was an anonymous gem that had to be destroyed (in a particular way) to kill Sauron, but didn't have anything special besides that, then yes, it would be. See the Horcruxes in Harry Potter for an example of that — they can be anything
, and the fact that one is a goblet and one is a tiara are virtually irrelevant to the story. About half of the horcruxes could've been replaced by the Maltese Falcon without making a difference.
There was a discussion over on a different thread about Snakes on a Plane
and whether the witness Samuel L Jackson is protecting would be, himself, a MacGuffin
. I was under the impression that character can't be a MacGuffin
unless they spend almost the entire piece off-screen and doing nothing, like the captured princess or Orcus on His Throne
. If the character has screentime and interactions with others, he's no longer a MacGuffin
, because he's not really interchangable anymore. For a character to be a MacGuffin
they would have to be able to be replaced by a nuclear bomb or a briefcase full of papers without changing the story.
For example, the princess in most Mario Bros games is a MacGuffin
— you could replace her with a magic scepter or a big piece of gold and the game doesn't change any. Helen of Troy is a MacGuffin
; the war is about her but she doesn't do anything, and you could replace her with a horse or a golden fleece at virtually no impact on the Trojan War.
edited 11th Oct '12 11:42:25 AM by Escher