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Deliberate Flaw Retcon

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Your new film is coming out, and you're really proud of it. The only problem is, everyone else hates it. Critics describe the characters as flat and one-dimensional, complain that the visuals are so heavily stylized it's impossible to tell what's going on, and that the pacing is scattershot and inconsistent. So what do you do?

You can acknowledge that the work had its flaws that really could have used a bit of ironing out. Or, you can claim after the fact that the "flaws" in the work were entirely deliberate: they were the Intended Audience Reaction. The characters aren't really one-dimensional: they just seem that way because the audience is viewing events from the protagonist's POV. The heavily stylized visuals aren't done for their own sake; they're a way to visually represent that the protagonist is colour-blind (which is never actually mentioned). And the pacing issues aren't accidental, but an ingenious method of demonstrating the monotony and tedium of working-class Yorkshire.

Naturally, some will believe you, and some won't.

This trope describes instances where a work had a largely negative reception, and the creators and/or fans Hand Wave the work's shortcomings by claiming they were intentional. Some creators will claim that their work was intended as a parody or satire (for that, see the subtrope Parody Retcon) or that it was meant as a Homage to an earlier work. If a work is bizarre and incomprehensible, some creators will claim that it was their intention to confuse and alienate the audience, and so on and so forth.

Compare Stylistic Suck (which is what people employing this trope often claim to be doing) and Intended Audience Reaction (in this case, the creators likely intended one reaction, but retroactively claim to have had a different one in mind while creating the work). In software and video games, compare Ascended Glitch (which is when an unintended glitch is made a deliberate feature in a later instalment). Parody Retcon is a subtrope (specifically, the claim that the work was meant to be understood as a parody or satire, even though it wasn't). A relative of I Meant to Do That and "Just Joking" Justification. See also Poe's Law, Author's Saving Throw and Irony. Can be related to Indecisive Parody, and sometimes to It's Not Supposed to Win Oscars (which is when artists or fans defend the flaws in a work by accusing the audience of having unreasonably high expectations). Contrast Springtime for Hitler.


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    Films — Live-Action 
  • Most of Tommy Wiseau's excuses for the poor quality of The Room (2003) fall under Parody Retcon. However, when asked about the character of Denny, he claimed that Denny's strange, abnormal behavior was deliberately written in order to indicate that Denny was "retarded, a little bit" (even though none of the characters in the film seem to find his behavior particularly out of the ordinary) but he failed to tell the actor this, so the performance was confused and instead comes off as having an unspecified mental disorder.
  • Space Mutiny. Cisse Cameron tried to claim it was intentional Stylistic Suck, but nobody's buying it.
  • This article argues that M. Night Shyamalan's decidedly poorly-received film The Happening is a work of genius, the "flaws" being deliberately worked in to subvert the tropes of the B-Movie horror genre.
  • A sort-of in-universe example from Star Wars: A New Hope had it postulated that the Death Star's thermal exhaust port was just that, an architectural flaw. Rogue One then retconned it into this trope, courtesy of Reluctant Mad Scientist Galen Erso, who installed an obvious weak point in the hopes that someone would be able to take advantage of it and immediately destroy the whole thing.
  • When asked about the many historical licenses and Black-and-White Morality of Elizabeth: The Golden Age, director Shekhar Kapur made the rather unbelievable claim that the movie was not actually about Elizabeth I or England... but some kind of backhanded allegory of Indira Gandhi.

  • Terry Pratchett claims with tongue in cheek that any plot holes or inconsistencies in the level of technology in the Discworld are the result of the History Monks messing with the timeline. (There aren't mistakes, only alternate pasts.)
  • Orson Scott Card, in his introduction to Ender's Shadow, says that any differences between that book and Ender's Game are "deliberate, to show the differences in the experiences of the two children." And then lampshades it by saying, "As my programmer friends would say, 'There are no bugs, only features.'"
  • J. R. R. Tolkien was fond of incorporating mistakes into his world. For example, according to Christopher Tolkien, the line on the Hobbit map should have read "Here of old was Thror- King under the Mountain." Because of early hesitation between the names Thror and Thrain, Thror, Thorin's grandfather, was replaced by Thrain, his father, in the quote. Fans pointed out after publication that Thorin's grandfather ruled before his father, and should have been in the quote instead. As a result, Tolkien created a genealogy of Kings under the Mountain, beginning with Thrain I. Thorin's father became Thrain II, and Tolkien added a note explaining this in the foreword.
  • The first few Halo books contained numerous errors in their first editions, notably Halo: The Fall of Reach, which was written in seven weeks from a cold start. A lot of the errors had to do with how many Spartans had been successfully created or were surviving. Curiously, after 343 Industries took over the Halo franchise, it was announced that these errors only seemed like errors and that "all would be explained in time". The fact that the people saying this had no influence on the errors in the first place has not won over many readers. To their credit, 343 did release numerous "data drops" that attempted to reconcile the differences between the two accounts of the Battle of Reach, although how convincing they are is a matter of personal opinion: ONI covered up the start of the invasion for months in order to lure in a Covenant ship that the SPARTAN-IIs could use for Operation: RED FLAG.
  • Harry Potter.:
    • Pre-empted in one instance by J. K. Rowling. Hogwarts is established as a magical building where things like staircases and doors can move around and work differently depending on when you access them. Word of God says that this was deliberately done so that she had a built-in excuse when she inevitably messed up and moved a classroom to the wrong floor.
    • There's also the case of Marcus Flint, who's still at Hogwarts a year after he should have graduated. Rowling's response was to the effect of "Either he was held back a year, or I messed up. I think I prefer that he made the mistake." It's been fixed in newer issues of the books, however, which make him a fifth year during Philosopher's Stone rather than a sixth year as stated in the original editions.

  • Alanis Morissette claims that the lack of actual examples of irony in her song "Ironic" was intentionally ironic. How satisfying you find this answer depends on which definition of irony you subscribe to.
  • "Spectacular" by Kiely Williams. The most charitable interpretation is that it's about a woman getting really drunk and enjoying unprotected sex with a random stranger, but it's easy to interpret it as being about her enjoying date rape instead. Williams later tried to claim the song is actually supposed to warn women about the dangers of binge drinking and unprotected sex, but since it doesn't exactly go out of its way to portray the negative consequences, and the protagonist concludes that the "spectacular" sex was Worth It and she'd do it again, plenty of people didn't buy it.

  • The original 2013 West End staging of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, directed by Sam Mendes, was a Scenery Porn spectacle with lavish, full-scale, stage-spanning sets — even sets within sets. The 2017 Broadway Retool directed by Jack O'Brien was... not, despite retaining the same set/costume designer as the West End version. The creative team claimed in interviews that the changes were to better emphasize the Central Theme of the power of imagination. As New Yorker critic Michael Schulman put it, "The edible landscape where Wonka sings 'Pure Imagination' is a smallish terrarium, and the chocolate river that engulfs Augustus Gloop isnít even visible. The idea, I think, is for us to project our wildest dreams onto a blank slate — and to ward off the London production, which [New York Times critic] Ben Brantley compared to an overstuffed Toys R Us — but thatís not exactly how imagination works." commenters theorized the producers really wanted to save money and have a production that would be easier to put on tour.

    Video Games 
  • When the ZX Spectrum game Jet Set Willy was released, fans quickly discovered that the game was Unintentionally Unwinnable because, amongst other things, after The Attic was visited, some other rooms became instant death traps. The publisher initially claimed that this was deliberate, and the affected rooms had become filled with poison gas, but eventually issued POKEs to fix this and the other bugs.
  • "It's not a bug, it's a feature" could practically be Bethesda's motto when it comes to its two flagship series, The Elder Scrolls and Fallout. Contributing is Bethesda's attitude that bugs which are fun but do not break the game too much are allowed to remain.
  • Several of the more contentious elements of Far Cry 2 — weapons degrading to the point of uselessness within an hour or so, missions requiring a lot of tedious driving (with quick-travel only available via the small amount of widely-scattered bus stations) through checkpoints that constantly repopulate after passing far away enough from them, and the player character contracting malaria, requiring them to stop whatever they're currently doing to take medication for it and having to go out of their way to do another tedious mission to get more once they run out of their very limited supply — were later explained by the developers as designed deliberately to take away from the fun of being a badass mercenary who singlehandedly cuts a bloody swath through southern Africa, in an attempt to send a moral message. Nevertheless, most of these "deliberately unfun" mechanics were done away with in the jump to Far Cry 3.
  • The same sort of thing hit the original Metal Gear Solid. The controls for running and shooting at the same time are rather difficult, requiring pressing of both the crouch and fire buttons. The developers went on record stating that this was intentional, to emulate how difficult it is to accurately fire a gun while moving at any appreciable speed in real life - but later games in the series changed the controls around to make it easier regardless, the next game moving the "run while gun" function to an otherwise-almost-unused button on the other side of the controller, then the ones after that removing the requirement to hold a separate button to move while aiming and firing a gun, changing the "run while gun" button into a full lock-on button (MGS3) or switching the aim button over to it (MGS4 onward).
  • When told on Twitter that there was a bug in the Steam version of Revolution 60 that made the Final Boss Unintentionally Unwinnable in keyboard mode, lead developer Brianna Wu said "It's not a bug, it's a puzzle!"
  • This was parodied in Discworld II, where Ponder Stibbons introduces Rincewind to the magical computer Hex, which is partially operated by a colony of ants. He explains that whenever somebody complains about all the bugs in the machine, he tells them that they're not bugs, they're creatures.
  • This is played with in Spec Ops: The Line. Many reviewers have praised the developers for intentionally making the gameplay awful as a reflection of the oversaturated shooter genre, with generic Take Cover! mechanics and terrible controls. However, in an interview, the developers have explicitly stated that they weren't trying to make the controls horrible on purpose, but they were more than happy to let their audience assume that if they wanted to. In fact, one developer dared anyone to show them any other game with a Take Cover! mechanic so they could explain why theirs is better.
  • The Christmas Rushed game Sonic the Hedgehog 3 left the game with several game-breaking Bugs. The solution was to have the English manual say that Dr. Robotnik laid some inescapable traps that exploit Sonic's speed, requiring a reset of the game.


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