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MST3K Mantra

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"It's just a show; I should really just relax."

A line from the theme song of Mystery Science Theater 3000, which encourages the viewer not to worry about details that are irrelevant to the enjoyment of the program. Sometimes referred to as Hodgson's Law, after Joel Hodgson, creator and original lead actor of MST3K.

Like Bellisario's Maxim, it is employed in fan communities to ridicule or short-circuit all manner of bizarre fan theories and factually inaccuracate entries.

The full line, used more rarely, is this:

"If you're wondering how he eats and breathes
And other science facts
Then repeat to yourself 'It's just a show,
I should really just relax.'"

"La-la-la's" optional.

Take three deep breaths and recite when tempted to make some Justifying Edit. Many of our very own tropes (including and especially our Artistic License archipelago) tend to get very nitpicky about following or failing to follow core sciences, so even we could do with repeating it to ourselves regarding whole tropes.

TV scribe Michael Reaves simplifies the sentiment even further: "It's only television."

When we consider that the very point of MST3K was itself to mock and ridicule movies for breaches of logic and defective storytelling, we encounter a sort of MST3K Dilemma: a glib assessment of the situation would have it that the show was hypocritical with its insistence that the viewers subject it to less scrutiny than they brought to bear against countless films, but more careful consideration should lead us to discern that different subjects should be held to different critical criteria. Indeed, what passed for plot in MST3K was little more than a goofy premise to facilitate the mockery of bad movies, and labeling this as "just a show" doesn't make it any less good. note 

One should be careful that they do not go too far and use this to justify saying that The Complainer Is Always Wrong. Yes, there's no point in getting excessively worked up and nitpicky about something that, at the end of the day, is just a work of fiction. But using it as a way of brushing off all forms of criticism is an equally dangerous attitude to have, and in creators can be a possible sign of a Small Name, Big Ego at work utilizing Dear Negative Reader. Conversely, anybody who hopes to promote a movie and insists it's "just a movie" and critics should "just relax" while also expecting they take seriously any Aesop, Central Theme, Speculative Fiction, Spectacle, or just anything beyond superficial amusement from it is insulting the intelligence of the audience. This is not about critical appraisal, but what is necessary to tell a story. When criticism targets those things that were unexplained because it is irrelevant to the story structure and motivations, then you can invoke Bellisario's Maxim.

This concept is Older Than Steam, also being used in William Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream: Puck's final speech, which starts "If we shadows have offended/Think but this and all is mended..." can be condensed into "'Tis but a play/I'faith, I should just relax." This was a kind of disclaimer, to mollify people in power who may have construed the subject matter of that and other plays of his as blasphemous and obscene. It still applies to this trope, though.

In general, this applies to many philosophies, including the mantra of popular events, one being "It's just a week in the desert."

The closest thing this trope has to Truth in Television is the concept of thought-terminating cliché; as The Other Wiki puts it, "a commonly used phrase, sometimes passing as folk wisdom [...] its application as a means of dismissing dissent or justifying fallacious logic is what makes it thought-terminating."

See also This Is a Work of Fiction, esp. as used in-universe in The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, to prevent Haruhi from making everything in the SOS film into reality by thinking about it too much.

See also Rule of Cool (or Rule of Funny). A form of Willing Suspension of Disbelief. Contrast Moff’s Law. Not to be confused with the podcast It's Just a Show, which is named for the mantra.

Please do not add examples to work pages, this page merely defines the term.

Statler: Maybe they're right. Maybe we should just relax.
Waldorf: Keyword, "should." They never said we have to.
Statler: Good point. Hey, Cambot! When you look in the mirror, do you tell yourself to "say cheese"?
Both: Do-ho-ho-ho-hoh!


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Secret Invasion Objections

The Produce in Pitch Meetings has some questions about how Gaia from "Secret Invasions" gets the powers of other MCU characters. The Screenwriter tells him to shut up and just enjoy the fight scene.

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Main / MST3KMantra

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