Q-critiques and the Phantom Plotholes
October 24, 2013
Nerds have high standards for their entertainment and there’s nothing wrong with that – I am in that category too. But in our snarky quest for perfection (or the inability to let anything please us), some nerds go so far in an attempt to appear to be smarter than the writer, author, or scriptwriter, that we appear dumber than everyone.
Note the famous Scalzi ‘flying snowmen’ line; criticizing a fantastical thing for not being realistic is kind of silly. The Enterprise shouldn’t go faster than warp 9.99, a nerd may snark, despite FTL travel being impossible (so far). This is usually the case for noobie nerds, especially.
Advanced nerds fall for what I call the Q Critique. Q, if you remember, was the god on Star Trek: The Next Generation who thought humanity wasn’t ready to explore the galaxy. Q was omniscient and could move through time. He thought that humans were inferior creatures incapable of higher-level thought. He was also an annoying pain in the ass who got regularly served by the puny humans he thought were beneath him. If he could move through time, why couldn’t he look into the future and see that humanity was ready? Remember Q’s shortcomings, because they are key to where I’m going here with the Q metaphor.
Q-critiques are those criticisms by know-it-all nerds who expect the characters during the story to know as much as they themselves do after the story. They also expect characters to reflect and react with no constraints of time or emotion. And if the characters fall short, then they call plothole.
Rob Bricken at i09 has made a career of Q-critiques. He waves phantom plotholes around like a Fox News anchor waves Iraqi WMD.
Nine least competent Jedi is a case in point. He declares Qui Gonn Jinn and Yoda both dumb for taking opposite sides on the issue of whether Anakin should be trained as a Jedi. He blames Obi-Wan and the entire Jedi Council for just screwing up everything about Anakin, with this ‘they should have seen it coming’ attitude, fed entirely by the fact that Bricken found it all obvious after he saw the movies.
Yoda is incompetent for saying that Luke was too unfocused to be a Jedi and then saying he was too old to train. Apparently, the ‘demented garden gnome’ psyched Luke and Bricken into thinking that he was really going to refuse to train Luke. It was pretty clear to all of us nerds less smart than Bricken that Yoda throwing excuses at Luke was a way to test his conviction. If Yoda is really incompetent, he managed to fool Bricken and looks like a green-skinned Keyser Soze.
And, my favorite, Bricken’s entertaining but entirely Q-riffic critique of Man of Steel. It’s full of poorly-thought out snark. Consider the Q-riffic slam of Superman killing Zod at the end of the film, after Zod has tried to destroy Earth and kill everything.
Bricken demands to know why the all-perfect Superman didn’t think of a, b, or c other alternative in a calm, rational way, or do x, y, or z rather than kill Zod? Yes, Supes was in the heat of battle, against an evenly-matched foe, after trying a number of alternatives to deal with him, and a family’s lives on the line, and time was running out. But Bricken demands his characters to be omniscient, all-powerful and have infinite wisdom.
The best example is Bricken calling plothole because an 18,000 year old Kryptonian spaceship just happens to have a Superman suit laying around for the Jor-El hologram to give to his son Clark Kent.
Oh, nerdy goodness, a gaping plothole! Bricken is brilliant, amirite?
No, he’s not. If he watched the movie, it was clear early on that the Kryptonians have some nano-tech that builds stuff really fast and pretty much on-demand. In fact, this was noted when Clark inserted the Superman-logo stone-crystal thing in the ancient ship’s computer, activating the Jor-El hologram a few minutes before. Jor-El had created this stone-looking crystal thing in mere seconds when launching Clark’s ship in the time it takes us to eject a thumb drive.
So it is fairly obvious that the Jor-El hologram could have had the ancient ship build a Super suit while he jawed at his grown son for a few minutes. It’s a phantom plothole because it actually makes sense.
I’m not calling Bricken out – he’s doing what dozens of other nerds like me do. And he does a great job on i09, one of my favorite websites. But the sum total of this behavior by any of us nerds makes us all look like unpleasable, lazy, wankers.