Introducing: Checking My Privilege!

Hello, everyone, and welcome back to consistent posting on my part! Before we get into the meat of this post, I just wanted to apologize quickly for the amount of time it took me to produce my most recent post. With the chaotic nature of the holidays and the unfortunate timing of Mondays this year (let that be a lesson to me to check my calendar more thoroughly before planning anything based on the days of the week!) I simply didn’t have the time to produce anything that would be of a quality worth presenting to you. But now that we’ve well and truly settled into the new year, I’m pleased to report that we’re back to business as usual!

And now that that’s handled, it’s time to say a fond farewell to “That’s Not A Plot Hole!” after eight posts, and move on to the next iteration of this blog. So, without further ado, allow me to happily introduce “Checking My Privilege”!

The premise here is simple: I have been the beneficiary of immense amounts of privilege in my life. Some of the ways in which this is true are remarkably obvious: I’ve never faced discrimination based on the color of my skin, or bullying for my sexual orientation. However, these examples are far from the only forms that prejudice can take, and privilege can be even more subtle still. There are so many tiny ways in which I benefit from a system that is designed to place people like me in an incredibly advantaged position, which continue to work on my behalf, and which can only hope to be understood and combatted (as they should) if the ways in which it functions are identified, explained, and understood.

With that in mind, for the next eight weeks I’ll use this blog to pick apart some of the ways in which I benefit from systemic privilege, that are a little less obvious or easier to say “so what?” in response to, but no less impactful and important to discuss for those reasons. I hope that in doing so, I’ll be able to both shed a light on the ways in which this privilege is both real and very , and, in some small way, help to fight this system that benefits me in a way that, by necessity, confers a disadvantage on others.

With excitement and optimism,

Alex

All Bark, No Bite: Dissecting Plot Hole Categories Through Alpha

Recently I watched the movie Alpha, which turned out to be pretty darn good. The cinematography is absolutely gorgeous, the script does some really interesting things with dialogue (especially in the first few scenes) that take into account that the story is set around 20,000 years ago, and the central story with the protagonist and his wolf is genuinely affecting and sweet. But there were a few moments in the film that made me sit up and remark “oh, that’s strange,” that I, years ago, would have called plot holes. However, with a little bit more introspection - and just a bit of research - every last one of these “plot holes” was revealed to be nothing of the sort, and in fact each of these were revealed to be indicative of all the ridiculous ways we often talk about plot holes. So come with me, and let’s discuss the phenomenon of plot holes itself through Alpha.

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The film begins with a group of prehistoric humans hunting bison. The scene is awesome: tense, visceral, and fast-paced, and ending on a hell of a cliffhanger that had me instantly hooked. There’s only, I thought, on problem: Buffalo only exist in America. Instantly (because bad habits, especially ones that can give you the thrill of feeling like the smart person in the room, are hard to break), I was claiming that I’d found a plot hole, something that took me out of the film. However, a short google search probed me wrong for one simple reason: Buffalo actually did (and still do) exist in Europe. This is the first kind of plot hole so often cited by keyboard crusaders: nothing is wrong with the film at all, but people who know less than the filmmakers or haven’t done their research, convinced they’re the ones with the big brains, leap to eviscerate a plot point.

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The second style of “plot hole” I want to examine is one that’s slightly different: the kind of plot hole where a watcher thinks that something which doesn’t make sense to them must make sense to no-one, must be the fault of the movie must be a plot hole. For me, this moment came during the hunting scene as well. I couldn’t understand, at first, the method by which the hunters were killing Bison, which consisted of throwing spears directly in front of stampeding Bison to make them turn, and gradually herding them over the edge of a cliff cliff. Because I thought such a thing was entirely unfeasible - why on earth would bison turn away from a row of slender sticks? - I was completely confused by the strategy, and rushed to judgment on the movie, thinking that it was portraying hunting in a completely nonsensical way. However, watching the scene through to the end and thinking about it more while reserving judgement, a few more possibilities occurred to me - that maybe it was the suddenness of spears plunging down in front of them that caused the Bison to veer where the humans wanted them to, that any animal would have to be utterly destined for death if it continued charging toward the weapons that had just nearly slain it, and that other early humans had in fact hunted Bison in very similar ways - and I came to realize that just because the strategy hadn’t made sense to me at first didn’t mean that it was senseless. It was my assumption that the spears were forming some kind of fence that had prevented me from connecting with this part of the film. The problem with this “plot hole,” in other words wasn’t Alpha. It was me.

A final series of “plot holes” could be gleaned from many of the interactions between the two leads, Keda (the human) and Alpha (the… wolf? proto-dog? really not sure what to call her in the context of this film). As they move through the film’s plot together, we’re treated to a series of “greatest hits” from humanity’s interactions with our faithful friends. Keda tries to make Alpha run away with a stick, for example, only to have her pick the stick up and carry it back to him. At another point in the movie, Keda can’t get Alpha to heel until he uses a two-tone whistle vaguely reminiscent of the whistle we use to call dogs today. There are many more of these moments, enough so that in the middle of the film I found myself wondering if Alpha was going to chase her tail for a moment or two. These are technically “plot holes” because none of these “greatest hits” developed or happened for the first time in the way the film presents — dogs “fetch” because we’ve trained them to go bring animals we’ve hunted to us, for example. Here’s the thing, though: I didn’t care. Not once watching the film did I think anything like “come on, it didn’t happen that way!” Indeed, I found that these moments deepened my connection to the film. How could I not be powerfully invested in the survival and wellbeing of such a good girl, after all? This is indicative of the final kind of plot hole that I want to dissect: the kind that might technically be some kind of logical fallacy or mistake, but that doesn’t matter in the slightest because they work in the context of the story and make us more invested in its narrative. This is the kind of plot hold that I think is the most misunderstood and wrongfully cited, but my own experience of Alpha is pretty conclusive evidence that all three styles of false plot holes are alive and well. Which means we need to stay ever vigilant, to ensure they we don’t fall prey to them ourselves.

Next week we embark on a new journey, so get ready for a new series announcement!

With excitement and optimism,

Alex

Pandora's Ark: Indiana Jones Did The Right Thing

Today, we’re going to be looking at what my high school band teacher would have called a “chestnut:” an oldie but a goodie. Indiana Jones and The Raiders of The Lost Ark is an absolute classic, a rip-roaring adventure that kicked so much ass I can still remember the sheer thrill of first watching it. It’s at times thrilling, eerie, suspenseful, and downright wild, and a joy from start to finish. It’s also, if the internet is to be believed, home to one utterly awful plot hole. Specifically, if the Ark of The Covenant was going to melt anyone that opened it, as we saw at the end of the film, why did Indi even bother trying to keep it out of the Nazis’ hands? Why didn’t he just peace out and let it melt off Hitler’s face in Berlin? As I’m sure is a surprise to none of you, however, I think this is a ridiculous, and it’s time to talk about why.

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The obvious answer as to why this isn’t a plot hole is blindingly simple, so much so that I’m almost angry I have to talk about it: Indiana Jones had no idea the Ark of The Covenant was going to melt more face than the average rock band. All he really knew for sure about the Ark was that it was an artifact of massive value and, in some way, massive power. Of course, the bible (and other people in the film), are pretty explicit that looking inside the ark of the covenant being the last thing you’ll do with your life, but even that doesn’t mean Indi knew the ark would melt the nazis for one simple reason: he didn’t believe in any of that. Indiana Jones is, at the start of the film, a deeply cynical man, a man who sees ancient traditions and powerful artifacts as nothing more than a way to get some quick grave-robbing cash. Indiana Jones in the beginning of Raiders of The Lost Ark is the equivalent of a teenage stereotype: pics or it didn’t happen. And there are, of course, no pics of the Ark of The Covenant melting faces.

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This, of course, ties in thematically to the broader arc that Indiana Jones undergoes throughout the movie. From a cynical man who views the spiritual as nothing more than a reason other people create riches he can steal to a wide-eyed believer who can only watch the power of the divine accomplish something he couldn’t, Indiana Jones’s arc throughout the film reinforces the film’s central message: the the universe is more vast and wonderful than we can possibly understand, and that there’s room in all of us for wonder. Witnessing the biblical power of the Ark of the covenant firsthand, our protagonist comes to realize there are things he can’t understand or profit off of that nonetheless exist. And in doing so, Jones allows the movie to speak directly to us. If even this hard-bitten, grave-robbing asshole of a cynic can experience wonder and awe at the hands of something he can’t possibly fathom, why can’t we? Jones transforms, and in transforming teaches us that perhaps we should, too. And that transformation is only possible because Indiana Jones decides to try keeping the Ark of The Covenant away from the Nazis.

Oh, and by the way, it’s worth noting here that if Indiana Jones just swanned off and let the Ark do its thing, WE WOULND’T HAVE A MOVIE TO WATCH, unless you really expected Spielberg to direct a series of scenes in which Harrison Ford drinks a different cocktail on a different beach over and over. Indiana Jones’ decision to pursue the Ark instead of just allowing it to make its way to Berlin and destroy the Nazis there not only gives us a movie to watch, it ties into the film’s broader themes and makes the character arc of Jones himself resonate with us. And for anyone who thinks that’s a plot hole, then this is all I’ve got for you:

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Next week, we wrap this series up!

With excitement and optimism,

Alex

A Monologue On Monologuing

PLOT TWIST: this week we’re focusing not on a specific work of art, but on a trop often found in them. Given that the villainous monologue has been mentioned in everything from Pixar movies to Geico commercials, I don’t think I need to explain it. What I do need to do, however, is defend it from all those who argue that it’s always a plot hole.

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Harry Potter And The Problematic Portkey

This week, we’re back at it again with the books (although this one is a book that’s been made into a movie)! As you can probably guess from the title, we’re going to be discussing the Harry Potter series, specifically the fourth installment, Harry Potter And The Goblet of Fire.

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The Last Skywalker: Leia Using The Force Is Awesome

Once again, I’m going to wade into internet controversy secure in the knowledge that I have about three regular readers of this blog, and talk about Star Wars: The Last Jedi. It’s a film that has sharply (although not evenly) divided the internet.

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Rolling On The River: A Plot Hole That Creates Plot

Older novels (and ones that haven’t turned into blockbusters) don’t get the “plot hole” treatment as often as films, but over the years people have pointed fingers at certain ones, in particular an interesting scene involving some silly decision-making in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. But is it really a mistake?

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Laughing And Smiling In Black Mirror

Science Fiction can be pretty accurately described as “in vogue” right now. Not only is Star Wars once again dominating both the box office and popular culture, but elements of sci-fi are showing up in places as diverse as the Marvel Cinematic Universe, hit TV shows, and, of course, novels uncountable.

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Childish Humor In Greek Mythology

I've loved Greek myths pretty much from the moment I've been able to read them. I'm serious about this; while most kids in elementary school might have been reading any number of young readers books before bed (The Magic Tree House series was another favorite of mine), I was plowing through my copy of D'auleire's Book of Greek Myths over and over until the cover straight up fell off of it.

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Acerbic Humor in Pride And Prejudice

I've only read one Jane Austen novel, the infamous Pride And Prejudice, which I likely never would have read unless it had been forced on me in my senior year AP English Literature class (let that be all the lesson one might need about the often-trash opinions of teenage boys on "girl stuff").

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Silliness In Star Wars

Alright, people, it's time to invite the ire of the internet (although considering my readership never really rises above five or so I should be fine) and write about Star Wars, which has become the internet's most divisive topic after the release of The Last Jedi, the franchise's most recent installment of its current main trilogy.

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The Goofy Ending Of Moby-Dick

One of the most interesting exercises I ever did in college was performed on an unremarkable day in an otherwise unremarkable English class, when our professor challenged us to figure out what the actual first line of Moby-Dick is. I'm not kidding; read the full text of the novel and you'll be struck by the idea that you could choose at least three different points of entry into it, each of which slightly change how we approach the book.

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Slapstick in Romeo And Juliet

Shakespeare is an interesting author, because his works have all been very specifically grouped into genres that are almost unique unto themselves. There are Shakespearean comedies, tragedies, and histories, all of which have their own flavor that separates them more from the works of any other playwright than from each other, and sometimes they overlap in interesting ways: tragedies that contain humor, comedies that have heartbreaking moments, and histories with elements of each.

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