Photo by Jin
My reading, TV and movie viewing preferences have always leaned heavily toward the fantastical. This sometimes got me in trouble during my work in libraries because many patrons I tried to advise avoided science fiction and fantasy like it would stain their humanity. It came down to the suspension of disbelief that was required of them. They couldn’t, or wouldn’t, allow it. I, on the other hand, craved it. It wasn’t that I stopped disbelieving during a novel or movie, it was that part of me never put the brakes on when things got weird. In fact, my imagination put the pedal to the metal. I wanted to believe I could develop super powers, battle an alien armada, or make friends with a dragon, at least on the page or screen.
Stage magicians and illusionists still earn my awe and admiration, decades after my peers outgrew them. I never wanted to know the mechanics behind the magic. Finding out it wasn’t real hurt as much as discovering Santa Claus was a myth. The best I can do now is jam my fingers in my ears when somebody tries to spoil the secret. There are all too many people who think they’re doing a service to us believers, by exposing reality in the face of our willful ignorance. As far as I’m concerned, David Copperfield made the Statue of Liberty disappear and David Blaine can levitate. What’s that? Can’t hear you. I have my fingers in my ears, and I will just keep steering the car with my elbows until you change the subject.
My defiance of disbelief is also why I sometimes listen perplexedly while critics poke holes in movie plots. Sure, some films deserve it, but I want to believe in the story and exist solely in that world for two hours. The Jurassic Park dinosaurs are just vacationing until the next movie in the franchise. Hoban Washburne will have his memories downloaded into his cloned body for the Serenity sequel. Don’t try to tell the imaginative kid in me that either is wrong, or we’ll settle the argument with Nerf guns at ten paces like civilized folks.
If I give a book or a movie a bad review, it might be because it convinced me I was wrong to expect the magical feeling I wanted. Something about it made me more interested in the mirrors and pulleys and less concerned for the woman sawed in half. I’m not suspending, even in-school suspending, my belief. I am willing to flat out expel it. If you can’t fool me into believing your fiction, you’re not trying hard enough. If you can make it magical and give me all the feels, I will love you. I mean it. I guess that makes me pretty easy to please, right?
I wish everybody could experience these fantastical things with utter abandon the way I do. I honestly feel sorry for people who can’t. But it’s never too late. Maybe CGI will help awaken the kid in them that wants to know magic again. Maybe I can convince them to read one or two books they never would’ve dreamed of reading, and that will be the start of their voyage back to childhood’s sweet, innocent awe of the unexplained.
Do you have any books or movies to share that let you shed reality’s shackles? Do you have some you could recommend specifically to people who hesitate to try fantasy or science fiction? Please leave a comment to spread the word!