A Game of Christmas Crackers

Aquaman sucked.

Godzilla was forgettable.

The final season of Game of Thrones fell flat.

The latest MIB (subtitled Men and Women in Black) was entirely predictable.


A good, fun, popcorn movie, but not much else

Somewhat ironically, it’s not because these movies didn’t have good writers. In some cases, like Prometheus, it’s a case of too many cooks spoil the broth, with rewrites and revisions obscuring the storyline, but Aquaman, Game of Thrones and Men in Black all shared one common trail that DEMANDED they be lame—they’re popular.

Wait? What the…

Yep, you read that right. They had to be lame because of their broad appeal. Sounds crazy, right? But it’s actually based on sound psychology and explains why Christmas crackers ALWAYS have lame jokes.

After more than a century of trial and error, Christmas cracker manufacturers have settled on mundane, lame puns—and with good reason.

If a joke is good and you tell it and it doesn’t get a laugh, it’s your problem. If a joke’s bad and it doesn’t get a laugh, then it’s the joke’s problem. My theory is that [dumbed down jokes are] a way of not embarrassing people at Christmas.

Professor Richard Wiseman

And there you have it, modern story telling in a nutshell—dumb down your story to avoid alienating your audience.

From a commercial perspective, it makes sense. If you want to reach the broadest possible audience, you can’t risk nuanced plot points or character development that could confuse people.

Books and movies are escapism. They’re a mental break, a time to recharge—not a time to think in depth. In fact, the whole premise of fiction relies on the suspension of disbelief, putting rational thinking on hold for a while.

A lot of what we think of as “lazy writing” is actually writing that caters to the broadest possible audience. Rather than lazy, it’s deliberate, just like the jokes in your Christmas cracker.

A good example of this is Brienne of Tarth.

She deserved better

Okay, what did you think when you read the caption above? If you’ve seen the show, you probably agreed, “Yes, she deserved better.” And that highlights how the suspension of disbelief works. She isn’t real, but we think of her as actually enduring the humiliation of being used and dumped by Jaime.

Asking why the writers chose that direction is akin to asking why water flows downhill—it’s natural, easy and effective, and there really isn’t any choice in it. With seven seasons of character development, the writers of Game of Thrones chose to dumb down the eighth season to appeal to the broadest possible audience. It might be poor storytelling, but it brings in the bucks.

In some ways, the writers are damned… tell an esoteric story with complex characters and it’ll miss broad appeal… tell a simplified story with easy-to-grasp, in-your-face caricatures and you’ll reach the masses.

So there you have it… if you’re looking for nuanced, thoughtful stories, you’ll have to venture off the beaten track as you won’t find them in popular circles.

5 thoughts on “A Game of Christmas Crackers

  1. Fast food; bland, why do so many people love it? The same with books and films, 90% of the population can digest “bland” it is consistent, predictable and such a waste of everyone’s time but it makes money. A quote I read recently describing a Hollywood block buster, “I have seen more in depth storylines on a highway sign.”

    Give me an imaginative, no holds barred story teller every time, “The Girl with all the Gifts” comes to mind.

    Please keep up your excellent work.

    On Sat, 15 Jun 2019 at 11:49 am, THINKING SCI-FI wrote:

    > pcawdron posted: ” Aquaman sucked. Godzilla was forgettable. The final > season of Game of Thrones fell flat. The latest MIB (subtitled Men and > Women in Black) was entirely predictable. Why??? A good, fun, popcorn > movie, but not much else Somewhat ironic” >

  2. It was the reason why the original Blade Runner had no narrative, but the Screen Writers or whomever it was, thought it was too risky, so made the Director go back and get Harrison Ford put a Narrative in over the entire movie so that the Audience would understand it, because they thought the Audience would be too dumb to get it otherwise and it would be a huge flop.

    It is the reason that it is now the film with the most amount of re-releases/versions ever for a film (I think there are something like 27 versions of the film or something stupid???)

    And yes, it just shows why there is no quality in most TV anymore, and why a large number of movies are complete crap now.

    It is also why I don’t watch TV anymore and I basically just listen to audiobooks if I need to use my hands to do something, or, if I don’t, then I read 😊

    You know the saying “The Book is always Better” – there is a reason for this, the Author doesn’t have to change his writing to make sure a bunch of morons in front of a flat screen understand the plot in 42mins of episode time *GRIN*

    It is the reason that special effects have improved so much though – so that they can distract us with pretty things to take our minds away from the piss poor writing 😊 Take Avatar for example!! A total remake of Fern Gully with Giant Smurfs – but it looked awesome 😝

    Love your blogs Peter – they need to increase in frequency, you don’t do enough of them!!



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