The Willing (and Hilarious) Suspension of Disbelief

Human beings have the extraordinary capacity to enter into the world/assumptions/life of a fictional story and make it real.

French writer  Pierre Bayard has WAY more to say about this in his books Who Killed Roger Ackroyd? The Mystery Behind the Agatha Christie Mystery and Sherlock Holmes Was Wrong: Reopening the Case of the Hound of the Baskervilles.  I recommend both books although the middle parts are rather dense.

The viewers' willingness to accept the show's reality was brought home to me recently while watching Home Improvement, which was filmed before a live audience. In the episode "Reel Men," Al and Tim (and eventually Wilson) go ice-fishing while the ladies stay home and wax their legs. At one point, in passing, Jill advises one of her guests to stay clear of the "wax" pot (green) and not confuse it with the "fondue" pot.

Tim comes home several hours later. Now, take into consideration that producers and directors do not purposefully poison or otherwise harm their actors. Moreover, the scene has changed which means that the pots are not even sitting on the same surfaces. Speaking as an ex-drama club member, in "real" life, the crew came in and moved everything around.

And yet, when Tim--unknowingly--dips his bread into the wrong pot, the live audience gasps, groans, and begins to laugh.

We've been told to believe that it is wax. Therefore, it is wax.

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