Suspending belief and America’s problem with criticism

Troy Wilkinson

Troy Wilkenson
Troy Wilkenson

It seems to me that most people are bent on suspending their belief of fictional worlds or unlikely events in movies, television, books and the like. I’ve heard from many moviegoers that Christopher Nolan’s new movie “Interstellar” was more subpar than his other movies, and in some cases that it was even a bad movie, not due to a fault in the acting or the cinematography, but because moviegoers didn’t buy into some plot points that were somewhat of a stretch.

So, the reasons for these negative reviews, as I see it, result mainly from an inability to make a leap of faith that the movie seems to ask for. This is the case for many movies that try to go beyond society’s expectation for what can happen. It has happened with movies like “The Avengers,” “Avatar,” “Star Trek” and others.


I realize that it’s a movie director’s and writer’s job to successful create a film that explains and helps their audience make that unexpected , but as a society we should be embracing these leaps in logic. Instead of criticizing stretches that we don’t entirely give into by saying “I don’t buy it. Seems like too big of a stretch for me,” we should instead be saying “What a crazy, interesting idea. I don’t quite understand it, but I want to look at it more in-depth to see what that part was trying to tell me.” When we look at the unlikely or the seemingly unreasonable in a dismissive manner instead of a curious one, problems start to occur.

The problem that arises from actively suspending our belief is that we lose sight of the bigger picture and it closes our minds off to the less common possibilities. It sacrifices the central idea for often minor execution concerns.

Not only does the big picture become undermined when people choose to nit-pick the different improbabilities and faults, but it also perpetuates mentalities that focus on the negative. Even when a movie might be 90 percent good, we more often hear about the 10 percent bad. The positive aspects are ignored, not because they aren’t there and not because they aren’t recognized, but because we prefer to undermine them with the negatives. By this process, negativity needlessly proliferates throughout our lives. Perfection is important to strive for, but is not required, if it is even possible. We tend to preach that sentiment, but we criticize actions and creations as if they need to be perfect by focusing only on the negatives.

Sci-fi movies are often the victim of this mentality, but not the only victims. I find that this mentality is also to blame for much of the nation’s lack of passion for space travel, because not only are we losing sight of big picture ideas, but we’re losing our dreams, our will to believe (or even just consider) that something seemingly impossible might just be achievable.

Collegian Columnist Troy Wilkinson can be reached at or on Twitter @blumitts.