Monday, June 29, 2009

Gratuitous Laughter

I don’t have a very high opinion of gratuitous sex and violence in either books or film--with “gratuitous” defined as scenes that do nothing to advance the plot but are there simply because sex and violence have broad appeal. But what about gratuitous laughter? Ah, now that's different.

There actually is such a thing as non-gratuitous humor, where the humor comes from the plot line itself. But much humor is gratuitous—a situation or gag stuck in the story just for laughs. Take it out and the plot would run along fine; it just wouldn’t be as funny.

I pondered all of this while watching the recent Star Trek movie over the weekend. SPOILER ALERT. Take, for instance, the scene where Bones gives Kirk a vaccine that makes him sick in order to get him onto the Enterprise. That scene is necessary to move the plot forward. What is not necessary is that Kirk has a reaction to the vaccine; that complication exists solely to inject humor into the scenes that follow. Likewise the scene where Scotty and Kirk materialize on the Enterprise and Scotty finds himself in some sort of cooling system. Again, that complication is played out solely for laughs, to make their arrival on the Enterprise more interesting. In fact, one could argue that it's the humor that makes this movie enjoyable to watch; like The Voyage Home, this Star Trek movie goes for the laughs.

Yet while gratuitous humor does not bother me, it occurs to me that the word complication could actually be used to describe the gratuitous scenes of violence that I find boring and annoying. So perhaps the truth is that I simply have more patience for humor than I do for violence? Hmmm…

On a side note, We got rain!

11 comments:

orannia said...

YAH for rain! We're had heaps here, including over 800 lightning strikes in one night over the city!

And I just loved Kirk's reaction to the vaccine!

Charles Gramlich said...

We got a couple of good days of rain. So welcome and needed.

I never really thought of the concept of gratutious laughter but you're exactly right. And I don't have much tolerance for it. That explains why I hardly ever like "comedy" movies.

cs harris said...

Orannia, we got so much rain yesterday that we were under a floodwatch!

Charles, I like some comedy movies and not others. The interesting thing about both the "complications" I mentioned is that they could also have been played the other way--Kirk's reaction could have been life-threatening, as could Scotty's predicament. This is something I need to spend more time pondering.

Rick said...

Here in Detroit, rain means we have to go indoors or be doused with viscous liquid globules of pollution.

It's an interesting point that the judgment of what's gratuitous and what's not depends on the individual. Sometimes, though, in a world where you can't walk five feet without being bombarded by manipulative music chosen to direct your emotions, it's hard to consider much of anything as gratuitous.

You have a lovely, informative blog, by the way.

Barbara Martin said...

I haven't seen the movie yet, maybe later when it comes out on DVD.

I'm not fond of gratituous anything in stories or movies, especially when there is no need for it.

From the photo, it looks as if the rain is coming down in buckets! Good for the environment and now you'll be a bit cooler until it stops.

Steve Malley said...

Yay Rain!!

:D

cs harris said...

Barbara, the rain did indeed come down in buckets.

Steve, yay, indeed.

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