Afternoon Inqueery

AI: Fictional Media Pet Peeves

I discovered Netflix about a year ago and have since begun actually watching TV shows that didn’t require someone else sitting me down and showing them to me.  Accordingly, my list of minor pet peeves (excluding misogynistic, racist, heterosexist, and cissexist content, as I don’t consider those “peeves” so much as rage buttons) regarding shows and movies has grown rather dramatically since then.  They’re mostly science-oriented – no, you do not “put pressure” on a cut artery; no image interpolation software that actually exists can make that blur on the security camera reliably identifiable; balance your damn centrifuges, etc.  (Granted, I also sometimes feel a bit silly making complaints like that in stories that involve explicitly fantastical elements, but really.  If you’re going to have a scientist character who looks spiffy in their science gear in their science lab doing science… at least know something about actual science.)  I also tend to get amused at myself regarding which stories I exempt from such things; for instance, Star Trek shows mostly get a pass for bad science because tricorders and hyposprays might as well just be magic.

Another huge one for me is when characters regularly withhold important information from their friends, family, and allies in life-or-death situations simply because they’re feeling inexplicably obstinate that day – there are plenty of more interesting and believable ways to cause conflict, people, really (I’m looking at you, Lost).  I also find that as spectacularly often as my cranky scientist buttons get pushed, it’s the character interaction-based peeves that most affect my enjoyment of a show.  I’ll forgive a lot of bad physics for good writing, but nothing can redeem bad character writing, to me.

What are some of your pet peeve tropes in stories?  How much do they affect your enjoyment of the show/movie/book?  What factors, if any, might make a piece of media exempt from that particular peeve?  Is there anything you watch or read that doesn’t push any of those buttons for you?

The Afternoon Inqueery (or AI) is a question posed to you, the Queereka community. Look for it every Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday at 3pm ET.


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Dae is a chemical engineering graduate student who aspires to become a mad scientist, but is prepared to settle for being a professor. Her extracurricular academic interests are an ever-shifting list, but currently include temperament psychology, philosophy, transhumanism, and pre-modern literature. She identifies as a bisexual cis-woman, as well as a feminist, humanist, atheist, and roleplaying game enthusiast.


  1. September 19, 2013 at 3:00 pm —

    I think we need a moratorium on rape for the purpose of character and/or plot development, especially in literature. It’s lazy.

    • September 23, 2013 at 12:03 pm —

      I’m torn on this because it is lazy when its done casually as character or plot development but at the same time sexual assault is so common that creators avoiding it entirely in fiction would be unrealistic. I’m not sure where the balance is..

  2. September 21, 2013 at 2:33 pm —

    Anything fanciful (sci-fi typically,) that pretends to ground itself in reality to add authenticity but does a terrible job of it. eg. A couple of recent zombie works name drop rabies or the cordyceps fungus as the jumping off point for their fictional zombosis and then proceed to create medical conditions that are nothing like what they claim to be based on. Pseudohistories for conspiracy theory fiction have a similar effect. The eye-drop drugs in Looper are another case.

    The solution is clearly to do better research or just make something up completely.

  3. September 23, 2013 at 1:22 pm —

    I’m cool with imaginary things like silencers and defibrillators, but very much not okay with inaccuracies involving things where ignorance can kill. Silencers and defibrillators are both fictional items that serve pretty cool functions in fiction that their real world counterparts don’t. But the real world person using the defibrillator knows what they’re doing and a misused silencer is unlikely to cause a serious problem. But things like tourniquets are very likely to be used by non-medical personnel and misinformation can cause real harm. Same thing with the round in the chamber. NPR had a story on one of their shows where a teenage girl that was raised around guns forgot about that one and almost killed herself.

    It amazes me that we’ve got people counting the number of humps and carefully keeping dirty words out of the hands of children (lest they start becoming snitches) but the people on the censorship panel have no problem with media that actually kills children. Drowning doesn’t look like splashing and crying for help. People don’t drown because they don’t get enough air or can’t swim anymore. I almost drowned once. I couldn’t keep my head above water but I certainly had enough air and strength to get to safety. But instead of doing that my body reflexively stopped swimming. That’s what kills you. Instead of fighting to the death against drowning your lizard brain overrides everything to try to lift your head out of a puddle. It’s instantly recognizable to lifeguards but most parents see it and assume that everything is okay, with tragic results.

    Also, you don’t need a quarter to call 911. Not really a big deal anymore these days, but I’m sure back in the day that claimed some lives too.

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