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Believe it or not. The elastic band theory.


You’ve heard of the string theory, well this is the elastic-band theory by Anthony Lance.
(Don’t worry, it doesn’t involve any ridiculously complicated math).
I believe that books and movies can be amazing ways of escaping into alternate worlds, but some do it better than others.
My best friends Mom chucked about six of us kids in the back of their VW combie and took us to the drive-in to see the movie ROCKY. In the middle of the fight scene between Rocky and Apollo Creed my friends mom, a quiet middle aged woman, jumped up from her seat with clenched teeth and threw two punches in the air, then she shouted “Go Rocky”. As if realizing where she was, and looking very embarrassed she quietly sat back down.
She was in that ring, fighting that fight. And I believe this is the difference between great entertainment and mere entertainment. It all comes back to believability. In the original Raiders of the lost Arc I remember being so involved that I swear I was in that cave running away from the giant rolling stone. But in the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull when Harrison survives a 50 metre fall in an inflatable boat gently floating to earth the elastic-band of believability had broken. I became a mere spectator instead of a participant.
Like an elastic-band I believe you can stretch credibility to amazing lengths but if it snaps you’ve lost them.
The original Star Wars movie where Luke is blind folded and is training against a laser orb, I was in there, I had the Force flowing through me. To me the elastic-band broke in all of the other Star Wars movies. They are still great movies and very entertaining but not in the same league as the original.
Books are incredibly good at dragging you into their World. The elastic-band seems less fragile. I’m not sure why. Sometimes it’s hard to know why you liked a book so much and I reckon it’s often because you escaped into its world.
The book that did this most clearly to me was “Weave World” by Clive Barker. Perhaps because it is so obviously another world that you, the reader, are taken to.
Another example is Stephen King’s Carrie. In the shower scene where Carrie has her period and thinks she is dying we all feel her grief. We all want to know why her mother hasn’t educated her. We are all so thoroughly on her side that we not only accept her amazing powers, we barrack for her when she hands out her own particular form of justice.
Are there any books or movies that have dropped your soul back into your lifeless body after viewing and you sort of take a moment and think that’s right, I’m me and I’m sitting on the sofa reading a book?
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About ispiderbook

Anthony is a first time novelist who is based in Sydney Australia.

4 responses to “Believe it or not. The elastic band theory.

  1. cgparkin

    Might it be the rise in CGI effects in cinema? The more visually “stunning” effects have become, the greater the reliance on them (and to the detriment of the story perhaps)? Last year I read Jasper Fforde’s “Shades of Grey” which explored colour in a stunning way. Worth a read…

  2. Random

    I think the elastic band theory is totally right, plus it’s a great name for a theory, I hope you don’t mind me using it sometimes. 🙂 I believe it all comes down to empathy and our theory of mind, i.e. the ability of our brains to simulate the experience of others in order to understand it. There have been many studies lately of neuronal processing in people doing nothing but observing others perform some action, or reading a book, or watching a movie. The same regions in the brain responsible for, say, moving your legs will become active regardless of whether you are playing football or you are just watching somebody doing it. The level of intensity varies of course but the localization of activity is very similar. I think we are able to understand fiction precisely because of that ability, which evolved for who knows what reason, maybe to allow us to be social and political animals. So, maybe the more believable a character and the fictional context are, the more we are compelled to put ourselves in the character’s shoes (or point-of-view), to invest more of our brain resources in the simulation of the fictional experience.

    • For a Random person you’re pretty concise. Feel free to use the Elastic Band theory and thanks for your input. Maybe that’s why I used to get so physically drained after exams, my head was off doing a runner.

  3. Lois

    Great theory! I believe in it completely!

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