Monthly Obscure Trope Series Double Feature — The Willing Suspension of Disbelief & The Rule of Cool

Today’s tropes are brought to you by… well, everything.  Both of them apply to books, tv shows, games, and even music–pretty much anything that tells a story.  

Have you ever read something so crazy that it pulled you out of the story?  Sure, you may be reading a story about pirates, but the movie isn’t historically accurate.  Maybe you’re willing to overlook some of those things for the sake of the story.  We call this the Willing Suspension of Disbelief. Basically, it’s the idea that the audience is able to overlook certain things for the sake of entertainment. 

Most people sit down to watch a movie to be entertained and get lost in the world and the story. Most people aren’t watching it to study the lead actress’s new role or to learn some nuance about set design.  We look past the actors playing dress up, past the CGI and set pieces, because we want to be entertained.  

But sometimes there are things that pull us out of the story.  Things that are so glaring that we’re unable to suspend our disbelief. Sometimes it’s shoddy CGI, or a plothole, or the main character shrugging off fifteen gunshot wounds.  Sometimes the story just isn’t following the rules—real world rules or rules established in-universe.  It doesn’t really matter what it is that pulled you out of the story—the story isn’t believable anymore.  

But sometimes, something so crazy happens that it should pull you out of the story, but it’s so damn cool that you look past it anyway. You keep watching in spite of whatever crazy shenanigans just happened on screen or on the page. Maybe you’re running a Table Top RPG and one of your players just came up with the craziest idea—something totally not legal by the rulebook—but it’s so cool you allow it.

That is the Rule of Cool.    

Here is a list of some examples that sound utterly ridiculous, but they are also cool and so we overlook them:

Laser swords, audible explosions in space, fighting over a lava field, parrying bullets, scars shaped like lightning bolts, operatic metal music, wall running, giant irradiated reptiles and insects, cities under the ocean, and swords attached to chains.  This is by no means a definitive list.  

Can you think of some examples of the Rule of Cool in effect? Share some of your favorites below.

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