There’s no term that armchair critics love to misuse more than “plot hole”. I’ve shouted about this before and I’m gonna shout about it again. I haven’t seen people talking about this specific plot hole yet, but it’s a variety of “plot hole” people love to pick up on that bothers the fuck outta me.
So, there’s a moment in The Devil All The Time where a character pours lighter fluid on a box of photo negatives before dropping a match in it and setting it on fire. Going into WHY is spoiler territory and largely irrelevant. There are two important things here:
1) Lighter Fluid
2) Old photo negatives
Why is that important? Because old photo negatives are super flammable. Infamously so. Maybe an expert photo guy can be like “um ACTUALLY that’s xyz stock which is treated with abc and that means…” and honestly I don’t care: just play in the fucking space with me. Let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that our dude didn’t need to add lighter fluid. If I were CinemaSins, at this point I’d DING and I’d feel very clever.
But here’s the problem that’s probably itching at a bunch of you: so what? Like sure, the act is redundant, but is it crazy to think it’s something a human might do? The term ‘plot hole’ often gets chucked around to talk about characters doing a thing that’s a little illogical but people do incorrect things sometimes. It’s 100% believable that a human who doesn’t spend a lot of time with photo negatives didn’t realise they didn’t need it. It’s also 100% believable that they DID know and just wanted to give it some extra kick. The film does not go into any detail: the character doing the burning is not shown to be a photographer and we have little idea what went into the decision to use lighter fluid.
Maybe it’s the scriptwriter’s fault and they didn’t realise, but even if that’s true, it doesn’t disrupt the diegesis. It doesn’t ultimately matter whether it was the writer or the character who didn’t realise the lighter fluid was unnecessary, because the story still holds together.
- A character making a decision the viewer or reader wouldn’t is not a plot hole.
- A character making a decision that isn’t 100% the perfect decision to make is not a plot hole.
But these things get called plot holes constantly.
And fuck that, you know?
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