Refrigerator points

Yesterday I was at a seminar where the topic included the way movies portray science. At one point an attendee asked whether there was any way to get Hollywood filmmakers to portray science more accurately.

One panelist, a physicist and educator who was speaking from long experience dealing with Hollywood, explained that filmmakers are focused only on creating a product, and by far the most valuable part of that product, from their perspective, is the storytelling. Everything is in service to that.

He said that the goal of Hollywood filmmakers is to make any concept, no matter how outrageous and implausible, just believable enough — in the context of the scene — that you will accept that concept while you are watching the movie.

If, later that evening, you are reaching for a snack in the refrigerator, and it suddenly occurs to you that something in the movie didn’t make any sense, then the filmmakers are happy, because that thought didn’t occur to you in the theatre.

In fact, he said, such plot points have their own technical term (a term which, until today, cannot be found by a Google search). They are referred in the biz as “refrigerator points”.

5 Responses to “Refrigerator points”

  1. Stephan Ahonen says:

    Actually, this phenomenon has been well-documented by TVTropes under the name “Fridge Logic.” (Warning: Do not follow any links on this page or you will waste an afternoon)

  2. J. Peterson says:

    I always thought the cluttered labs in Trumbull’s Brainstorm were remarkably close to the mark. And 30 years later, we’re actually making progress reading minds (modulo the 2″ wide recording tape…)

  3. Sharon says:

    Then there are films like Lost in Austen where they don’t even try to make the plot device plausible (in this case, characters from “real life” and from a novel, in different time periods no less, living in each others worlds). Everyone pretty much just says “we don’t understand what is going on or how this is possible” and then the audience goes along with it because the story is so delicious. I wonder if there is a term for that.

  4. Sharon says:

    I think Lost in Austen must use a different kind of refrigerator logic: the kind that let’s you convince yourself that bites that you take standing in front of the refrigerator have no calories :-)

  5. admin says:

    Wait … you mean that food I eat while standing in front of the refrigerator has calories????

Leave a Reply