Is red really a colour or just a dark shade of pink? What alcoholic beverage best represents your personality? An evil wizard has decided to turn the love of your life into a half fish half human monstrosity, not being all bad, he’s left the ordering up to you. So how do you want them? A careering rollercoaster ride for the imagination, in which wild ideas and preposterous propositions abound at a Mad Hatter’s tea party of pure nonsense, what’s not to love about talking bollocks? Well maybe on occasions it’s a tad pretentious, “The unrealistic special effects of the monster in John Carpenter’s ‘The Thing’ makes it all the more real given that on a very basic level it’s meant to embody the other”!!! As the election draws close here in the UK, I wanted to discuss the merits of talking bollocks. Fear not, I’m not about to go off on one about bullshit spouting politicians who are slowly eroding the fabric of our society. For you see dear reader bollocks and bullshit are entirely separate matters, even if they are perilously close to each other. The former is jovial and irreverent, the latter is just a ridiculous lie told with far too much confidence for my liking. What I want to argue here is that talking bollocks is not just a fun past time but a playful activity with some merit in developing our ability to entertain others ideas and better temper our emotions when our own ideas are shown up.
For evidence of this, I take you back to Christmas and the realm of the geeky. A single line spoilt the Doctor Who special for me last year. ‘Those windows like everything in this building are built to stand a blast equivalent to four nuclear explosions’. Now this had me fuming, as surely a paper thin see through material couldn’t have this property. It threw me out of the fantasy; the writer wanted me to believe that some flimsy paper thin glass was super-duper nuclear proof, just because. So when I saw a friend for a pint the next day I brought it up thinking it would provide a great topic to have a comical moan about. Instead his response was, “that was fine”, to which I replied ‘it was wholly unbelievable and completely inconsistent with our expectations about how the world works’. He retorted with a smile “name a fantastical show that isn’t like that”, sticking to my guns ‘yeh, but it didn’t even have an internally consistent explanation’. Then came his ace in the hole, ‘what about Ant Man?’ Now he was just playing games with me, he soon explained… In Ant Man, when the character shrinks he becomes super dense and that means despite his size he can knock people out. Yet with no explanation when he becomes super big he somehow gets super strong when he really should be a flimsy balloon. My friend knew I absolutely loved the scene in Civil War when Ant Man went supersize and smashed the place up and that I hadn’t complained about inconsistencies then. My response was comically complicated; evolution had predisposed me to expect big things to do damage and so the inconsistency was easy to overlook as it chimed with my expectations. I smiled; I was on thin ice and knew it. My friend smiled for the same reason, ‘so when you go into a police box what do you expect?’ ‘Also the TARDIS is bigger on the inside because…’ Check and mate, I chuckled uproariously and then bought the next round. I might have been annoyed by the glass, but as a criticism of the writing it was pathetic in that it lacked consistency with my other opinions. Oh, the sweet irony.
I know this has been a bizarre post but I think its heart is in the right place. It’s easier to entertain others ideas and accept that you’re wrong when the conversation is ridiculous. More personally, if I can be so plainly wrong and yet emotionally vehement about something as easy going as a TV programme, then sadly I’m probably not much better in assessing the most important questions facing society. In the UK we seem to live in an increasingly polarized country, in which two sides both assume they’re completely right and so end up talking past one another. We need to talk more bollocks to each other and playfully trip each other’s irreverent opinions up. That way when we’re wrong about something important and someone points it out there’s a greater chance that we’ll have developed the skills to acknowledge this.
Of course this could all be a load of old bollocks on my part.