One of the great joys of having offspring (other than sending them to fetch things from the kitchen) comes when I get to see her perspective on things that I’ve long since taken for granted.  Her latest obsession is with Woody Woodpecker, and the child has taken to watching the New Woody Woodpecker Show and enjoying it greatly.  When I attempted to show her the old cartoons that *I* used to love, she complained that Woody looked weird and crazy (and she was right.)  After a bit of checking and comparison, I found that Woody’s character model seemed to change with dang near every cartoon (probably because the original design was hideous and freakish) but my memories of childhood were just blurry enough that I hadn’t retained the constant tweaking of the model.

The MS-QOTD (pronounced, as always, “misquoted”) is reminded of the subtle, constant changes to the uniforms in Star Trek: The Next Generation, asking: Is it necessary to explain subtle changes in-story (i.e. Empire Strikes Back’s Wampa attack to handwave Mark Hamill’s facial injuries) or is it just a matter of suspension of disbelief?


About Author

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture!And a nice red uniform.


  1. If it is a generation thing, as in your example of the various stages of Woody the Woodpecker, then a suspension of disbelief is fine because the show is for (ideally) a different audience. (Though some things ought to be killed with fire for being so wildly different, such as the new My Little Pony show.) Same with things like the uniform changes in in Star Trek because organizational uniforms change with time often.

    But things like the facial injury example should be explained. If I’m watching Dr. Who and all of a sudden River Song shows up with a hook for a hand (that isn’t a timey-wimey thing, but a new “norm”), then I expect an explanation as to why one of my favorite characters has a hook where her hand ought to be.

  2. I don’t think everything needs to be explained. It bothered me when they tried to explain how Klingons got their ridges. There’s no need. Everyone knows it was a matter of budget. Just leave it unexplained and move on.

  3. I think some things make for an interesting story if they tell it right. Others I’d rather it be left alone. I liked the idea behind making a reason for the klingon ridges and why the old series klingons had none, but I didn’t like the execution of the story. On the other hand, I didn’t really need an explanation why Mark Hamil had a scar when I already knew his character was participating in a war (and people get hurt in wars), but I did like the Wampa scene.

    Other times I just suspend all belief and enjoy the ride. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t be able to enjoy Doctor Who with all of it’s inconsistencies that have developed over the course of the entire series, nor would I be able to enjoy the occasional crossover when a previous Doctor actor is quite obviously older than they were before and never suddenly aged when time traveling until then. Even when they try to explain some things away, it just leads to more questions.

  4. It depends. Woody Woodpecker’s character model changed, as did Mickey Mouse, Goofy, and the rest. I didn’t like Donald Duck in his long bill days – he looked as whacked out as the original Woody Woodpecker. On the other hand, I like the original Micky Mouse with dots for eyes better than the modern one. During the fifties many character under went revisions when different animation houses took hold of old properties. I don’t like any of the Chuck Jones animated Tom and Jerry cartoons because he strayed to far away from the classic models. Likewise, the Popeye cartoons from the late fifties and early sixties are pathetic compared to the original. On a modern note, I didn’t like the weird facial scar they gave Nick Fury in the movies. I don’t remember a radial scar spiderwebbing out from his empty eye socket in the comics – it was a totally unnecessary and ridiculous detail. I didn’t particularly care for the Tintin movie either because the 3-D animation tried to make the character look more human and less cartoony. It was a freakish as if they gave Little Orphan Annie pupils in her eyeballs. It’s just not right.

  5. I tried to think of “subtle changes” and all I could think of were the era of TV shows in which a pregnant actress was always filmed behind some piece of scenery.

    The shows which I remember opted for an in-story explanation (Moonlighting, ST:DS9) are not well-remembered solutions to the “how do we explain a pregnancy” question. Maybe there were others that I would remember more fondly, if only the brain worked…

  6. @Tidge – I Love Lucy featured Lucille Ball’s pregnancy as a major storyline – this was actually a pretty radical departure from standard practice of day, and part of what made the show so massively popular. Of course later folks learned things weren’t quite so rosy at home, but that’s another story.

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