Fiction takes place in the imagination, but that doesn’t mean that literally anything goes simply because it’s imaginary. To every story, there is a suspension of disbelief – a cloud of willing delusion that allows the reader to get into the story by tossing rationality out the window.
Of course there is magic in Lord of the Rings. In that universe, magic exists, and if a critic were to stand up at a sci-fi convention and proclaim, “I just can’t get into LoTR because this magic stuff just doesn’t exist in real life,” then they’d be laughed out on their ass. Fiction isn’t supposed to mimic real life, otherwise it wouldn’t be fiction.
We have no problem with Thor wielding a flying hammer because we’ve accepted it as part of the story. Gods in that universe exist, the Nordic Gods specifically, Thor being one of them, and godlike weapons just… do that kind of stuff. But fiction must have some internal consistency. If [Token Love Interest] started flying around too with absolutely no explanation given, then the confusion would kick us out of the story. There must be some laws regarding fantastic elements of the story.
However, there are expectations and assumptions that we take in to every story from our real-life experiences.
We assume in the Avengers universe that most cars run on gasoline. We also assume that there is air on Earth and that the physics, when not contorted by superheroes, functions in similar ways to our own world. These aspects of the world are never explicitly stated, and they don’t need to be, because if they were then we’d be in for a twelve hour movie. Instead, we assume that everyday objects in fiction act as everyday objects in real life. If they suddenly don’t, then we run into problems.
If we were to watch the Avengers and see [Love Interest] fill the escape car with vegetable oil instead of gas, with no explanation given, we’d say to ourselves, “Wait, so do all cars run on vegetable oil in this world? What’s the point of that? Everything else works the same. We saw the jet planes use gas. I don’t get it.”
That, “I don’t get it moment,” is the moment where the story falls apart. The suspension of disbelief is broken, even though we just saw Thor fly across the ocean in the previous scene. You assumed cars ran on gas because everything else looked the same.
To put it all in simpler terms: while there are assumptions we must leave behind to enjoy fiction (Thor’s hammer makes him fly), there are also expectations that we can’t help but take with us (cars run on gasoline). The proper balance between the two creates a story that we can get lost in, but one that doesn’t need to spell out that universe’s laws of physics.
And these expectations are what makes the craft of fiction so much harder (though not impossible) for your average Social Justice Warrior or Politically Correct Writer. If you’ve spent at least some of your life outdoors and in the company of other people then you’d see for yourself how different groups of people, especially the sexes, have different attributes, both physically and psychologically. Our experience reinforce stereotypes, which might be wrong, but in many cases are right. There are things we don’t see, like rainbow coalitions with every race and sex/sexual orientation, Asian football players, or women the size of the Hulk. And it is precisely these views, gained from our own experience, which clash against the egalitarian fiction that the Social Justice Warrior creates.Their view of real life people revolves around human equality. They believe that the abilities and psychologies between all races and genders is pretty much the same, and that the difference between race and sex ultimately comes down to superficial aesthetics and some internal plumbing.
That may be great for inclusiveness, but it makes the storytelling process harder, not easier..
For example, has it ever seemed odd to you when a crime drama or thriller busts out a class-A hacker, that hacker happens to be a girl? It’s odd because you’ve never seen a class A girl hacker. Heck, you’d be hard pressed to find a class A girl programmer in real life, given how computer science is mostly a man’s game. You’ve never seen such a thing in your life and yet politically-correct fiction presents this over and over as if it’s reality. At some point, you notice the disconnect between your expectations and the fictional world, and there goes your suspension of disbelief.
What’s interesting is that this fictional world can also have cyborgs and aliens and dragons, and yet this largely mundane aspect can kick us out of the story because, like I said above, there are assumptions we must leave behind and there are expectations we can’t help but take with us. Aliens and cyborgs are okay, but a woman acting contrarily to every other woman we’ve ever met in our everyday lives, without sufficient reason, is not. If there is no reason, then we see such things as explicit endorsements from their creators of what the world (both fictional and real) should be like, rather than what is.
The irony is that fiction that more accurately aligns with real world expectations and assumptions, even if they are supposedly racist and misogynistic in certain aspects, will cause less friction with our willful suspensions of disbelief. They might not be better stories, per se, but they will be easier to get lost in.