Here is my general attitude to responding to comments I get; I don’t, especially in public forums. It drives me crazy when people on TGWTG get all uppity and go after their commenters. As most of us are doing reviews on something else, being derivative in that way and “commenting”, I find it very immature when people can’t handle comments and feel the need to show their relative bigness by pooh-poohing negative comments. Guys, how old are we? You feel entitled to your little opinions, no need to justify them, so let the anonymous masses have theirs and move on.
Even when opinions are wrong I usually let it slide. But this MacGuffin thing is really starting to piss me off. After our little Dune masterpiece, I kept seeing comments to the tune of “that’s not a MacGuffin!” in relation to certain things, namely the spice.
Yes. Yes, it is.
This is from my TVTropes page, and, I have to say, it was the last straw. Time to eat my own words and speak up:
“She gave a bad example of a MacGuffin in her Dune review: the Death Star plans. To clarify: the Death Star plans can’t be said to be a Mac Guffin because they ARE important to the plot – it’s thanks to them the Rebellion is able to destroy the Death Star. Likewise, the Spice is also not a Mac Guffin. However, the explanation itself of what is a Mac Guffin was correct.”
Aight, foos. You wanna play? Let’s play.
The reason I used the plans for the Death Star as a prime example of a MacGuffin was because I remembered a quote from a Star Wars commentary from a Mr. George Fucking Lucas, describes R2-D2 thusly, “what you say in the movie business is the MacGuffin … the main driving force of the movie or the central object of every character’s search.”
R2-D2 and his Death Star plans count very much as a MacGuffin. The “spice” does, too.
That is all a MacGuffin is. Somewhere along the line someone on the Internet got it in their head that the MacGuffin doesn’t matter to the plot, and that is not true. In a MacGuffin-driven plot, and needless to say not all plots are driven by one, the MacGuffin is indeed the most important element that gets the plot going because everyone is chasing it, the element that people usually define about the MacGuffin is that the audience isn’t meant to care or invest in it. The reason the Spice can be considered a MacGuffin is that it is the motivation behind EVERY character’s actions within the universe, but ultimately does not matter to the story- the story is about the political battling between these two families. Although, sure, the spice does stuff and is better integrated into the plot than other MacGuffins, but ultimately is incidental; they could be fighting over anything. Therefore, the Spice is a MacGuffin.
Similarly, R2-D2 and his Death Star plans; it carries the main tension to the end of act 2, obviously, very important to motivating Luke into getting his rear in gear and getting on the path to becoming a Jedi. Very important to the plot, but ultimately, incidental. Again, the Empire could be pursuing anything they deem to be important; the story is about the characters, not about Why The Death Star Plans are important. Therefore, they are a MacGuffin.
Alfred Hitchcock was the guy who drew people’s attention to this little plot device. In North by Northwest, the government agents “are after microfilm containing “government secrets”—that’s all the audience learns about why the film’s villains cause the hero so much trouble—and Hitchcock considered that to be a perfect MacGuffin, because it was so wonderfully vague.” The Ark of the Covenant is another good example. The unobtanium in Avatar is another.
Do you follow me, Internet?
You see, MacGuffins are integral to whatever plot they are in. The term “MacGuffin” does not imply that it is used frivolously, it’s just that the object itself is, usually, incidental. There are occasions when the MacGuffin is a character (I would say that Leelu from The Fifth Element counts as the rare Third-Act MacGuffin, a character the audience is meant to care about.) Hitchcock was the guy who told everyone that MacGuffins don’t matter; I suppose this is where people got this idea that elements like R2-D2’s plans and the spice are not considered MacGuffins, but my question is if an element drives the characters’ journey and search, how can it not be important? George Fucking Lucas thinks so.
I don’t mean to appear defensive, I hate it when Internet cewebrity plebians, especially the ones on TGWTG, get all defensive, but for fucks sake, people, if you expect me to get my shit right, likewise, bitchez. Likewise. Don’t make me pull my otherwise useless undergraduate degree in film studies from NYU out on you, because I will, foos. I will.
But in all seriousness, I love you, TV Tropes. Most of the time.