The Thermian Argument

So there's a bad habit people have gotten into. It's nothing new, but it's become more and more common. It goes like this:

Critic: Hello. This is Folding Ideas. I recently watched the anime Women Getting Ripped Apart by Orcs and was, you know, disturbed by the seeming perverse glee the way the show takes the frequent and excessive dismemberment of its female cast members. In fact, the entire purpose of the show seems to be little more than showing women being brutally violated by orcs. Minor characters with little plot significance are often subjected to two or three minute sequences that focus on almost pornographic lens on their suffering and the enjoyment the orcs take in the process.

The Angry Gamesmasher: Dan Olsen is wrong to complain. If he thinks this is a big deal, then he clearly wasn't paying attention. The orcs were created by the dreadgod hatsul light. The dreadgod wanted an army that would rape and shred its way across the land of Thilul. So the orcs aren't just violent for no reason. They are compelled to be violent. It all makes sense if you were paying attention to the backstory.

This is becoming a pretty familiar exchange over the last few years and the base components are this: One, some elment of the anime or video game is criticized. Usually for racism or sexism. Two, fans defend it by citing in-universe reasons for why the world of the text is the way that it is.

Here's the problem: fictional worlds aren't real and are eternally mutable by creators. They are the sum of a giant pile of creative decisions made by one, two, a dozen, a hundred different individuals who took it from blank page to finished product. The only reason anything is the way that it is is because a writer chose to make it that way.

The diegetic argument aims to dismiss criticism at its cores, suggesting that there aren't any problems with the text provided controversial elements are internally consistent with the rest of the story world. In slang terms, this can be referred to as the Thermian Argument. In the sci-fi classic Galaxy Quest, the Thermians don't understand fiction as a concept. It doesn't exist in their language, and thus they see all texts as historical documents.

While not identical, the root figure of thought is similar here. The diegesis is given primacy over the text as a cultural product. The exact rational behind a Thermian argument may even be contradictory from one case to another. One medieval game with dragons and magic and no one with brown skin is fine as-is because "historical accuracy." In a different medieval game a character wears a chainmail bikini to a warzone because it's just a fantasy and "That's just how her tribe dresses." You cannot criticize the world because that's just the way the world is.

This is a deeply flawed argument because, once again, fictional worlds aren't real and are eternally mutable by creators. None of it actually exists. The only part that does exist is the finished text and the idea that it represents.


Folksonomies: diegetic logical fallacy diegesis

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Fiction (0.657170): dbpedia_resource
Criticism (0.619345): dbpedia_resource

 Minisode - The Thermian Argument
Audiovisual Media>Television Series, Single Episode:  Olsen, Dan (09/17/2015), Minisode - The Thermian Argument, Retrieved on 2018-02-10
  • Source Material []
  • Folksonomies: logical fallacy