Ok, nerds, let's get nerdy.
Today I came upon this quote from a writer I once liked as a younger man, but whose "stuff" I haven't been able to stand since before his first DC tenure was over, Peter David. Let's read, shall we?
"A shared universe, like any fictional construct, hinges on suspension of disbelief. When continuity is tossed away, it tatters the construct. Undermines it."
I read it and got annoyed. [A side note here: I'm trying to write this so that I can still access it from my work computer on my off-periods. There are vulgarity filters at work. I'm finding it rather difficult.]
Let's take it apart, piece by piece.
The first statement is that fictional constructs hinge on suspension of disbelief. I call total horseshit on that. I have never, ever, ever read a comic book or seen a movie where fantastic things were happening and thought, "Hey, yeah, that could happen," or "Hey, that's not possible!" It's fiction. I don't need to believe it. I need to enjoy it or feel enlightened by it. When Wolverine shows up in eleven different books, that doesn't affect my reading of any of them (if I actually read them). Suspension of disbelief is a stupid little crutch that people fall back on when they don't like how something is being done or portrayed. Especially in superhero comics. I can't believe my eyes when I see people complain about losing their "suspension of disbelief" in a book about guys shooting lasers out of their eyes at each other. Where is that line of "Oh, this is total bull now"? It's apparently not at someone flying or breathing water. But one story contradicting another, WHOAAAA NOW! HOLD UP THERE SOLDIER! That's silly. It's some weird anal need for everything in the world to fit together neatly. It doesn't, so why should it in fiction?
Next, "When continuity is tossed away, it tatters the construct." More melodramatic bull. When continuity is tossed away, it frees writers to write stories. Green Lantern: Rebirth had a talented writer and an admirable goal. But the entire thing became so mired in making sure every little continuity point ever was addressed and placated, it became more of a terrible fan fic reference book than a story. A lot of the worst stories in mainstream comics came about from some need to address continuity. Anything with "crisis" in it not written by Grant Morrison or Gardner Fox, for instance. Marvel's X-books post Morrison for another. There may have been good stories written with heavy continuity, but they weren't good because of it, they were good in spite of it.
"It undermines it."
It just blows my mind that there are people out there for whom this is an issue. The "undermining" of the "tapestry" or whatever. It's not a real place, folks. It's a collection of stories. Do you need to believe in it so that you can pretend to be there? Isn't that taking "escapism" a little too far? Let writers write. If they want to tie stories into something else, that's great. If not, don't force it. You'll get a poorer story for it. And loosen up. For proponents of such escapist fare, these continuinerds get all worked up about it. Enjoy the stories you enjoy and ignore the ones you don't. But don't bring other people down because you want everything a certain way. Grow up and let go.