Ever watched a movie and been totally convinced by the hero's passionate speech, only to realize later it didn't make much logical sense?

Or seen a villain's plan dismissed for being crazy when, well, they might have a point?

Movies and TV shows are masters of manipulating our thinking, whether intentionally or not. Today, we're diving into the world of logical fallacies – those sneaky ways stories try to persuade us without using sound reasoning.

I first learned about the fallacies from my tenth-grade English teacher, Dr. Keane. He was kind of a mad man, but beat these into our brains.

And now, I want to do the same for you.

Let's dive in.

The Logical Fallacies Glossary

Fallacies of Relevance

  • Ad Hominem - Attacking the person making the argument rather than addressing the argument itself.
  • Straw Man - Misrepresenting someone's argument to make it easier to refute.
  • Appeal to Authority - Using the opinion of an authority figure or expert as the primary evidence, especially when the person is not an expert in the relevant area.
  • Appeal to Emotion - Relying on emotions like fear, pity, or flattery to persuade rather than logical reasoning.
  • Red Herring - Introducing an irrelevant topic to divert attention from the main issue.

Fallacies of Ambiguity

  • Equivocation - Using a word or phrase with multiple meanings in a way that makes the argument misleading.
  • Amphiboly - Exploiting ambiguous grammar to distort or misrepresent the meaning of a statement.

Fallacies of Presumption

  • Hasty Generalization - Making a conclusion about a large group based on insufficient evidence (a small sample).
  • Begging the Question (Circular Reasoning) - Assuming the conclusion of an argument as part of the proof offered for it.
  • False Dilemma - Reducing a complex issue to only two options, often with one presented as obviously undesirable.
  • Slippery Slope - Asserting that a relatively small step will inevitably lead to a chain of extreme and undesirable consequences.
  • Post Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc - Confusing correlation with causation – assuming that because event A happened before event B, A caused B.

Other Important Fallacies

  • Appeal to Ignorance - Claiming something must be true because we don't know it to be false (or vice-versa).
  • Bandwagon Fallacy - Assuming something is true or desirable because it is popular.
  • Gambler's Fallacy - Believing that past random events will influence the probability of future unrelated random events.

How the Fallacies of Thought Apply to Film and TV

How the Fallacies of Thought Apply to Film and TV

Black Mirror

Nick Wall/Netflix

One of my favorite things to do is argue about film and TV with my friends. But in this age of diminished media literacy, you need to know the arguments people may throw at you to prove you wrong.

And you can counter with some of your own. Plus, if you're writing or directing movies, think about what you want that story to say.

Films and TV shows aren't just about entertainment; they can be powerful tools of persuasion.

They often use fallacies of thought to create compelling narratives and drive home messages.

Fallacies can be used to develop characters, with heroes relying on emotional appeals or hasty decisions, while villains might use straw man arguments or target opponents personally. Plots can be fueled by false dilemmas that create tension, or by oversimplified conflicts that make the good guys seem even better.

Even the messages a film conveys can be influenced by fallacies, with tear-jerking scenes or stirring music swaying our emotions even if the underlying logic is weak.

You can control the audience and have them in the palm of your hand. And that's a good way to get a reader to pass your script up the ladder.

As viewers, it's important to be aware of these tactics. Recognizing fallacies helps us become more critical viewers, able to separate emotional manipulation from sound arguments. It allows us to appreciate the complexities of a film and form our own reasoned responses to the ideas presented.

Let me know what you think in the comments.