Schrödinger’s Saturday Night Fever
At last, the scientific community has made sense of the John Travolta “classic.”
It’s a familiar story: you exit the cinema with a friend after seeing the latest cinematic clunker only to hear your friend exclaim, “That was the best movie ever!” Huh? Were you both watching the same film?
Science has a principle that can finally tackle this question: Schrödinger’s Saturday Night Fever.
Okay, so it’s not exactly science. It’s what passes for science in the books of Jasper Fforde. In Fforde’s Thursday Next series, the world is vastly different (re-engineered dodos, time travel, inane game shows like Celebrity Name that Fruit!), and yet surprisingly similar (corrupt politicians, lost luggage, and… inane reality shows like I’m a Celebrity, Get me Out of Here!). So when Thursday’s precocious daughter Tuesday Next develops a scientific theorem to explain the simultaneous existence of both a slacker older brother and the hard-working brother he potentially could be, the science is accessible and equally familiar.
Fforde explains Schrödinger’s Saturday Night Fever:
“If you go to see Saturday Night Fever expecting it to be good, it’s a corker. However, if you go expecting it to be a crock of shit, it’s that, too. Thus Saturday Night Fever can exist in two mutually opposing states at the very same time, yet only by the weight of our expectations.”
Now, I know what you’re thinking, does this work for any John Travolta film? Don’t worry; Fforde covers that:
“Only the artistically ambiguous ones… such as Pulp Fiction and Face/Off. Battlefield Earth doesn’t work, because it’s a stinker no matter how much you think you’re going to like it, and Get Shorty doesn’t work either, because you’d be hard-pressed not to enjoy it, irrespective of any preconceived notions.”
So the next time a friend radically disagrees with you on a film, rest assured: they aren’t crazy. It’s just Schrödinger’s Saturday Night Fever in action. (Unless the film they love is Look Who’s Talking Too. Then your friend is definitely crazy.)