Yes, Plot Holes Matter… Sometimes

Sarah C. Schafer
Jan 29 · 8 min read

My favorite Pixar film is Ratatouille. It’s about a rat named Remy who wants to be a great chef like his role model Chef Gusteau who believes “anyone can cook.” The story has a profound message about art, ambition, and criticism, as well as complex characters and on-point humor. Although no movie is perfect, Ratatouille comes close. However, there’s one glaring plot hole.

Remy teams up with a human named Linguini to achieve both of their goals, Remy’s to cook, and Linguini’s to hold a job. In the kitchen, the pair struggles to keep Remy hidden from the other chefs. Through a hilarious series of events, Remy ends up under Linguini’s chef hat and discovers that if he tugs on locks of Linguini’s curly hair, he could control his movements like a puppet. This becomes their solution and is where Remy spends a lot of time for the rest of the movie.

For those who have never seen Ratatouille, (I highly recommend you do) this sounds nonsensical. It’s impossible to cause movement by pulling on someone’s hair, yet in an animated movie it works. After all, is it possible for a rat to become a gourmet chef?

There’s been a rise of plot hole detectives on the internet. Sometimes these critiques are practical (why does Buzz Lightyear freeze around humans if he doesn’t believe he’s a toy?), some express confusion (why do Cinderella’s glass slippers remain after midnight?) and some make the events of the story seem pointless (why didn’t the fellowship fly to Mordor on eagles?)

There’s a certain satisfaction to finding a plot hole. It’s almost like a trophy that says “Congratulations! You are smarter than the filmmakers!” It’s also fun.

Thinking critically is a good thing. Some people enjoy movies on an emotional level while some like to analyze them. I myself fall in the second category.

So why don’t I care about Ratatouille’s plot hole?

Because it’s not really a plot hole.

It makes sense in the movie that Remy could play puppeteer to Linguini, because that’s what he is doing in an allegorical sense. Remy wants to become a chef, but he needs to accept himself for who he is, which means he needs to cook as himself to complete his arc. Linguini has been pushed around his whole life and has to learn to become confident and stand up for himself, instead of being praised for being something he is not. The puppet allegory is a great way to convey their stories and makes the ending where they open up their own restaurant together satisfying.

Plus, the setting is very grounded. Remy and Linguini aren’t able to verbally communicate, since Remy is, well, a rat. Rats are treated like rats throughout the movie, and the restaurant setting feels real. The only implausible aspects are Remy speaking and aspiring like a human, and of course, the puppeteering, but the character designs and animation help smooth over these issues. That’s one reason why animation trumps live-action. (Please, don’t give us a live-action version of Ratatouille, Disney. We don’t want it.)

A critic shouldn’t feel smart for realizing how implausible the puppeteering is. The filmmakers knew it’s impossible, but risked the ridiculousness in exchange for a good story. And they achieved a good story.

That’s not to say that we should never critique movies.

Stories are not gospel and they deserved to be viewed closely and sometimes ripped apart. A way to tell the difference between good criticism and nitpicks is if changing the plot hole would improve the story or not.

If Remy didn’t sit on Linguini’s head and pull his hair, it would ruin the flow and direction of the story, so it’s more of a nitpick. Perhaps Cinderella’s glass slippers were a gift from her godmother since they were not created from mice or pumpkins. After all, the godmother wanted her to escape her abusive home and have a happily ever after. Adding this detail could improve the story and develop her godmother’s motivation, so pointing out this plot hole can be considered valid criticism.

Plot holes do matter, and critique is important. There’s no excuse for lazy writing, and we don’t need to stand for it. Sometimes writers miss the mark, and we should point it out. Critics are important because they shape how we perceive art and they can deduce what makes a film pleasant or unpleasant to watch. No one should be told to turn off their brain to watch a film. Many good films require deep thought, and many become better as we analyze the layers that went into it.

Here’s where I’m going to sound hypocritical: Do plot holes matter? Yes. But they matter more when they break the suspension of disbelief and ruin the enjoyment of the film, and matter less in an overall satisfying film where holes are found as an afterthought.

Ratatouille’s villain, the vulture-like food critique, Anton Ego, was notorious. Think of him as the Simon Cowell of restaurants, if Simon Cowell had the charisma and appearance of Coraline’s Other Mother. He was appropriately named since nitpicking does inflate our egos. That’s neither a good or bad thing. It’s fun to rant about plot holes, and it makes us feel smart. I would be lying if I said I didn’t have my own list of books I love to complain about. Many people like reading bad reviews, because it gives them hope. “If this terrible book got published, mine can too!”

Nitpicking is its own can of worms, and it’s usually what people are referring to when they say “plot holes don’t matter.” Nitpicking is what happens when we hate-watch a movie, and it’s really fun. However, sometimes the nitpicks aren’t sound. We may gripe about how something doesn’t make sense, while ignoring the clear cannon reason for why it does.

However, when we enter a movie theater or book with a negative eye, it tears us away from the message the story was trying to tell us. We’re too busy looking for inconsistencies to understand the subtext that explain these “inconsistencies” and makes them make sense.

Beauty and the Beast (1991) is a beloved classic that people love to rake through the mud, with “enlightened theories,” such as Belle had Stockholm Syndrome and the Beast was just as bad as Gaston. These “plot holes” are false, and here’s why.

Stockholm Syndrome is a survival technique where a hostage defends and gets feelings for his captor, and it is not an official clinical term. Belle was never a hostage; she volunteered to stay in the castle, and she escaped at the first sign of danger. She only returned when the Beast saved her life, out of her own free will. When the Beast yelled at her, she yelled back; when he began being kind, she was kind in return.

Yes, the Beast and Gaston are both selfish men who locked up Belle’s father but their similarities end there. The Beast recognizes his selfishness and becomes kind in order to deserves Belle’s love. He recognizes who she is and accepts her, as shown with the scene where he gives her the library. Gaston is selfish throughout the story and feels entitled to Belle. In their first interaction together, he throws her book in the mud and tells her she should pay more attention to him. He doesn’t care about who she is as a person, or about the books that she holds so dearly. Meanwhile the Beast sits next to her by the hearth and they read together.

It makes me wonder if the people who believe the Beast and Gaston are one and the same had ever actually seen the movie.

A person can say that I’m only defending Beauty and the Beast because it was one of my favorite movies as a child and nostalgia is blind. You would be correct if you think this, but I don’t defend every story I adore. You might hate Catcher in the Rye with a burning passion, and I totally understand if you do; honestly, all of your complaints are probably correct. Holden Caulfield is an annoying, wannabe edge-lord. I still like him though.

The reason I defend Beauty and the Beast is because these nitpicks undermine the message of Beauty and the Beast, that beauty is only skin deep and love is about who you are, not what you look like. It’s a wonderful, timeless theme. Except some internet ‘critics’ scoff and say, “It’s not love. It’s Stockholm Syndrome, and Belle would have been better off with Gaston anyway.”

In short, when you hate-watch a film or look for plot holes, you may miss the point of the story and all of the details that fix those ‘plot holes.’

Art is subjective and what some may consider to be a bad film may be others’ favorite. They might see the plot holes but not care, or they have their own theories to explain them away.

It’s hard to label a movie as good or bad, but usually a “good movie” means a lot of people liked it, and a “bad movie” means a lot of people didn’t. People may argue that the term “good movie” can be objective because it needs to have a cohesive and compelling plot, realistic characters, suspense and drama, competent direction and editing, and all of the other elements that make a story enjoyable.

I find Holden Caulfield’s perspective enjoyable; others loathe it. I can’t stand Dicken’s writing (yes, I know he was paid by the word, and that doesn’t make me like his prose more) yet he’s hailed as a literary genius, so what do I know? There are so many creative and well-told stories that are pushed aside for less competent tales. What makes a movie good? It’s the enjoyment factor. Characters, plot, pacing, and all that contribute to that, but they’re not the be all end all.

We can complain about plot holes; after all, nitpicking make bad movies fun. We all enjoy movies differently, and there’s no wrong way to watch one. But there is a wrong way to represent one, by focusing on nitpicks instead of story.

After Anton Ego discovers Remy is the true chef, he writes his review of Gusteau’s restaurant, and he notes the limitations of a critic.

“In many ways, the work of a critic is easy. We risk very little yet enjoy a position over those who offer up their work and their selves to our judgment. We thrive on negative criticism, which is fun to write and to read. But the bitter truth we critics must face, is that in the grand scheme of things, the average piece of junk is probably more meaningful than our criticism designating it so.”

No art is invincible from criticism, but all art holds more power of influence than reviews ever will, and that makes art both free and dangerous.

You may completely disagree with everything I have written here, but if I could convince you of one thing it’s this: You’ve got to watch Ratatouille.

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