Nick Bryan Dot Com

Good Friday – A Celebration Of Retroactive Continuity?

The Bible says this: Today, some years ago, Jesus was crucified by the Romans. A couple of them felt a bit bad about it, but not enough to refrain from hammering nails through his limbs and sticking him up on a plank.

Of course, his death doesn’t have the dramatic impact it might’ve, because we all know he comes back. It’s like re-watching the scene in Eastenders where Dirty Den “dies” near the canal. You can’t help but think of the fact he didn’t really die, just crawled away to hide in Europe for… some vague reason.

So, I am going to use religion as an excuse to talk about something which is a bit geeky. It is retroactive continuity, or the “retcon”, and how it affects our lives, or should do.

What are you talking about, Nick?

A valid question. Retroactive continuity is something that only really comes up when the same narrative storyline has been running for a very long time. So this generally applies to soap operas, long-running drama series and, yes, superhero comic books.

It is the fine art of reaching back into old stories and changing them, usually in order to serve the present day ones. Using the same example as above, an Eastenders writer in the early 2000s decided that Dirty Den needs to come back. So he had to exercise a bit of a retcon, declaring that poor Den didn’t really die in his very famous shooting scene, it just looked that way.

Other popular brands of retcon include the sudden unveiling of long-lost children, or the insertion of new characters into the background of existing ones to make them seem more important. (You know… “Eugene is new to the show, but it turns out he was married to the long-standing character Wilma for ten years. We just didn’t mention it before.”)

If you ever watched Buffy, the insertion of her little sister Dawn in season five is a particularly good retcon, because they don’t even pretend she existed the whole time. She’s literally retroactively inserted, in-story, by an enormous magic spell.

Fascinating. So how does this relate to Good Friday?

Well, Jesus died today, right? And then came back from the dead on Easter Sunday? (Sorry if I ruined the ending for you there.) Death is being undone. Is this not a retcon?

Well, actually, it isn’t. Two reasons: Firstly, it was quite clearly as-intended. It’s not as if Jesus died, then thought “Actually, no, this is boring”, I’ll change that. Well, not as far as I know.

Someone (depending on whether you believe the Bible to be literal truth, this could be God or it could not be), intended to bring him back when they killed him off. Despite which the average whining internet comic fan might tell you, that’s not a retcon. That’s called… a story.

And why should I care?

Um. No real reason. This was meant to be a Feeding The Black Dog entry, actually, but I appear to have strayed from the “advice” thing rather. Damn.


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