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Old 03/25/2018   #1
Lucis Caelum
Default When does humor have its place on the narrative & when it doesnt?

I bet you've heard the term 'forced humor' as a criticism in entertaiment before, so let's discuss.

What exactly defines 'forced humor'?

I dont have an answer to this because I never felt humor being out of place in a movie, show, book, etc but, what I can add is that I find weird how people have this (imo) warped idea that humor can't be juxtaposed with its (extreme) opposite spectrum, seriousness.
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Old 03/25/2018   #2
Fangu
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When does humour not have its place: When it completely takes a way the gravity of a great emotional moment. The first minutes of this video explains it pretty well:

YouTube Video

Overuse of bathos is something that annoys me greatly. The latest Star Wars movie ruins some of its greatest moments with badly placed jokes.
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Old 03/25/2018   #3
Tennyo
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Thank you so much for that, Fangu. I watched that video a few months ago and then could never find it again. I've been wanting to post it in threads.

Thor Ragnarok is a perfect example of Bathos. The movie doesn't allow itself to have moments like what the video shows us from Spider-Man and Avengers. Without having scenes like that to juxtapose the humor, it isn't nearly as fun to watch as it could be.

Wonder Woman is a great recent example of a movie that gets this balance right. Spide-Man: Homecoming even more so, because they took a character who is actually supposed to be funny and let him feel emotions without having to undercut them.

But Ragnarok? Almost every single scene that should be epic or serious is cut in half by an out-of-place joke, and Thor isn't even meant to be a truly comedic character.

We can also talk about Guardians of the Galaxy 2, despite that video featuring a clip from it. Yes, GotG does contain Bathos that maybe it could have done without, but that movie also allows itself to have some more serious moments despite having been built on a reputation of comedy stemming from the first film. Which is why I liked it much better than the first one.
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Old 03/25/2018   #4
Lucis Caelum
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Fangu wrote: Overuse of bathos is something that annoys me greatly. The latest Star Wars movie ruins some of its greatest moments with badly placed jokes.
Like which scenes from which one of the new movies?
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Old 03/26/2018   #5
Mr. Ite
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TLJ was so full of Bathos that it might as well have been a parody. Luke throwing away the light saber, every time Hux is made to look bumbling, "can you put on a towel or something?" every few minutes a joke cuts through the seriousness of the film. Compare with TFA's "Let's take the garbage" which is a really funny moment and is ALSO grounded in the character's reality.
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Old 03/26/2018   #6
ForceStealer
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I found Ragnarok to be way, way more enjoyable than Guardians 2, though. I don't know if that was on account of the humor though, gotg2's jokes were fine, but it was the only marvel movie I've watched so far where I thoroughly didn't care at the climax.

Meanwhile, I greatly enjoyed Thor's humor in the avengers, but I hadn't seen any of his own movies and when my friend told some he wasn't nearly as fun in those I was kinda bummed. But Ragnarok was such pure fun all the way through. Not having been a comic fan though I have no concept of which characters are "supposed" to be funny or not.
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Old 03/26/2018   #7
X-SOLDIER
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Mr. Ite wrote: TLJ was so full of Bathos that it might as well have been a parody. Luke throwing away the light saber, every time Hux is made to look bumbling, "can you put on a towel or something?" every few minutes a joke cuts through the seriousness of the film. Compare with TFA's "Let's take the garbage" which is a really funny moment and is ALSO grounded in the character's reality.
Interesting, because I wouldn't call ANY of those moments you mentioned comedic at all. Luke tossing aside the Lightsaber is far more baffling than amusing and it undercuts the moment of reverence because it's meant to make an uncomfortable shift in expectations from what was built up before, Hux's incompetence and being treated like a punching bag serves to fuel his rabid anger, and the towel line especially was added explicitly to ensure that it was clear that Rey & Ben could see each other and to portray an annoyance over not being able to control the timing of that connection so that one doesn't even really change the tone at all. That being said, I won't deny there is a good chunk of Bathos humour in the film: "It's salt." being one that I personally found amusing, but ymmv, it's also not something foreign to Star Wars, though I will definitely admit that it's a flaw in many of the films. (Star Wars is even prevalent enough as a pop-culture thing such that some of its own in-references like, "I've got a baaaad feeling about this." come off as tonally breaking because of it – TLJ not using the Willhelm scream being a source of Bathos-like humor through rampant overuse is one that I am glad that it knowingly abandoned).

On that note, the Star Wars prequels run rampant with this. Jar-jar is the embodiment of that in character form, which is why he's so ill-received (though if you compare him to C-3PO, it's really the edits and delivery of his clumsiness that's the issue). On that point Episode II's Geonosis Factory Sequence and immediately subsequent Battle Droid Head Sequence being implanted into the middle of otherwise tense conflicts really showcase the issue those films have. Juxtapose that against the way that C-3PO normally dotters around and bemoans his situation, and they're VERY different because in the Original Trilogy, C-3PO is ALWAYS a bit of a busybody but his appraisal of the situations and others annoyances with it are the source of comedy, rather than just being slapstick helplessness. 3PO's comedic helplessness is generally portrayed as a factor for other characters, rather than something for the audience.

That all being said, the example in the video of Dr. Strange isn't one I'm bothered by, because of the fact that there's also a build-up to his relationship with his cloak that's humorously combative to him attempting to be heroic in a way where it feels like that joke is as much a believable moment for him as it is for the audience as well as mostly serving to settle that tug-of-war relationship. Same goes for the Guardians team-up scene: Rocket's reluctance to be a part of that moment DOES involve calling out and playing on the trope, but as a character he very much uses scathing humour as a communication tool, because that's how he hides his own pain, which is why it works rather than undercutting the moment as JUST comedy – like the rock falling into the classic pose scene with Drax yelling about it too late does.

When it comes to me, humour that comes about as a result of circumstantial things that match the characters is what makes it work. Wonder Woman's bath scene is a good example of a situation that's humorous but also genuine. Another good example is Yoda being a goofy & senile old swamp frog in TESB. While it's TOTALLY riffing on the expectation of Luke finally meeting and training under a legendary Jedi Master, and thereby wrecking audience expectations of what that was meant to be in the cryptic build-up, it also matches Yoda's character and the humor largely comes from the two being at odds with one another because of the juxtaposition, and becomes more obvious when Yoda being a pain-in-the-ass was a part of his own test of Luke.

It's pretty easy to tell if a moment is artificially inserted in order to pull a chuckle from the audience in a way that feels tonally unnatural. I think that for me, humour has its place when you look at the percentage of the comedy comes from the moment being genuinely funny between the parties on screen, VS the amount that's funny just being the audience seeing what's happening on the screen. While there are exceptions, I think that for the most part, that humour can usually be felt out by thinking about a few factors:

1) Whether or not it feels believable in the context of the setting.
2a) Whether or not it'd be funny reading the same thing in a book.
2b) Whether the moment would be funny without any sound.
3) Whether it'd be perceived the same way by the characters and the audience.

For the most part, if it doesn't meet those three things, it feels like attempting to artificially change the reaction of your audience for something that the moment that you designed in the film hasn't earned. To round things out with the C-3PO Geonosis Segment:

1) The whole thing is an unbelievable Rube Goldberg assembly process.
2a) It could be, depending on the delivery.
2b) The visual presentation is ridiculous, but not inherently funny.
3) The characters should be worried about 3PO, but the audience knows there's no real danger, and the scene plays for comedy.

I think that those criteria cover most instances of when comedy does or doesn't feel like it belongs in a narrative.



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Old 03/26/2018   #8
Fangu
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Lulcy wrote: Like which scenes from which one of the new movies?
The Last Jedi; Ite mentioned several scenes, but the biggest 'let me have this moment dammit!' for me was when (SPOILER) Luke meets up with Leia again near the end of the film. This is a big moment. When I saw it coming, 25+ years of loving Star Wars flashed before my eyes; I had moments from the original trilogy in the back of my head. This is Luke! It's Leia! There was a Star Wars-historic build up to that scene, I expected it to be emotional, I expected the movie to let me have that nostalgic moment of feels, which I got for just a few seconds, until they coughed up that 'I changed my hair' joke. Now, I know it's a joke previously used in the new trilogy, but that means zero squat to me. I'm not there for that scene for a reference, or for a 'lighten the tension' joke. I'm there for a big, emotional moment, and the film won't let me have it. Poor Carrie Fisher tried to make it a sweet moment, but in the end that line was meant to be a joke, not a tear jerker line, so she couldn't save the scene. I cannot tell you how frustrated that exact scene made me feel.

As for other movies mentioned in this thread - I actually liked Thor: Ragnarok (and I'm super picky!) because it kind of felt like a comedy to me? So the jokes, even though same old and tiring, didn't feel that misplaced to me. I say comedy because even though there are some underlying serious tones about family there, what drives the movie is a lightheartedness - it's so colourful! And that genius 80's style soundtrack - fits so well, I've listened to it on Spotify several times after watching the movie. What I mean is, the movie isn't meant to tell a story of any particular emotional value, and neither does it take itself so seriously either. It's kind of... goofy. But I also think, while some of the jokes are bad and old, it doesn't have all that much bathos. The scenes that are meant to be at least somewhat half serious, gets left alone. They don't build up to be emotional scenes, only to be ruined by a badly placed joke. (I might remember this wrongly though... but still I don't remember this movie as frustrating at any point, like TLJ did. It was more 'yeah yeah you're not Whedon, get on with it.')

Now, regarding Guardians of the Galaxy, I can only speak for v2 because I haven't seen the first one. I was thoroughly impressed with vol 2, and, again, I rarely am. While setting itself up to be funny, it really is a serious film with serious themes, which it why it works so well. It doesn't feel like a genre mix, like the Dr. Strange movie, which I didn't really know what to call (asides annoying), it felt like it knew what it was and what it was doing and what it was not supposed to be doing. In the comment of that first video I posted, someone linked to this, which is a thoroughly enjoyable essay of what makes the script of GotG vol 2 so great. Edit: Also, what Tennyo said.


But that is kind of off topic. My point is, I think humour is great, but it needs to be put in where it fits and left out where it doesn't. Don't ruin my moment. Don't rob me of an emotional moment, especially when you set everything up for me to have one. It's just bad narrative, bad storytelling.
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Old 03/26/2018   #9
Obsidian Fire
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In Thor: Ragnarok, I felt like all of the characters hit their "I don't give a fuck" point and had to pick between angsting about it all or enjoying themselves when they could (while they saved their world). Fortunately for the movie, they all pick the latter option. GotG2 is similar. Both of those movies though have humor that feels very character driven. It'd be pretty hard to cut the humor out and still establish who the characters are and what their relationships with each other are like.

I feel like there's a difference between humor that happens between people who agree with each other and people who disagree with each other. And the former feels a lot more forced then the latter. Example from MCU: the humor between Captain America and Iron Man feels forced, usually because they don't agree with each other about fundamental things. Humor involving them often is funny because their relationship is always a little tense. Given how Civil War turns out though, this is almost certainly intentional. Thor: Ragnarok and GotG(2) humor is mostly between people who do agree about fundamental things. There isn't tension underneath most of the humor in those movies so the humor feel very "pure".

Drama almost always is tense. That's part of what makes it drama. Putting humor in drama if there's not a good reason for it often causes neither to have the right emotional impact.
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Old 03/26/2018   #10
ForceStealer
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Fangu wrote: The Last Jedi; Ite mentioned several scenes, but the biggest 'let me have this moment dammit!' for me was when (SPOILER) Luke meets up with Leia again near the end of the film. This is a big moment. When I saw it coming, 25+ years of loving Star Wars flashed before my eyes; I had moments from the original trilogy in the back of my head. This is Luke! It's Leia! There was a Star Wars-historic build up to that scene, I expected it to be emotional, I expected the movie to let me have that nostalgic moment of feels, which I got for just a few seconds, until they coughed up that 'I changed my hair' joke. Now, I know it's a joke previously used in the new trilogy, but that means zero squat to me. I'm not there for that scene for a reference, or for a 'lighten the tension' joke. I'm there for a big, emotional moment, and the film won't let me have it. Poor Carrie Fisher tried to make it a sweet moment, but in the end that line was meant to be a joke, not a tear jerker line, so she couldn't save the scene. I cannot tell you how frustrated that exact scene made me feel.
That is the last example I expected. That didn't strike me as a 'goofy joke to lighten the mood' at all. It just struck me as something Leia would say. I wouldn't have compared it to the your mama joke or the shoulder-brush.

Granted, I didn't mind most of TLJ's humor anyway, but when listing humorous moments, that would not have even occurred to me. It didn't seem to be going for a laugh out loud moment, it seemed more sweet than anything. I'm not aware of/don't remember it being a callback to another joke, though.
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Old 03/26/2018   #11
X-SOLDIER
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Fangu wrote:
Lulcy wrote: Like which scenes from which one of the new movies?
The Last Jedi; Ite mentioned several scenes, but the biggest 'let me have this moment dammit!' for me was when (SPOILER) Luke meets up with Leia again near the end of the film. This is a big moment. When I saw it coming, 25+ years of loving Star Wars flashed before my eyes; I had moments from the original trilogy in the back of my head. This is Luke! It's Leia! There was a Star Wars-historic build up to that scene, I expected it to be emotional, I expected the movie to let me have that nostalgic moment of feels, which I got for just a few seconds, until they coughed up that 'I changed my hair' joke. Now, I know it's a joke previously used in the new trilogy, but that means zero squat to me. I'm not there for that scene for a reference, or for a 'lighten the tension' joke. I'm there for a big, emotional moment, and the film won't let me have it. Poor Carrie Fisher tried to make it a sweet moment, but in the end that line was meant to be a joke, not a tear jerker line, so she couldn't save the scene. I cannot tell you how frustrated that exact scene made me feel.

But that is kind of off topic. My point is, I think humour is great, but it needs to be put in where it fits and left out where it doesn't. Don't ruin my moment. Don't rob me of an emotional moment, especially when you set everything up for me to have one. It's just bad narrative, bad storytelling.
This is another one where I think that that moment being misread, which seems to be a criticism of nearly all of the TLJ examples given, so lemme provide some context to that moment that should clear up that scene for you, because it isn't really meant to be a joke.

The connection to the previous scene is the point, ESPECIALLY because the scene it's calling back to from The Force Awakens ISN'T a joke AT ALL. (The only footage I can find is a terrible cam clip, but here ya go)

In TFA, C-3PO awkwardly interrupts Han & Leia's first words to each other, which is the only moment of humour, in order to make the moment afterward even more noticeably tense. After that, the two are standing there in an awkward silence because they haven't really spoken since they lost Ben. The very first thing that Han says to her to break that tension of all the things that aren't being said between them is, "You changed your hair." specifically because it isn't what either of them are burdened or worrying about.

She uses that line in The Last Jedi as an intentional callback to her & Han's first meeting, and she's doing the same thing to attempt lighten the tension of the fact that her husband is dead, her brother's finally here, she feels lost and adrift, and again – the two of them meeting back up for the first time since they lost Ben aren't sure how to break that tension. The look Luke gives her is because he knows that she knows it absolutely isn't what he'd've said to her, but that it still worked to break the tension between the two of them.

It's only really a joke in the VERY lightest sense that Leia knows it isn't something that Luke would comment on, but that the memory of that line carries weight for her, and also breaks the tension by putting him at ease.





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Old 03/26/2018   #12
Lex
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There is a fair amount of bathos (I love this term imma use it all the time now) in The Last Jedi yeah, it's something I definitely noticed in the cinema. I didn't mind it for the first maybe half of the movie but I feel like it was overused. I don't know exactly when - it wasn't when Luke threw away the lightsabre, it was some point later in the movie where my brain switched from enjoying that odd comedic moment to saying "you're taking this a bit too far now" and then that was shortly followed by "OK this isn't really funny anymore". That's one area where I agree The Force Awakens did it better, but I'm not one of The Last Jedi haters either. I loved that movie.

As for Thor Ragnarok - I thoroughly enjoyed that aswell, but juxtaposed with the previous Thor entries it is really jarring. They're far more serious in tone (maybe even too serious, in all honesty).

GotG/ Deadpool has really pushed this trend in action movies recently, and while the injection of a little more humour in action movies is a good thing (because they're grandiose and ridiculous anyway, it can help with relatability if you're a grounded person struggling to relate) film makers need to recognise when it's too much. Everything in moderation and all that. GotG and Deadpool are built around bathose as a founding pillar, the vast majority of movies are not and should use it very spraringly.
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Old 03/26/2018   #13
Fangu
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X-SOLDIER wrote: This is another one where I think that that moment being misread, which seems to be a criticism of nearly all of the TLJ examples given, so lemme provide some context to that moment that should clear up that scene for you, because it isn't really meant to be a joke.
I didn't mean to say joke in an 'ha ha funny' joke type of way, I rather meant 'joke' as something trivial, as referring to Bathos in that video - going from serious to trivial. I expected Leia to say something with emotional value, not having seen Luke for so long. What does a hairstyle matter when you haven't seen your twin brother in x amount of years? Is that really what you'd say during your first minute of meeting?* I think not, and that's what takes away the big emotional impact that scene could have had. There is, as the video puts it, a dramatic cost to be payed whenever Bathos is used at the wrong time. I felt that cost.

* Even if it's Leia, as Force said... she strikes me as someone who'd be fully serious in that moment, just as Luke would be. They were always the serious ones.

But to approach that logic you presented - it's not good storytelling at all to refer to a line that happened in the previous movie. I knew that line was a reference to something, someone having said it to Leia, but I didn't remember who, and when, in which context. All I remember was, someone said it to Leia before in a moment of lightheartedness. It's not unusual for movies to reference a line, or a gesture, something having happened earlier in the movie that has an impact on the character, but dear lords, you can't expect your audience to remember a line that was said in a movie they probably saw a year ago! That's a huge risk to take, having the emotional response of your audience depend on that! I also think it's bold to assume every person seeing your movie saw the previous one. If you set up a line in a moment as big as that, you should make sure everyone in the audience can appreciate it.

Having that said, I can recall that scene in TFA now, and to me that line works in TFA because it's a sweet little awkward silence breaker, which also refers to nostalgia because it's a direct reference to an iconic thing of SW - Leia's hair. It's not just a nice, trivial/ random thing for Han to say, it's also kind of a meta pop culture reference for the audience. (But once is enough...)

Going back to TLJ though, taking the questions from that video, 'how does this make me feel?' and 'why does it make me feel that way?', setting that up for an audience - supposed they remember that this was the line Han said to Leia after meeting up again - you have a choice here, to set up how you want the audience to feel - do you go for 'that's what she said to Han, aw she thinks it's a little awkward to see Luke again too; Han, something something feels' or 'Leia and Luke is overwhelmed by feelings to finally see each other again, this is just about them'? I know which one I'd go for, especially knowing that the first relies on the audience remembering a line from a scene in a movie that was released last year. Because if not, your audience might think you're trying to make them laugh twice at the same joke - here a joke as: a trivial line in a serious moment, creating a humours moment. Just as I did.
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Last edited by Fangu; 03/26/2018 at 11:34 PM.
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Old 03/26/2018   #14
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See for me... that TFA/TFJ example is so typical of how my family handles "dramatic" moments IRL that I barely even notice stuff like that when it happens in film. My family is horrible at letting dramatic moments be dramatic moments and always inject trivial stuff into serious situations all the time. Bro points out something trivial about his sister after they havn't seen each other in ages? That's how I see normal families work IRL. The fact that Luke is comfortable enough with Leia to do that says something about their relationship still being good enough that he can make that kind of comment and she's okay with it.

If she thought it was awkward or something then that would say way more about their brother/sister relationship then if the scene hadn't been added.

Actually, I wonder if how humor is handled IRL affects how we respond to humor in media. A lot of the people I knew/grew up with used it to defuse tension and so trying to force humor into drama/serious situations was fairly normal (heck, I do it all the time IRL). I kinda wonder if I would be more bothered by it if I hadn't grown up someplace where that was viewed as normal/okay.
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Old 03/27/2018   #15
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I mean, in the context of the film, TFA happens literal hours to days before all of the events TLJ, so it feels natural to make connections between the two, and I don't feel like that's asking too much of an audience – especially since watching the films back-to-back or in close proximity to one another is common, especially once they've left theaters, it's even the most common scenario. You shouldn't feel compelled to eschew narrative cohesion and references solely over theatrical release times, when the stories themselves are so closely interconnected.

I expected Leia to say something with emotional value, not having seen Luke for so long. What does a hairstyle matter when you haven't seen your twin brother in x amount of years? Is that really what you'd say during your first minute of meeting?
By the same token:

What does your hairstyle matter when you haven't seen your husband for x amount of years and your son's turned to the dark side and made your brother disappear and cut himself off from the Force, so that you can't sense him anymore? Is that really what you'd say during your first minute of meeting?

The fact that Han broke the silence last time, is why she breaks the silence this time, but uses his words because he's no longer there. What she says IS something of emotional value, because it's echoing Han's presence when he's not there, because that loss is still VERY fresh. Their meeting and his death happened incredibly recently, so that tragedy is still VERY much present in the context of the story and her character. Her using that line emphasizes the similarities between those two meetings, Han's loss taking place between them, and the fact that he's no longer there. While it may feel trivial if viewed out of context, it definitely isn't trivial in the least when taken in context.

I still really wouldn't ever call it humour or even bathos, because it isn't undercutting the significance of that moment, because of how it ties the significance to the meeting of her & Han. Even though what she addresses is technically trivial, it's also emotionally significant to the idea of reuniting with her lost counterpart, and the lingering tragedy of Ben that caused them to all split apart and lead to Han's death. That line is also making it clear that Luke ISN'T just here for something trivial, by forcing him to confront that trivial point and contextualize and speak about why he's really there, which is also literally the definition of an "ice breaker" in conversation: "a thing that serves to relieve inhibitions or tension between people, or start a conversation." She's putting him at ease and making it clear that it's ok to talk about Ben even though there's so much still left unsaid between them on any number of things.




On that note, what makes you consider something as "humour"? Clearly this is a splitting point between a number of us here, especially insofar as The Last Jedi is concerned.

While it may sound odd, I don't think that any time a film makes you laugh is an example of humour. People laugh for a large number of reasons – of which, tension, anxiety, and awkwardness can be some that aren't humorous. I feel like this is pretty much the prime example of that. While you may laugh at what Leia says there, because to a degree it's knowingly absurd, it's functioning as an ice breaker to make Luke chuckle and feel at ease about broaching the subject of Ben & the loss of Han. Luke laughs for the same reason that we laugh, in that it's not that the moment doesn't carry meaning, but it's a shift from the estranged to the familiar. I wouldn't call it a joke, because the purpose isn't to bring uncharacteristic levity to the situation, but to ease tension and remove the lingering sense of unease.

I think that figuring out the line between what's a believable "ice breaker" and what's "mood whiplash" is really key to whether or not something falls into the territory of being Bathos or not.





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