#MovieFailMondays: Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope (or, How Movies Can Teach You About Logical Fallacies and Help You Ace the LSAT)

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Blog-ANewHopeEach week, we analyze a movie that illustrates a logical fallacy you’ll find on the LSAT. Who said Netflix can’t help you study? 🎥📖

I grew up in the suburbs of Jersey. My mom – one of the PTA regulars – always helped run our school’s Fun Fair – an afternoon of silly games that awarded tickets you could redeem for prizes. It was a fundraiser for the school, and my friends and I all anxiously awaited it. Me more than them, as my mom’s position afforded me the chance to see all the cool toys we could win ahead of time.

When I was eight or nine, I got really sick a few days before the Fun Fair. It was one of those early disappointments in life that will always stick with you – nothing too big, but big enough to a young Matt that I was in a bad mood.

My dad, trying to find something for me to do that would distract me from the “misery” of missing the Fun Fair, went to a local, no-name video rental place and picked up The Trilogy. I spent that day watching it, and I’ve been a huge fan ever since (well, there were some dark years in there around the turn of the millennium…).

At eight, I wasn’t one to pick apart the logic of the movies I was watching. When the heroes escaped from the stormtroopers, it was exciting because it would have been so easy for them to fail! There was no thought that this advanced military organization was churning out soldiers who couldn’t hit individuals who were right in front of them.

Years later, I’d read many articles on Star Wars, including many that pointed out this “plot hole”. But I don’t think it is one.

Sure, Luke, Leia, Han, and Chewie never get struck by an errant blaster bolt. Sure, if the stormtroopers were trying to hit them and missed, that’d be embarrassing.

If.

This plot hole, to me, always seemed more like a cunning ploy by the Empire. After all, capturing Leia and a few stragglers from the Outer Rim wouldn’t do much to take out the Rebel Alliance.

But letting them escape and tracking them back to the Rebel base allows you to strike a blow to the Rebellion that would be hard to recover from. Which seems, from the rest of the movie, to be the plan all along.

So why do so many people think it’s a plot hole?

Because of temporal issues. We see the stormtroopers miss wildly while shooting at Luke/Leia well before it’s revealed that the Millennium Falcon is being tracked. By the time most people are told about this part of the plot, they’ve already made up their minds about the accuracy of the stormtroopers.

This is actually a problem in many films that have “false incompetence” as a plot device – people come to conclusions before they receive all of the facts, and the eventual explanation that the evil-doers meant to miss all along has to battle the entrenched idea that people already have about their incompetence.

What’s the lesson for the LSAT?

First, for LR, watch out for arguments that provide more than one explanation for a given phenomenon (here, incompetence vs. plan). The arguments will normally try to convince you of one without really ruling out the other.

Second, for RC, don’t settle on a “narrative” until you’ve read the whole passage. It’s common for the LSAT to throw a curveball into a late paragraph. If you’ve already decided on the author’s position based on a “feeling” early on, you’ll be less likely to notice the shift at the end.

Third, for all questions (and similar to the last point), don’t settle on an answer choice too early. If you do, it’s a lot harder for you to reevaluate if a later answer choice ends up being correct. Buying into (A) right away might lead you to consider (C) less, and the LSAT loves writing a great trap answer for (A). 📝


matt-shinnersMatt Shinners is a Manhattan Prep instructor based in New York City. After receiving a science degree from Boston College, Matt scored a 180 on his LSAT and enrolled in Harvard Law School. There’s nothing that makes him happier than seeing his students receive the scores they want to get into the schools of their choice.Check out Matt’s upcoming LSAT courses here!

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