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Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
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Background Screens
No way, we gotta rewind and cross-reference this map with the list of coordinates we saw on the other screen. This Greenland thing could be big.
Title text: No way, we gotta rewind and cross-reference this map with the list of coordinates we saw on the other screen. This Greenland thing could be big.


Ambox notice.png This explanation may be incomplete or incorrect: Discuss title text, Greenland, related memes

Plot and characters are generally considered the major reasons for watching a movie. Cueball, however, pays particular attention to what's on the computer screens shown briefly in the background. Generally speaking, these screens are shown the audience for such a short period of time, and at such a low-level of detail, that the contents of the screen don't match what is said in the dialog or otherwise put in the movie. Also, they sometimes contain irrelevant data or jokes. It's unlikely that important information would be communicated in such a way.

Background screens typically only serve to provide a "high-tech feel" to the movie, with endless columns of data flashing by in an eyeblink, and crosshairs zipping across maps. They are designed by artists who may not even be aware of the details of the plot, and as a result, their content (where it is intelligible, such as in a map) has little to no connection to the dialog or other story events going on in front of them.

Greenland, the Earth's largest island, is 80% covered in ice up to several kilometers in depth, and has a population of less than 100,000 people. An unlikely place for aliens to land, especially movie aliens, who generally prefer more action-laden locations.

Unless, of course, they are planning something devious. In the title text, Cueball suggests that they should investigate how a list of coordinates from another background screen relates to the location of the alien craft in Greenland, laying the groundwork for a conspiracy theory connecting the movie's story to the "real" world.


[Cueball and a friend are watching a movie, Cueball sitting on the floor and pointing the remote at the TV.]

[A pie chart shows what Cueball pays attention to in movies:

  • Plot, characters: 5%
  • Computer screens shown briefly in the background: 95%]

Cueball: Hang on – that blurry map behind the General shows one of the alien ships is in Greenland! Why Greenland?!

Friend: [quietly] Can we please just watch the movie?

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