Is there a word for the phenomenon of explaining away the problems with a piece of art because you like the artist, aesthetic, or something else other than the actual quality?

I'm as guilty of this as anyone. A perfect example is Star Wars. I love Star Wars (although not George Lucas particularly). Whenever people make fun of Han Solo saying "I made the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs" because parsecs are a unit of time, not distance, I explain this away by claiming that Han didn't regard the people he was talking to highly so he was being a dickish rogue to them when he assumed they didn't know what a parsec was. Another example is Metal Gear. The storyline in that is retarded, but I really really like the gameplay. So I'll try to explain away it's silliness by delving into wikipedia and coming up with explanations for every retarded plot hole and deus ex machina.

"Explaining away" isn't quite a descriptive enough phrase to describe this phenomenon. Is there a word for this? I feel like there's gotta be a French or German word for this. If there's not, let us please start referring to this as "French-wording a piece of art" (ie "stop french-wording Star Wars bro") or just call it "austining" cause that's my name.

  • 6
    We all know you meant that parsecs are a unit of distance, not time, but we'll explain this away. :) The word you are looking for is spinning, as in what politicians' press officers do.
    – Charl E
    Feb 9, 2017 at 13:55
  • Correction to my comment above: Is there a word for justifying what one likes in a science fiction movie when critics have found flaws (in the characters, story lines, etc.) in it?
    – Lambie
    Feb 9, 2017 at 15:19
  • @Lambie You say "Star Wars isn't a piece of art". OMG! How could you be so heartless! :P
    – NVZ
    Feb 9, 2017 at 16:22
  • @NVZ Well, it's art, it's just not "a piece of art". And, fyi, I am a mean old virago. But still, here :).
    – Lambie
    Feb 9, 2017 at 16:33
  • 1
    @1006a retconning is specific to the purpose of continuing a plot. OP describes a situation where someone has rose-tinted glasses. It might be in the context of continuing a plot, but might also be outside of that scope.
    – bvpx
    Feb 9, 2017 at 18:17

5 Answers 5


When you do that, you gloss over the problems.


gloss over
Make attractive or acceptable by deception or superficial treatment.

For example, His resumé glossed over his lack of experience, or She tried to gloss over the mistake by insisting it would make no difference.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer. Copyright © 2003, 1997 by The Christine Ammer 1992 Trust. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.


gloss VERB

2 [gloss over] Try to conceal or disguise (something unfavourable) by treating it briefly or representing it misleadingly

‘But though Einhard declared he would record nothing through hearsay, he also glossed over facts unfavourable to his hero.’


One possible verb option for this situation is extenuate. Here is the discussion of that verb in Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of Synonyms (1984):

"Extenuate ... implies the aim to lessen (as by excuses or explanations) the seriousness or magnitude of some crime, offense, or guilt [examples omitted] But the term is often used in the sense of make to excuses for [examples omitted]

That dictionary notes several other verbs with similar meanings, including gloss over (discussed in alwayslearning's answer), palliate:

Palliate may may stress the concealing or cloaking or the condoning of the enormity of a crime or offense

and whitewash:

Whitewash, and less often whiten, imply an attempt to cover up (as a crime, a defect or fault, or a person's guilt) by some such means as a superficial investigation, or a perfunctory trial, or a special report that leads to a seeming acquittal or exoneration or that gives the person or persons accused an appearance of innocence or blamelessness

Palliate seems too strong for the situation you ask about, but whitewash seems arguably applicable, and extenuate seems very much on point (as does gloss over).


"Explaining away" isn't quite a descriptive enough phrase to describe this phenomenon. Is there a word for this?

Fanboying is a word that could be used in place of "explaining away".


Edit: It seems as though fanboying is a informal word and is mostly listed as informal in dictionaries or found in various slang dictionaries online.

If you're doing any formal work it's best to use another word.

  • @bvpx - yes, please explain!
    – Dan
    Feb 9, 2017 at 15:04
  • The linked Oxford definition of fanboy does not support the assertions made in this answer, I believe.
    – NVZ
    Feb 9, 2017 at 16:19

This is confirmation bias,"... a tendency of people to favor information that confirms their beliefs or hypotheses. People display this bias when they gather or remember information selectively, or when they interpret it in a biased way."

thefreedictionary: confirmation bias


You are rationalising the poor plot because you like the artist.


You are making excuses for the poor plot because you like the artist.

In psychology and logic, rationalization or rationalisation (also known as making excuses) is a defense mechanism in which controversial behaviors or feelings are justified and explained in a seemingly rational or logical manner to avoid the true explanation, and are made consciously tolerable—or even admirable and superior—by plausible means. It is also an informal fallacy of reasoning.


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