What is a MacGuffin?

Many of you might have heard of the term “MacGuffin” floating out there in the ether, but what the is it? The answer is not that straightforward. Legendary director Alfred Hitchcock coined the phrase back in the days of his film 39 Steps and used it throughout his career.

When asked what a MacGuffin was Hitchcock told this story:

A man asks, “Well, what is a MacGuffin?” You say, “It’s an apparatus for trapping lions in the Scottish highlands.” Man says, “But there are no lions in the Scottish highlands.” Then you say, “Then that’s no MacGuffin.”

According to Wikipedia:

In fiction, a MacGuffin (sometimes McGuffin or maguffin) is a plot device in the form of some goal, desired object, or another motivator that the protagonist pursues, often with little or no narrative explanation. The specific nature of a McGuffin is typically unimportant to the overall plot. The most common type of McGuffin is a person, place, or thing (such as money or an object of value). Other more abstract types include victory, glory, survival, power, love, or some unexplained driving force.

Watch this amazing video essay by the good folks over at ScreemPrism explains the concept in great detail.

Here are a few other great videos if you want to get some more info.

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