Thursday, January 24, 2008

Six dangerous movie myths

Scientific studies have proven that part of our memory -- not just institutional, but personal -- comes from Hollywood.

A classic example is a story Ronald Reagan once told to a group of reporters. He used it to illustrate the true meaning of courage, and it involved a plane that was badly damaged by enemy fire over the English Channel during World War II. As the aircraft shuddered in its death throes, everyone bailed out except for the pilot and a crewman who was too badly injured to evacuate.

According to Reagan, the pilot went to the rear of the plane, put his arm around his comrade, and said: "Don't worry, son -- we'll ride this thing down together."

It was an inspiring and touching tale, and the press corps spent a moment in silent contemplation. Then came a flash of insight.

"If there were only two people on the plane and it crashed," asked one reporter, "who came back to tell this story?"

Turns out the President was really recounting a scene from a 1950s movie. And the aforementioned studies showed that many of us, like Mr. Reagan, occasionally color our memory of past events with Hollywood fiction.

Which is harmless enough, I suppose. But I'd like to touch on six myths (Why six? Because that's all I could think of before my second cup of coffee) perpetuated by nearly a century of films. Some of these can actually be hazardous to our health.

1. If you're persistent enough, you can make another person love you. That's true in movies, where the person being pursued almost always winds up regarding the other's obsessive, semi-crazed behavior as somehow endearing. In real life, though, over-the-top persistence is likely to get you slapped with a stalking summons. And the philosophy that "he/she is the only person for me, and no one else can have him/her" has found its way onto many a police blotter.

Generally speaking, if someone continually rejects you, it's a dead end. Move on.

2. Bullies are always cowards at heart. Thus, they turn to jelly when the 120-pound seventh-grade hero finally stands up to them. That's a nice thought, and might occasionally be true, but the hard fact is, most bullies are that way precisely because they're bigger, stronger and meaner than their peers. A lot of 120-pound would-be heroes have wound up in the emergency room because they believed the movies.

3. Bad guys can't use firearms. A sort of corollary to the myth above. Why is it in movies that hired killers and thugs, who shoot people for a living and thus are presumably good at it, can never hit the hero despite unleashing a lethal spray of bullets at him? I remember a scene from "Beverly Hills Cop" where Eddie Murhpy is running in front of a fence with bullets hitting above and below him, but emerges unscathed.

In reality, despite what the National Rifle Association would have you believe, good guys don't always win in a gunfight.

4. Automobiles always catch on fire when they crash. Why does this always happen in movies? Because it makes for better video. Audiences love to watch things blow up and burn. The problem is, this is often used as an anti-seat belt argument -- "If I have a seatbelt on, I'll be burnt to a crisp when my car catches on fire."

Actually, cars aren't quite as flammable as Hollywood depicts.

5. People dying of a terminal disease always look great. In movies, they still have color in their cheeks and a sparkle in their eyes, even as their life ebbs away and cancerous cells devour their bodies. I think showing the unpleasant reality would go a lot further toward convincing people to get an annual checkup

6. Being smashed over the head by a large, blunt object is really no big deal. I have a friend who is affiliated with a head injury support group and always talks about this. Two people are sneaking up on a lone sentry, and one says: "Should I shoot him?" The other replies: "No, we don't want to hurt him. Just hit him over the head and knock him out."

And, yes, in movies, characters routinely leap to their feet 30 seconds after being rendered unconscious by a rifle butt, pistol or crowbar and dash off in pursuit of whoever did the rifle-butting, pistol-whipping or crowbarring. On screen, they never suffer from double vision, loss of memory or partial paralysis.

Can you think of any more of these? Pass them along.


Anonymous said...

Another dangerous movie myth: going at "it" without protection doesn't usually result in STD's and/or pregnancy. Since only a handful of movies have been made with such consequences (e.g. Philadelphia, 9 months, and only because they were part of the movie plots) you can be sure that it's more of an exception than a rule and for the most part, the latter consequence always ends up happily and the couples usually manage to stay together and even marry!

j91 said...

how about:

1)the prudish, uptight woman is waiting for a man to come along to bring out her inner whore

2)when a dashingly handsome man forces the uncooperative, resisting woman into a kiss, she will soon melt and yield to him

3)there is no need for condoms since STDs and condoms aren't needed...really...they aren' three characters on T.V. who have ever gotten an STD from a racy night

4)minorities don't really exist...o and there are no hispanics in Orange County or in any part of the U.S.

5)it is cool to try sexual experimentation...after all there are no consequences (refer to #3)

6)it is ok to sleep with a married man or a guy who is in a relationship after all his wife/girlfriend is surely a witch (with a b) who doesn't deserve him and they aren't right for each other anyways

7)women need to be rescued and are only that half until the whole comes along

8)men can be changed, I've seen it in movies; the lying, cheating, playboy can be turned into a faithful, devoted spouses with the right woman and with persistence

9)married men get bored with their wives (who have the audacity to refuse them sex and spend all their time with the whiney brats) and are completely justified in cheating with the cool, attractive woman

10)growing up and acting mature is not necessary and every situation can be funny

11)there are good people and bad people and no in betweens (unless it is a famous star in which case, it becomes more complex)

12)violent situations can be funny as well as murder

13)all college students drink, have sex, and rebel (and still manage to stay in school!)

14)parents are uncool and are going past the line by invading their children's privacy: children have the right to slam the doors in parents' faces and have the right to feel outraged upon discovery that their parents have snooped around in their rooms (how many suicides could be prevented, I wonder, if some parents did do this and were more observant)

15)it is completely justifiable for a man to hit a woman when she mouths off, taunts him, or pushes him to the limit

16)beautiful, model looking women are married to subpar men and still manage to worry about not being good enough (hmm...this might be from real life...)

17)women are superficial when they spur the subpar men but men are congratulated when they end up with women above their level

I could go on but will spare you...

Anonymous said...

Love always turns out right no matter what one does, there is never any need for anyone else to say they are sorry, and the girl always gets the guy, lol lol lol

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