Are there certain things you notice in movie after movie, TV show after TV show, that nip at your suspension of disbelief, because they keep happening as if they're the most normal thing in the world, but they aren't normal at all?

Yes, of course there are. So post 'em!

I'll kick the game off with a few of my own:

1) Aluminum "movie briefcases"

Whenever anybody in a movie or TV show has a briefcase or attache case, it's always this lined, silver metal (I assume aluminum) case that I have never seen anywhere except a movie or TV show. (Google says Halliburton makes 'em.) It's the briefcase with the mystery object in Pulp Fiction. It's the briefcase that MCU Phase One movies arrive in, if you ordered the one with the Tesseract prop. It is the briefcase in every single movie or TV show you have ever seen.

But, while they are remarkable, no one in movies or TV shows remarks on them.

2) Perfect torches

I used to burn the caterpillar nests out of our pecan trees when I was younger. That requires a torch, and proper torches (not of Tiki variety) are apparently not on sale anywhere. So I made my own. And let me tell you, it's hard to make a torch from home materials. Maybe if I had some pitch? Well, I tried all kinds of different approaches, but making a good, long-burning torch was pretty difficult.

From that you can assume that none of my torches look like the ones on TV, which have perfectly match-shaped heads on perfectly straight, lathe-hewn wood handles. And they are always conveniently available, lying around in the haunted tomb or stuck in sconces as the heroes explore the catacombs.

These are not torches that a pre-industrial society could make, and yet, lo, gird your loins, because they're in all those biblical and Greek-god movies. They are in every movie or TV show that requires a torch, from Vikings to the Indiana Jones movies. And they simply should not exist, much less be ubiquitous.

One other thing: The actors are clearly not using the torches to see (after all, we can see them pretty clearly, torches or no torches), which is why when somebody says, "Look" they all thrust their torches forward, as if they are flashlights. If you've ever actually used a torch, you know that thrusting the torch forward A) blinds you with glare, and B) sends smoke right up your nose and into your eyes. No, when somebody yells "Look!" you hold the torch HIGHER,so that it acts like an overhead light. Like, you know, something else that helps you see, like the sun.

3) Running in the woods

You can't.

Uneven ground, treacherous footing, vines and roots everywhere, and all of it covered up with leaves and undergrowth. Run in the woods and you'll twist your ankle. Run in the woods at night and you'll break your ankle.

4) Perfect visibility in the dark

How many movies or TV shows have you watched where the principals engage in combat, or gunplay, or other complicated activities when it's dark -- and yet they (and you) can see everything clearly. Almost as if it's NOT dark, but the middle of the afternoon, and the crew is shooting with night lenses.

Whoops! Let the cat out of the bag. But let me tell you, if you're not near a city or near streetlights, and it's night, it is COUNTRY DARK. Can't-see-your-hand-in-front-of-your-face dark. If you're in the woods, not even the moon helps, because it's blocked by tree canopy. So you have to move very carefully (see "Running in the woods" above). You're certainly not going to be able to, oh, I dunno, fight a horde of zombies. (Looking at you, The Walking Dead.)

Besides, if it's dark, light a fire and the zombies will swarm THAT and leave you alone. But nobody seems to think of it.

5) Perfect visibility while swimming underwater

See above.

This is especially true if you're swimming in something other than a swimming pool, which might have lights. Your basic swamp water, river water, bay water and the like will be murky at the best of times. At night, it will be opaque.

6) A group of five or more where nobody wears glasses

More than 25 percent of the population ages 15-24 needs vision correction, and that's just for myopia. Throw in presbyopia, macular degeneration, astigmatism and other ills, and it's preposterous that the bespecatcled are so poorly representatives. Sure, some could be wearing contacts. But all of them?

7) Magic flashlights

If you're searching a room in the dark, a flashlight is a good idea. But if you're searching the woods, or standing on the porch looking out into the darkness, or trying to see anything more than a few feet from you -- the flashlight isn't going to reveal anything. But it WILL give away your location to whatever you're looking for, and then IT will start stalking YOU. Any time you're in a dangerous situation, guard your light so nobody can see it. Basically all a flashlight is good for in the woods or fields is to point it at the ground so you can avoid breaking your ankle.

Heck, even when searching a room, guard your light. Someone waving a flashlight around in a dark room makes a very distinctive and eye-catching searchlight effect to people outside. Like neighbors. Or cops.

But on screen, flashlights always reveal what the protagonists need, and nobody else notices the existence of this light in the darkness. It's magic.

7) The Surprise Lesbian Reveal

It's become virtually customary that for any movie or long-running TV show with two or more women, one of them will be -- surprise! -- a lesbian. Here's the thing: If everybody does it, it's not a surprise any more.

On Fear the Walking Dead, I predicted to my wife that Al would be the Surprise Lesbian Reveal. (I was right.) On NOS4A2, my wife called the chick with the Scrabble tiles as the SLR. (She was right.)

I don't have any problem with gay characters on TV or in movies. But I would argue that lesbians are laughably over-represented in movies/TV -- maybe 50 percent at this point -- whereas gay men are almost invisible. And if it happens on every show, as I said above, it ceases to be a surprise. But most of all, stop treating the reveal like it is sensational, stunning news. For one thing, A) lesbians exist, and nobody is surprised that they do, and 2) sexuality is just one aspect of a person. So when you present the lesbian reveal as an OMG moment, it's just pandering.

Your turn!

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I hate it when a TV or movie scene takes place aboard an airplane, and the cast speaks in a nornal tone of voice without having to raise their vpoices to be heard over the drone of the engines.

Matt Roush of TV Guide magazine's "Ask Matt" column responds to a reader who cites a trope that gets under his skin (the final question):

Ask Matt writes:

Question: I find it unbelievable when a character in a TV show breaks a glass against a wall in their own place or throws their cell phone and breaks it or really trashes their own place. It makes no sense in that they would then have to clean up the mess. I would never consider doing that in my own house, and some of the things they break are very expensive to replace. Especially in a drama. can they keep it real? Your thoughts? — Bob in Portland

Matt Roush: So many TV pet peeves, and this is absolutely one of them. I'll take it a step further. Whenever I see someone get bad news in their office (work or home), I count to three in hopes they won't swipe everything off the top of their desk in a fit of messy rage. I am almost always disappointed in that regard. Who are these people? It would be more realistic if they slammed their palms on the desk (as I have done) in an expression of pique and then cried "OW!" (as I have done) and moved on (as I have done). But that probably wouldn't make "good TV."

In that same vein, I never get why someone on a TV show or movie is on their cell phone, hears something they don't like, and throws the phone away -- apparently unconcerned about having to live without the contacts, photos and data on it. 

In the same vein as throwing away a cell phone, I am annoyed when I see people, usually men, being pushed into swimming pools fully clothed. What about the cell phone and wallet in their pockets? Unless they were expecting to take a swim in (often) a suit and tie, wouldn't those things be in their pockets?

Ah, yes, Bad phone-related tropes!

Like the older trope of the person needing a phone number, and then inconsiderately ripping the page out of the book instead of writing it down.



Richard Willis said:

In the same vein as throwing away a cell phone, I am annoyed when I see people, usually men, being pushed into swimming pools fully clothed. What about the cell phone and wallet in their pockets? Unless they were expecting to take a swim in (often) a suit and tie, wouldn't those things be in their pockets?

Richard Willis said:

Perfect visibility in the dark: Country dark is truly a thing. Growing up in the L.A. area, country dark was something I didn’t experience until I was in Vietnam. The best thing about that darkness is the ability to see a sky positively white with stars. The worst thing is being on guard duty on top of a bunker on the perimeter of a base surrounded by rice paddies, with cloud cover and no moon. As they say, I couldn’t see my hand in front of my face. Night vision equipment back then was in its infancy and very bulky, not goggles like today’s military. I heard a sound close to me that later turned out to be nothing, but at the time I thought it was an enemy soldier about to cut my throat. I can tell anyone what the difference is between fear and utter terror.

I give Chicago Fire some slack on this point, ever since I saw this piece at TV Club talking to the special effects guys: "How Does Chicago Fire Keep Its Fake Fires From Going Full O’Leary?" 

Steve Chikerotis, Chicago Fire technical advisor, said:

The only exception—and this is what firefighters will call me on all the time, but they get it—is that the smoke is 90 percent less than in an actual incident. If you shut your eyes right now, that’s our visibility in an average fire. It wouldn’t be a television show; it’d be a radio show. So we have to lighten up the smoke.

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