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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Magic flashlights: As a guy who came to the US from the UK at almost-four, I can further complicate this by pointing out that in the UK flashlights are called torches.

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.

Everyone with a pistol is a dead-eye sharpshooter who never misses: I’m happy to say I never had to shoot at anyone moving or otherwise. Standing still and shooting at a bullseye or other stationary target is quite different from when the shooter and/or the target is moving. The bits in old movies in which the hero shoots a gun out of someone’s hand (even standing still) are hilarious. If he hit the gun-hand or the gun it’s likely that he missed when trying to hit the target center-mass. Also, the guy on the receiving end of this magic bullet never needs so much as a bandaid.

The Surprise Lesbian Reveal: I have known gay, lesbian and trans people since forever. I think the reason that lesbians are over-represented on TV or movies is that some men think it is sexy to watch two women kissing; two men, not so much. I don’t get it. Also, there seems to be a trope that straight women will fall into a lesbian relationship like it was normal business for them. This doesn’t show respect but, IMO, disrespect for the fact that sexuality is not a learned behavior, but an inborn one.

The Baron said:

I remember a bit on the NPR where they were talking about people in movies/TV shows getting knocked out, coming to, and then going on like nothing happened. They had a physician on to explain that, no, you're not just going to shrug that off.

On TV I see people hit on the head with pokers, tire irons and other heavy objects who, not only don’t have to hospitalized at death’s door, but just get up, shake their heads, and resume whatever they were doing. For that matter, people taking a fist to the face. Usually, neither the face nor the fist are damaged by this.

One time I faux punched a wall, lightly, in jest. But it wasn't a finished wall -- it just had a carpet hanging on it to disguise it hadn't been finished, which I did not know. I clipped a stud -- again, lightly, through a carpet -- and broke my pinkie knuckle. The doc called it a "boxer's fracture" and you get them if you don't punch something right, which apparently happens to boxers because their targets are moving.

I think of that every time someone punches someone on TV and shakes their hand like "ouch." Yeah, dude, you probably broke a bone. Ouch, indeed.

Captain Comics said:

Getting knocked out is serious business. There is danger of brain damage every time, and the damage accumulates. Jim West, Batman and all the other guys who routinely get knocked out should be suffering memory loss, delusions, hallucinations, rage issues and other mental issues by now.

Isn't that the case with Batman now? 

Captain Comics said:

The Golden Bullet Award for this is The Punisher Season 2, where my wife and I were actually laughing at the screen when in one scene Frank, who kept getting shot (at least four times), gritted his teeth and moved on (and he was in a stairwell, to boot). By the next scene, he was showing no distress at all.

Haha... yes this is exactly the show I was thinking of. A lot of action movies and TV shows do this but the Punisher is definitely the champ. That being said, it's still one of my favorite shows. At this point, it's almost become an essential element to run Frank through the ringer as much as possible before he kills everyone.  And of course, it only takes one bullet to kill each of his enemies.

Isn't this consistent with the way Frank Castle has usually been portrayed in the comics?

There are two that have always annoyed me.

The first I illustrate in a general example; the basic trope is found in a range of settings, in any action film. 

The Good Guys have the Bad Guys trapped in an enclosed building, such as a warehouse.  The Bad Guys attempt to shoot their way out with handguns.  The Good Guys return fire with their handguns.

Then, during a lull in the firing, Good Guy № 1 says to Good Guy № 2 in a conversational tone, or sometimes, even a whisper, "Can you hold them off for a couple of minutes?  I've got an idea."

Good Guy № 2 responds, "What are you going to do?"

Keeping his voice low so that the Bad Guys don't overhear, Good Guy № 1 says, "I'm going to climb over those crates and circle around them."

That's the kind of thing that knocks me out of the story.  I've had a few occasions to be shot at and to shoot back.  When a handgun is fired at you, even from several feet away, even outside, or you fire one back, the concussion of the noise on your ears seriously impairs your hearing.  Sounds are muffled a good 75 or 80%.  That's 'way too low to hear a conversation at normal volume.

And if the gunfire occurs in an enclosed space, such as a garage or warehouse, forget about hearing anything.  Your ears are going to be ringing for a good five minutes after the shooting stops.  You might hear normally again in about an hour.

In the example above, the Good Guys' exchange would really go like this:

Good Guy № 1:  "Can you hold them off for a couple of minutes?  I've got an idea."

Good Guy № 2:  "Huh?"

Good Guy № 1:  "I said I've got an idea."

Good Guy № 2:  "What?  I can't hear you!"

Good Guy № 1:  "What did you say?"

Good Guy № 2:  "Huh?"

Good Guy № 1:  "I'm going to climb over these crates and circle around them!"

Bad Guy № 1:     "Watch out!  He said he's going to climb over those crates and circle around us!"

Bad Guy № 2:     "Huh?"

The other trope you'd have to a greybeard like me to know right off.  You youngsters out there, trust me on this; I'm not exaggerating.  Back in the '60's, when we had only three television stations to watch, I guarantee you would see one scene in any detective or crime-fighting drama at least once.  If you watched a lot of those types of shows, you could bet on seeing it in some show at least once a week.

This example is much more specific, because not much ever changed, and it always went something like this:

Honest Company Employee marches into the office of Company Big Shot, who's sitting behind his desk.  Company Big Shot's grim-looking personal underling is standing near-by.

Honest Company Employee, in an outraged tone, tells Company Big Shot, "I knew that the invoices we've been receiving weren't right.  I had to work all week-end, but I finally put it all together!  You, Mr. Shot, have been [any of the following] embezzling from the company/using substandard materials on that construction job/using the company trucks to transport drugs/receiving kickbacks from our vendors!  Don't try to talk your way out of it!"

"Who else knows about this?" asks Company Big Shot.

"Nobody!" replies Honest Company Employee.  "But as soon as I leave here, I'm going straight to the police!"

Honest Company Employee then marches out, while Company Big Shot gives his grim-looking personal underling a knowing glance.

Honest Company Employee is inevitably dead before the next commercial break.  Much of the time, he doesn't make it to the opening credits.

That's one of the reasons I have this urge to shout at the TV "Tell somebody!" when a character finds out a secret. Being the only one who knows makes you a target. I was wondering the other day why I felt that way -- evidently I learned it from TV, at a subconscious level.

Great list, with one personal exception:

Borrowed tech items where I work often come in exactly the "aluminum movie brief case" with the foam inside, so no, I don't find them remotely remarkable.

However, if I carry them elsewhere, I sometimes get strange looks, so....


-the cop who enters an obviously dangerous situation without telling anyone what he or she is doing or calling for back-up.

So THAT'S where those briefcases come from! Thanks, JD!

And Commander, I hadn't even thought about the noise situation in gun battles. Now I'll never be able to watch one again without laughing.

About 20 years ago I was working a security detail on a grave yard shift at a condominium complex along Ponte Vedra Beach, just south of Jacksonville, Florida.  During my patrols, I'd walk behind the complex near the beach -- facing the ocean, I could hear the roar of the surf but it was so pitch-dark I could not see anything.  One of the few times in my memory since then of being outdoors in a place where city light pollution did not penetrate the dark of night.

Jeff of Earth-J said:

“Your turn!”

I’ll just piggy-back off of yours for now.


You already mentioned Tiki torches, but my motto is “Never pass up the opportunity to ridicule Nazis.”


I’ll tell you a show that is particularly egregious about this: Swamp Thing. Man! You’d think there were a half dozen 500 watt klieg lights suspended above the trees just out of camera range (which, of course, there are). I have spent a lot of time in the woods after dark in my youth, not even necessarily all that far from the city. A swampt must be 100 times worse. “Country Dark.” Yeah, I know exactly what you mean.

One time I was by myself, way after dark, on my way to the Missouri River near my home. I don’t even remember why, but I remember how dark it was. I was walking through a small sliver of woods, between the the railroad tracks and the river, which I knew well. I was walking and walking. I kept thinking, “Should be there by now.” Suddenly I noticed, off to my right, the glint of water which shouldn’t be there. This was a spot that would flood, but we hadn’t had any heavy rain lately. Then I noticed the water was moving. Then I realized it was the river! Somehow, I had gotten turned around and had been walking parallel to the river when I thought I was walking perpendicular to it. Man, that was a weird feeling when my perception suddenly shifted 90 degrees!

THE SURPRISE LESBIAN REVEAL: Saw one of those just last night on a Netflix show I won’t mention (to avpoid spoilers) because I know many of us watch it.

I really hate it when a character is behaving abysmally stupid in such a manner, particularly in confronting someone they know is a very nasty S.O.B. who would kill his own mother just for kicks.  It's like the character is going to the Big Evil Boss and screaming, "I don't want to live anymore and I just want to give you a good reason to order your evil minion to kill me before the next commercial break!"

Captain Comics said:

That's one of the reasons I have this urge to shout at the TV "Tell somebody!" when a character finds out a secret. Being the only one who knows makes you a target. I was wondering the other day why I felt that way -- evidently I learned it from TV, at a subconscious level.

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