— Characters never shut doors. The only time they shut a door is if it’s a plot point. It’s like they didn’t grow up with parents who were concerned about heating/cooling the outdoors, or their parents enjoyed paying inflated electric bills. If bad guys are chasing me, I’m going to take an extra split second to close the door behind me so they can’t tell exactly which way I went.

— Ever since the success of Pirates of the Caribbean, any slightly disreputable character named Jack must have some association with alcohol and wear black eyeliner.

— The average teenager is incredibly erudite when writing in their personal diary, as opposed to their postings on Twitter, Facebook or personal, public blogs.

— Nearly everyone owns the exact rectangular, powder-blue plastic laundry basket that I do.

— Gunshots don’t hurt unless pain and/or death is a plot point. To avoid painful gunshots, don’t be an expendable character. Or, don’t be a main character who requires pain and/or death to move the story forward.

— You don’t have to train or even wear running shoes if you want to chase someone through miles of city streets or woods at top speed. Just go!

— You only lose cell reception if it’s a major plot point, otherwise your phone should work everywhere in the universe.

— Sustained screaming is the normal reaction to any emergency situation, and nobody remembers 911 unless it’s a major plot point. Corollary: see above.

— It doesn’t matter if you’re in another country, if someone is pawing through your desk drawer or closet, you will suddenly, silently, appear behind them.

— People enjoy creating awkward silences, broken only by penetrating, hurtful insight of each other. Witty retorts never come to characters at 3am but at perfectly-timed moments. Everyone remembers everyone else’s deep dark secrets in minute detail. Entire lives are shaped by 1-3 major childhood events involving the other major characters.

— Women fall in love with the men who annoy them most. They also fall in love with stalkers. It usually takes one hour to three days for a woman to fall in love for life.

— Prostitutes never have “normal” clients, they all seem to come from Planet Weird.

— Prostitutes have never had anyone in their entire lives who loves them other than a loser character. They also have zero standards, despite having been with countless men and likely seeing both the best and worst sides of mankind. This life experience leaves them in an emotional fugue state, in which they’re vulnerable to very lame pickup lines and no emotional depth from their hero.

— You can disappear for decades, return to your family, and get all caught up with about two pages of dialogue.

— The Strip in Las Vegas is only, like, one mile long and has over 100 casinos that change locations. Racing the Strip at top speed is so tempting since there’s never any traffic. It’s also really easy to land a plane on the Strip. Bothering with the actual airport is a waste of time because it’s so far out of town.

— The only time being in a car crash affects you is if it’s a major plot point or you’re expendable. That neck-snapping motion you see onscreen isn’t severe whiplash, it’s just a “jolt” and it never affects anyone.

— Whenever a phone rings, don’t answer it! Just stare at it in horror/wonder/surprise. Doing this allows you to psychically figure out who is calling you and why before you ever pick up the phone (with trembling hands, of course). You’ll never receive a phone call from a bill collector, telemarketer, appointment confirmation, wrong number or a relative who isn’t a main character.

— Settling into a new abode is easy. You live out of a suitcase and never unpack. Or mysterious beings unpack a 10-room house overnight and everything is in place.

— Special Wiseguy mention: making sure all the letters of your government agency name fall on either side of the doorway isn’t a concern. Just let that E hang out there and hope no one bumps their head on it. Go to 0:21 to see it in all it’s alphabet glory.

25 thoughts on “things i’ve learned from movies and tv

  1. Dear Ms. Brooks:
    I see that major media has had a unique effect on you. Although you have compartmentalized your life fairly well you start to see certain cycles manifest themselves in life as they would in art. Most of the things you are mentioning are accurate and a lot of those things might emanate from the experiences of the writers themselves. The one thing that I can say is that you notice a redundancy in subject matter and the synthesis and presentation of the matter. I guess the next question would be would you be suffering from burnout due to a constant recycling of material and ideas?

  2. I looked at the linked (“Wiseguy”) video, and those “E” prongs sticking out to the right-hand edge of the sliding door are rather startling. But, then, what’s a few letter protruding parts when compared to that Flames-O-Hell satanic altar that the opening door reveals, or that evil priest or Ku Klux Klan official or whoever it is that you see next? Weird stuff.

    And I’ll have to admit that I never noticed the lack of door-closing. I’ll have to start noticing that.

    The only contribution I can make isn’t original with me, but: no one in film or television ever seems to need to make a bathroom stop.

  3. The lack of door closing is one of my pet peeves. Being a city girl, that is just a foreign concept to me. Especially if said characters are supposed to live in the city.

    Another one I’d add to the list is when two people who just met set a date but exchange absolutely NO contact information. How the hell is that supposed to work?!

    I’d add a corollary of my own the list regarding gunshots. I was watching the new Judge Dredd movie and there was this major shoot-out in one of the blocks, which are essentially the ghetto. And not one of the residents hit the ground and stayed flat. People were running around. Look, I didn’t grow up in the ghetto but I knew enough people who did and even I know to hit the ground when I hear gunshots and stay down there until you don’t hear them any more.

    And I have a powder-blue laundry bag instead of a basket.

  4. Jim — The scene behind the door opening changes as the episodes change, that series involved racists. Sorry about that.

    Nope, no bathroom breaks unless it’s filmed. I wish they could find a happy medium between documenting it and completely ignoring it.

    Aspasia — Everyone I’ve ever met in real life understands what the hinges on a door are for. How come screenwriters don’t?

    Yes, the no-contact-info thing. I’ve always wondered where and how they find each other’s info. I want that magic database. (Or picking up the phone, speaking and not dialing, but they’re getting better about pretend-dialing.)

    Agree with you, if I heard gunshots nearby, I would get down and behind something solid. I would not run around or look to try and find the shooter. Nor would I try to get involved in a shootout that has nothing to do with me. It has to do with my silly belief that bullets in my body would be harmful.

    What’s with the powder-blue???? πŸ™‚

  5. I think the powder blue may be some Pavlovian response (or whatever psychological response) to cleanliness. It’s light enough to remind you of clean and fresh, but not white, which gets dirty quickly and won’t remind you of clean and fresh after a few uses.

    It’s the little things that drive us around the bend.

  6. Aspasia — Ha! Maybe that’s the reason behind the color. Never thought of it that way, I just always wondered whose decor it was supposed to match (not mine).

  7. Amanda – Thanks for the laughs. The prostitution ones just make me sigh, but I especially liked the running at top speed (no stretching! no warm up! in loafers!) and the LV strip (I’m not sure I’ve ever seen it w/o traffic).

    Lee

  8. Lee — πŸ™‚

    There are so few movies that portray any sort of sex work with any kind of reality that…sigh.

    The running thing gets me every time. I run. I know my limitations. The non-reality of foot-chase scenes are about as bad as the non-reality of sex work storylines.

  9. Amanda – I started running a few months ago (well worth it would be an understatement!), so that one hit me quick.

    The screaming in an emergency and witty retort ones are good too.

    The raven hair looks very nice by the way, but I did a double take and nearly fell off my seat when I saw it.

  10. Lee — Yay for the running! It makes such a difference in my life when I’m regularly running. Probably the most addicting thing I’ve done in many, many years. When I don’t run, I dream about it.

    Not exactly raven, that’s Photoshop effects. Just dark brown. But thanks!

  11. Everyone is missing the point. An agency such as the OCB, Organized Crime Bureau on Wiseguy, like it’s highly successful government counterparts TSA, DHS, FEMA, etc, wouldn’t make the mistake of having a dangling “E” on the door. It was deliberate placement as any non OCB employee who opened the wooden door, revealing the secret OCB sliding doors in the title sequence would undoubtedly walk into the “E” and be rendered incapable of stealing any OCB government secrets. It is a security feature that no one would be looking for other than trained agents. When has anyone ever run into a dangling “E” or even considered it? Perfect counter terrorism against a government agency and certainly not a visual mistake. They did not have dangling vowels on the doors at CTU in Los Angeles on 24 and how many times did their offices get bombed, attacked, tunneled under, hit with bio weapons? With that “E” there was never a single breach of OCB headquarters. Perhaps we should all have an “E” on our front doors to protect from strangers. I’m going to place one now………

  12. Serra is so right about CTU. They got blown up or shot up every other hour. Of course, tv characters can be shot multiple times and just “walk it off”, especially if they are CTU agents.Only on tv and in movies is there a sound track to ones life. I really want the Roots to write the sound track for my life and Morgan Freeman to narrate it:)

  13. Serra — Ha! You’re right, OCB was never attacked once.

    David — I’ve had moments where I have a soundtrack to life and sometimes it’s really cool, other times kind of creepy. (External music source that just happens to be playing the right song at the right time.)

    Morgan Freeman can narrate the heck out of anyone’s life! Him or James Earl Jones. Though if I were to have a man narrate my life, my first pick would be Michael Wincott, followed by Morgan Freeman.

  14. David — So few people are Michael Wincott fans.

    Had a thought based on what you said: self-soundtracks, where you sing the appropriate song. Would make a great movie if they haven’t already done it. Like the video store movie where they filmed their own movies.

  15. These are great… I don’t have an addition to the list, but the most unbelievable movie to me is Kate and Leopold. S there’s a time warp on the Brooklyn Bridge, and Kate just accepts this as fact. I mean, she the requisite amount of incredulous at first, but not like a normal human. “Oh you’re an English lord from a hundred years or so ago? I totally accept this.”

  16. Blake — I wondered if this was going to lure you out of lurking!

    I haven’t seen that movie but I have seen plenty of movies in which fantasic magical events occur and no one questions them. I’m all for accepting what happens in life, but only when it obeys the laws of physics and time as we understand them. Anything else should require at least a few questions.

    Also, pretty much anyone can dress in tunics and velvet and put on a fake British accent. Doesn’t mean he’s an ancient lord.

  17. Happy Birthday Amanda,

    I hope you are having a wonderful day. You don’t look a day over 28. You are a beautiful East Texan. A birthday gift is on the way. Didn’t know where to put this so, I put it here.

    Sincerely,
    Agent008

  18. I also learned this “Whenever a phone rings, donÒ€ℒt answer it!” haha… specially you espect some collectors to call you!

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