10 Reasons why Real Life is not like the movies.
We’ve all seen the films. A loses B; B finds A; A gets B. Good triumphs over evil; the wicked are punished; and justice serves up her richest trifle for those most deserving. Unfortunately, real life doesnt follow suit…
Much has been made of narrative structure in stories only having a few elements. Google ‘Joseph Campbell’ and you’ll find a huge amount of work on the topic. The same elements appear in stories again and again, because people find them so satisfying – and because people have certain expectations of what a story is. You get exceptions, like zen stories that break narrative structure on purpose in order to teach you something. But mostly, stories follow a pattern, and movies follow stories.
So how do movies differ from real life?
An older villain will not kidnap you. A younger hero will not rescue you.
The basic premise of many action and thriller films is an older bad guy capturing a good girl, and a good guy having to rescue her. From a psychological viewpoint its kind of creepy. The chances in real life, however, of being stolen by an older villain and your husband/father/brother/lover/whatever just happening to have been trained with the SS or the CIA or FBI (and the list goes on) and coming to your rescue is farfetched to say the least. Case and point Taken. Its a great story, sure, but Im pretty sure if anyone attempted to tear apart the entirety of Paris (even if the cause was justified) then the French authorities would be on them faster than a gourmand on a snail.
Shot cars do not blow up automatically.
Even if you found yourself in a real-life action sequence, there would be fewer explosions. Car manufacture being what it is, cars don’t just blow up when shot. A hail of bullets won’t tear apart a building. The movie stunt guy and the camera crew may make the shoot out scenes mindblowingly awesome, but they’ll make sure the action scene is way more graphic, violent, dirty and bloody. If you get involved in a real-life action sequence, expect lots of confusion and shocked witnesses telling you what you missed afterwards.
Good guys don’t automatically dodge bullets.
How often have you seen the good guy running whilst millions of bullets rain down upon him? There is no chance that all of those bullets missed him.
Real-life sex isn’t shot from the most flattering angle. Usually it’s not shot at all.
Sex is nothing like what you see in films. It’s always made out to be romantic or flattering in movies. Events always smoothly. Ha! There are no awkward silences when you both ask if the other has a condom. People about to have sex in movies never wear skinny jeans. Ever tried to take your partners skinnies off in the throes of passion? Yeah.
We don’t get our own movie soundtrack.
At a pivotal moment in your life, when you realise something of utmost importance, there is no violin playing in the background. There isnt even music. Unless by some sort of freakish coincidence your iPod is playing. And even then, Fate being the cruel mistress that she is, its probably Rage Against the Machine Bullet in your Head.
Real-life folks don’t have magical abilities
An obvious one is having magical abilities, but it’s still worth pointing out. There may be, in some other dimension, a possible metaphysical other world where all this is realised. Even if magical powers do exist, they’re probably not as glamorous as films make them out to be. Queues, pay-as-you-go small print and dietary restrictions are almost certainly involved.
Relationships don’t always end on a high note.
Person A always gets Person B in films. The ending is always them smiling and laughing and its all violins and cherubs. Ha! What they dont show you is the aftermath… the arguments over curtains, him being incredibly messy whilst she totally freaks out about the fact that he has used her toothbrush. The everyday little things get left out.
Real people need the toilet.
What really baffles me is that no one ever needs the toilet in films. A rare example of this is probably the first ‘American Pie’. It’s important to see at least one movie which has a toilet in it.
Cliques in movies and in real life…
Talking of cheesy American high school movies, its not just American teenagers who conform to certain stereotypes. ALL schools everywhere conform to stereotypes. Everyone, everywhere has a niche that they fit snugly into. Whether its the alpha-person everyone wants to date, the incredibly handsome football player; the attractive, yet slightly pervy boss that everyone wants to sleep with or the musician that wants to make it big. Although films make these genres out to be so much bigger than they are, its going on all around us all the time. Were just not always aware of it. You could argue that we end up trying to turn real life into a narrative structure to try to make sense of the other 6 billion people we’re sharing the planet with – if we can turn those people into just a few different character types it makes life easier to deal with. But people aren’t that simple. Just because we see stereotypes in movies, we shouldn’t be so quick to drag it across into the real world.
Life doesn’t have a fitting finale.
And finally, the finale. The wicked are punished and the good are rewarded. Unfortunately, and it is incredibly sad that I have to type this, this is far from the truth. The wicked often walk away unpunished, whilst the good folk, those just unlucky enough not to catch a break, are left alone, broken and miserable. The real problem is probably the word ‘ending’. Films end on a scene that conveniently wraps everything up. Our end comes when it comes, and it doesn’t wait for a fitting moment to tie all the loose ends together.
Life is not all doom and gloom. For one thing, theres cake. Im merely drawing attention to the fact that if we want movies to mimic real life then script writers should have a healthy dose of reality injected into them intravenously. The problem is we all want to see films because they remove us from reality, or offer us aspects of reality in easy to swallow bites. Movies add a little bit of something special to our everyday lives, and this is where the magic truly lies in the beauty of the cinema.
If you’re really interested in the idea of stories versus real life, check out