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Five of the Worst Lessons People Learn from Modern Movies
Certainly, modern movies have better special effects than old movies and, because of that, there are more possibilities. However, that’s a double-edged sword.
On the one hand, films like Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness or Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania (neither of which was very good actually), probably couldn’t have been made at all 30 years ago and if they somehow managed it, it would have looked almost comically terrible. Yet, despite all those possibilities CGI theoretically opens up, because most movies are now so insanely expensive, Hollywood tends to rehash the same old stories over and over again in hopes that the built-in audience will show up and help them make their money back.
In addition, in our politically correct age, there aren’t a lot of movies that are truly creative and willing to take chances. Sure, every once in a while you’ll see a Sound of Freedom, Gran Torino, or even, God help us all, Sharknado:
But most of what passes for “creativity” these days is just making a white character black, a male character female, or having a gay kissing scene. In all fairness, maybe moviemakers don’t feel like they have much of a choice. Certainly, acting today isn’t as good as it was a few decades ago, and having actual moral messages in general is frowned upon. So, what’s left? Politically correct boilerplate, spin-offs, and soft reboots that mostly aren’t as good as the originals with an exception or two here and there that prove the rule:
On top of all that, there are a number of extremely unhealthy movie tropes that have become ensconced in modern films that give people a very unrealistic view of the world. Granted, we probably shouldn’t look to movies about superheroes, talking animals, and aliens as guides to how the world works, but more often than we like to admit, we do. Just to name my least favorite example, consider what I like to think of as…
1) The Harry Potter Effect: One of the things we often see in movies is a fearsome, lethal villain, sometimes with decades of experience, easily dispatched by an inexperienced hero who “never gives up,” “who has the power of friendship,” or who makes it through a training montage. Yes, we get why directors do that. People like to envision themselves as the hero and that’s exactly the sort of dreamy, meteoric rise we’d all like to have. However, there are very few fields where that’s even possible, and very seldom does it actually happen.
On one level, we get this. If you took an extremely gifted athlete who had never played basketball before and gave him six months of training before putting him up against Michael Jordan in his prime, everyone understands how it would turn out. However, what most people don’t fully understand is that it’s like this with practically everything that doesn’t revolve around just being pretty.
We live in a competitive world where the best people at almost everything are genetically gifted, patient workhorses who’ve spent decades perfecting their craft. Unfortunately, our movies have led an awful lot of people to have extremely unrealistic expectations about what it takes to succeed, which has led to an awful lot of people losing faith in themselves, giving up way too early, or believing that the world is unfairly stacked against them when it’s really just much harder than they imagined for everyone:
2) The Mary Sue Effect: Some people might think this should have been lumped in with the Harry Potter Effect, but it’s newer and different enough that it felt like it needed its own category.
You see, The Mary Sue Effect is the idea that women are naturally gifted at everything based on the fact that they’re women and the only things slowing them down are sexist men and a lack of belief in themselves.
Not only is it insulting to men and unrealistic, but it also makes for boring characters. There aren’t a lot of great female action heroes, but the legendary ones like Ripley from the Aliens series and Sarah Connor from the Terminator franchise went through Hell growing into heroines.
The idea that Captain Marvel, Rey Skywalker from the Star Wars series, the new version of Mulan, She-Hulk, etc., etc. are all great as they are and don’t need to learn, grow, or do anything except unveil their awesomeness to a world too sexist to appreciate them fully, is out-of-touch feminist mythology that has no bearing on the real world. It’s not good story-telling and it’s an especially toxic message for young women:
3) If a man wants a woman, he should refuse to give up no matter what: In the movies when a woman rejects a man and he keeps on chasing her endlessly, refusing to give up on her love no matter how many obstacles he puts in her path, it’s considered romantic.
Meanwhile, back in the real world, it’s considered creepy stalking. If you ever wondered where stalkers get the idea that refusing to take “no” for an answer will win over a woman who has made it crystal clear that she isn’t interested in them, the answer is probably, “Every romantic comedy ever made.”
Okay, it’s not quite that bad, but the number of romantic movies that feature some guy obsessively engaging in what would be considered, “file a restraining order” type behavior by most women is not small:
4) Hyper-competence isn’t a real thing: It feels like every other movie these days has a 200 IQ villain who has come up with an impossibly intricate plan, big business CEOs that are executing nearly unstoppable evil plots (to anyone but our hero, of course), government agencies that are inhumanly competent, scientists decades ahead of the curve, etc, etc, etc.
Sure, if you’re going to have to have clever protagonists who are doing things that would kill a normal person 20 times over in a movie, they do need enemies that can threaten them. Except back in the real world, no one is that competent, not even the geniuses. I am a genius and I’ve met a lot of geniuses including a few that are significantly smarter than me and you know what I can tell you about them?
I can tell you that they are usually brilliant in a handful of ways and not particularly smart in most others. Hyper-competence? It just doesn’t exist, although a company like Walmart or Amazon may be able to do things in their areas of expertise that seem impossible to ordinary people because they have a limited scope, enormous amounts of data, and the money to pay huge teams of smart people to analyze, test and act on its goals. Our government? It’s not as smart as the corporations.
Are there true geniuses in one area or another? Sure, but that doesn’t mean they’re any good at anything outside of their specialty. This is worth noting because so many people buy into conspiracies that simply can’t exist because there are so few people who are smart, organized, and consistent enough to pull them off. Most of the bad things in the world are done by very ordinary human beings, with not particularly bright plans. Then they use power, money, or luck to try to cover their tracks. It’s important for people to understand this because so many conspiracy theories today are driven by the idea that there are malevolent geniuses pulling everyone’s strings behind the scenes, but the world is not made up of Batman-style villains, 10 steps ahead of the rest of us, playing five-dimensional chess.
5) Consequences don’t exist if they don’t drive the plot forward: Yes, we all go to the movies for a little escapism, but every once in a while, it would be nice to see someone facing real consequences that aren’t tied to the plot.
It wouldn't shock anyone if the next Fast and Furious involves a supervillain played by Keanu Reeves going after Dom and his “family” because they killed his son, who was a bad guy in a previous movie before they patch up their differences in the next film and Keanu is jumping a car across a chasm and landing it on a jet in flight. But that moves the plot forward, right? How about the 100 million dollars worth of damage, the 100 people killed, and the 300 wrecks they’ll probably cause during the movie? Doesn’t matter, right?
Just like movies show shootouts galore, but never bullets going through a wall and hitting an innocent kid in the face. Just like films give you the idea that anyone not having sex this very second is a loser, but they don’t show you James Bond with an STI.
If there’s one thing that movies teach us, it’s that you can get away with just about anything if you’re the main character. Meanwhile, back in the real world, playing Clint Eastwood with a bad guy or slutting it up like Samantha from Sex in the City has a lot of real-world ramifications you are never going to see on the Silver Screen. Maybe we should think about that before romanticizing this kind of behavior endlessly.