Seen in: The Simpsons
Impact on real life: Prolonging the energy crisis.
From the first episode of The Simpsons, it was obvious that Homer--the bumbling nuclear power plant employee--was given that job as a gag character created in response to the rampaging atomic scare still very much alive after the Chernobyl and Three Mile Island disasters. A fair joke to make... 20 years ago.
The problem with this joke, though, was that they didn't know when to stop. Homer didn't switch to more relevant fuck-up careers, like dot-com CEO or investment banker--he was stuck in the gag job of incompetent nuclear technician even as nuclear power became safer and more efficient. Like it or not, The Simpsons has influenced every part of our culture, and thus, as one professor believes, helped to drag out the national mistrust of nuclear energy years past its due.
The lighting isn't helping any, either...
The Simpsons did not create this energism (like racism, only with energy) but they sure as hell allowed it to stick around longer than it should, which might explain why the last time a reactor came on-line in the U.S. was 1996. Social opinion is a very powerful factor in such cases, and there can't be progress if this fear-mongering keeps up. By which we mean the show; it should be cancelled. For the good of the Earth!
Yep. You're ready to die.
Seen in: Menace II Society, rap videos, video games.
Impact on real life: Thousands of misfired gunshots from gangstas.
The thug lifestyle propagated by the entertainment industry has unwillingly made the streets a tad safer place by popularizing the sideways gun grip which, as it turns out, drastically lowers the accuracy of a firearm.
Well, all right: A bunch of dudes shooting at you and missing more often than if they were doing it the right way is hardly the definition of "safe" (at least not this side of RoboCop's Detroit), but as the old saying goes "Guns don't kill people. Bullets do." Less bullets in bodies = less bodies.
RoboCop considers only one headshot "a warning."
The side-grip was first made famous by the 1993 movie Menace II Society, and since its widespread adoption it's probably saved more police officers than Bruce Willis. The sideways grip most often leads to a spread of bullets in every possible direction when firing, which is an acceptable (nay, brilliant) tactical strategy while playing Contra...
Spreadshot! Yeah! Now to just do flips while firing until all the cops die and I'm home free!
... but in real-life shoot-outs it usually just ends with an empty clip, a bullet-ridden brick wall, dumpster and Ford Fiesta, several unamused and entirely bullet-free police officers, and a you-shaped bag of pain full of Taser rounds and mercilessly un-lubricated nightsticks.
Seen in: Tom Swift and His Electric Rifle, Spider-Man and Donald Duck comics.
Impact on real life: The invention of electronic surveillance, and the Taser--the cornerstones of the modern police state.
How wonderful would life be if the awe-inspiring technology of comic books existed in real life? Web-shooters, repulsor beams and badger-firing railgun (hey, the comics we draw at work still count); truly it would be a technological utopia. Unfortunately, inventor Jack Love (a dude who shares his name with a special you order at the bunny ranch) read a Spider-Man comic in 1977 and seized on the absolute worst tech available.
No, worse than Hypno-Hustler.
Rather than inventing wrist-mounted web-slingers and being known as Judge Love: Emperor of the Nerds Forever, he seized on the fact that the story featured a character being tracked via a wrist transmitter. Love thus set about inventing the first personal electronic monitors. Love contacted a computer salesman who built his prototype, and in 1983, electronic surveillance was born. And the police state threw a tasteful party in celebration; attendance was mandatory and jubilation was absolutely not tolerated.
THIS IS FUN. I AM HAVING FUN.
In fact, they wouldn't party that solemnly and severely until the early 90s when the first useable Taser came out. Inspired by the book Tom Swift and His Electric Rifle which came out in 1911, John H. Cover developed an early prototype of the scrotum's worst enemy since the invention of the foot. Even its name comes from the book--Taser being an acronym of Tom A. Swift's Electric Rifle.
A man named Rick Smith eventually tracked Cover down and introduced the idea of using compressed air to launch the darts, rather than the original gunpowder and the modern Taser was born. And we never thought we'd say this--being almost weekly victims of Tasing by virtue of our exceedingly poor strip club etiquette and alcohol tolerance--but thank God for it.
OK, we owe it a couple of "thank you's."
While the world is undoubtedly a scarier place with the Taser in it, at least it's not fired with the speed of an actual bullet. Because the only thing worse than taking 50,000 volts to the Ol' Mean Bean Machine is getting shot there first, and then getting twin lightning bolts as a follow-up.
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For other times people have pulled their plans from the silver screen, check out 5 Real Bank Heists Ripped Right Out of the Movies and 7 Bullshit Police Myths Everyone Believes (Thanks to Movies).
And stop by our Top Picks (Updated 2.8.2010) Brockway reenacting the William Tell act.