5You Can Adopt Kids from an Orphanage
As Seen In: Orphan, Despicable Me, Sex and the City, Desperate Housewives, Problem Child, Smallville, Big Daddy
What Movies and TV Say:
Traditionally, orphans have filled a wide range of TV and movies roles, from deranged killers to adorable angels who are hiding the fact that they are deranged killers. And if Hollywood is to be believed, the adoption process doesn't vary significantly between a kid and a dog: You just drive out to the place where they conveniently store them and pick one out.
Usually the one who doesn't bite you.
Oh, sure, sometimes movies will include talk of "waiting lists" or some other type of bureaucracy, but not before the parents are at least allowed to browse through the orphanage for a kid they like. Most of the time, the orphanage practically hands them their secretly evil new child right away, like in 2009's Orphan and 2010's Despicable Me:
One is a disturbingly violent and psychologically horrific film, the other is Orphan.
And in those cases when an orphanage isn't actually depicted, it's at least mentioned as the place where a character has been (like in the show Smallville) or where they are in danger of ending up (like in Adam Sandler's Big Daddy).
The Reality Today:
It turns out that what we think of as an "orphanage" doesn't even exist in the U.S. anymore, and hasn't for decades. Following the 1980 Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act, most orphaned or abandoned children were placed with relatives or in foster homes. This was the killing blow to the American orphanage system, which had been in decline since we stopped encouraging unmarried mothers to give up their whore-babies in the '60s.
"Yup, it's the last you'll see of him, but don't worry -- he'll get all the cigars and brandy he'll ever need."
The closest thing we have now to a traditional orphanage is a group home, but those are usually reserved for much older children who haven't done well in foster homes. So to make most adoption movies accurate, you'd have to either change the setting to the '50s or replace all the little kids running around with awkwardly mustached teenagers.
"I'm less about whimsical adventures and more about heroin."
Not that you'd be able to directly adopt one from a group home, anyway. These days, most adoptions are done through the foster system or by arrangement with birth parents, and the whole process is much, much more expensive and time consuming than your television would have you believe: An average non-foster adoption will set you back around $32,000 in legal and other fees and takes between six months and two years. So by the time Adam Sandler's slacker character in Big Daddy had saved up the money and dealt with all the paperwork, he would have ended up with a full-grown blond version of Jon Stewart.
"Nope, you're gonna have to go pee on that door alone, champ."
4Everything in England Is Old-Fashioned and Cobblestoned
As Seen In: Harry Potter, The Holiday, V for Vendetta, Bridget Jones's Diary, Bones, What a Girl Wants, National Treasure 2, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Dollhouse, Love Actually, anything starring Hugh Grant
What Movies and TV Say:
According to Hollywood, England is a magical kingdom that was frozen in time at some point in the early 20th century (sadly, after all their dragons became extinct), but that's why we like it: We want to see quaint, old-fashioned things that you'd never find in America, like royal weddings, boarding schools and free public transportation. V for Vendetta takes place in an England entirely covered in charming cobblestones, and that one's supposed to be set in the future:
This must mean we already have flying cars in America at this point.
Or look at the Harry Potter movies -- even Harry's "normal," non-wizarding family dresses like they're in a period piece:
The wizard world has already reduced the U.K. to an economic and cultural wasteland.
But the genre that has exploited England's cultural stagnancy the most is the romantic comedy, because they allow us to travel back in time to an era where everyone was polite, well spoken and addicted to tea just by crossing the Atlantic. For example, the 2006 romantic comedy The Holiday shows Kate Winslet, a British woman visiting Los Angeles, rejoicing hysterically when she finds herself in a kitchen equipped with something more modern than her stovetop kettle:
"Oh boy! They have mixed fibers in their clothes, too!"
The Reality Today:
The British are partly to blame for all these misconceptions -- their entire film industry is now largely based on the fact that Americans think it's a pre-modern country. Film-location businesses in the U.K. overwhelmingly advertise old locations like manors and castles, because they figure that if the Americans wanted asphalt roads and glass buildings, they'd just stay home.
Before Hollywood, this was all syringes and hookers as far as the eye could see.
And yet 2012 England often isn't "old" enough to satisfy American tastes for films set there. Movies like Oliver Twist, A Knight's Tale, From Hell and Shanghai Knights, and the TV series Robin Hood, among others, were all filmed in other parts of Europe that apparently look more English to us than England itself.
"You know what, don't bother."