If you read the news, you'll know that humans are constantly running into things that put their lives in danger: crime, natural disasters, ill-advised riding-mower volleyball games. Despite this, most of us remain in blissful denial about how we'll react during terrible, life-threatening events. For example ...
(If you think Hollywood has prepared you to survive a gunfight, you need to read our De-Textbook.)
5 We Think We'll Know What to Do
Reports of a shocking event are working their way through the mass media. Victims are being buried. Families are mourning their loved ones. And like urine spreading through a crowded kiddie pool, the comment sections of the Internet are filling up with observations like this one, about a shooting in Colorado:
Now, I'm willing to bet most of us would never write anything like that, because we are not boss-level douchebags. But surveys show that most people do believe that they'd do just fine during a crisis situation, even if they have no training or experience whatsoever. This means that even though we're not spewing our assurances all over the Internet, many of us are still unconsciously assuming that all those people on the news suffered and/or died because they just aren't as naturally smart and awesome as we are.
And you can't really blame us for thinking that, because ...
4 Movies Have Given Us Terrible Expectations
In The Dark Knight, sassy lawyer and love interest Rachel Dawes is thrown out of a tall building by the Joker, and then saved at the last second by Batman, who swoops in and rescues her with a batcape capable of cancelling the effects of g-force deceleration. Rachel's reaction, after facing certain death only seconds before? She looks at Batman like they have just finished a mildly uncomfortable sex act and says, "Let's not do that again!" In the same movie, fellow lawyer Harvey Dent is in the middle of a court case when a witness on the stand points a gun at him and pulls the trigger. When it misfires, Dent smoothly grabs the weapon and quips about buying American. Never mind that these characters are acting as if they are suffering from severely damaged amygdalae: They're the good guys (at least for now), and that means that they don't experience fear.
Either that, or it's telling us that lawyers don't have souls.
This is not a freak example: Find a random scene from a movie that shows any sort of crisis, and chances are you can pick out the hero by looking for the person who isn't panicking. It's the calm, nerdy heroines that survive the carnage in horror movies, while their panic-stricken friends go running into chainsaw blades. It's Bruce Willis or Sigourney Weaver who stare witheringly at their sobbing beta-male companions before taking charge, saving the day, and dying the hardest. Movies teach us that heroes -- whether they're trained cops, plucky teenagers, or middle-aged housewives -- respond to mortal danger with calm wisecracking. And because we all want to think that we're the protagonists in our own movies, we expect that we'll naturally react like that as well.
Unfortunately, in real life ...