Hollywood is notoriously resistant to change. You can blame at least some of that on the fact that every movie written for the last 20 years or so has followed the guidelines set forth in a single book.
The official Bible of every waiter in Los Angeles.
It's called Save the Cat, and if you've never read it, the general premise is that you're stupid if you don't give away the entire ending to your film in the first 10 minutes. This is exactly the kind of thing that makes Hollywood the bland (albeit explosion-riddled), formulaic mess that it mostly is today. If something worked in the past, they'll just keep doing it, no matter how injurious it may be to the overall quality of the project (or your willingness to ever stop shopping exclusively on The Pirate Bay).
It's so cheap, though!
Hollywood is a land of rules and traditions, and most of them -- at present, anyway -- can be traced back to that one book.
You should actually take some comfort in that, though, because if you know where a problem starts, knowing how to fix it becomes significantly easier. Granted, Hollywood is never going to fix anything about anything and you should stop dreaming if you believe otherwise, but still, at least it could happen in theory.
Unfortunately, not every worst practice movie makers employ can be explained so easily. Some just seem to be universal laws that were handed down from some higher cinematic power that people who simply watch movies are not worthy of meeting.
For example, can anyone point to the screenplay writing manual that says ...
5The Shrewish, Nagging Wife Must Ruin Everything
She nags. She bitches. She's ruining everything. How horrible are these shrewish housewives who exist only to rain on our anti-hero's parade? Everyone hates Skyler White from Breaking Bad, so much so that Anna Gunn took to the New York Times to defend her character and herself against the insane people who have a hard time separating real life from make believe.
While the vitriol against both the character and Gunn was over-the-top and completely uncalled for, the character was still a prime example of why writers need to step up their game when it comes to creating compelling female leads.
From the get-go, so much about Skyler never makes sense, and it gets worse as the series progresses. She's a doting wife and mother so worried about her husband's cholesterol she insists on rubbery turkey bacon for breakfast, yet she doesn't seem to be concerned about the real stress in her husband's life. In the very first episode we learn he works full-time as a high school teacher in addition to juggling a second job at a car wash to keep the family afloat. What's Skyler's contribution to the family's financial crunch? The pipe dream of publishing her unreadable short stories someday.
This is the only pipe dream that pays well.
What? We hate this person already, and we're not even 30 minutes in. As the purported moral compass of the show, Skyler is a complete failure. When she finds out about Walt's lung cancer she lacks the ability to empathize with what her husband is going through and instead makes it all about her. Even the thought that her secondhand smoke may have caused his lung cancer doesn't stop her from secretly smoking while pregnant with their child. She cheats on Walt with Ted and rubs it in his face. Her sole motivation appears to be, "What can I do today to make my husband's life worse?"
And Skyler's not alone. Rita on Dexter, Lori from The Walking Dead, Abby in Ray Donovan, all seem to be just standing in the wings somewhere, already glaring and ready to pop in and bring the whole damn room down at a moment's notice.
Quick, everyone stop looking like you're having fun.
Their actions often don't even make sense, but since these characters are so poorly drawn from the beginning we're used to them acting only as irrational, bitchy foils to the male protagonist.
Why It Needs to Stop
Television writers seem to think that a strong female character equals self-centered and overbearing, and that's a bad thing. It doesn't have to be this way. Shows like The Americans and House of Cards feature much more nuanced writing for their female leads. That those characters exist for a purpose beyond riding their respective husbands' backs makes them and the shows they're on stand out among their peers, which is actually kind of sad, when you think about it.
As a married couple in The Americans, Elizabeth (Keri Russell) and Philip Jennings (Matthew Rhys) occasionally fight and disagree with one another, but these tensions are much more balanced since both characters are written on equal footing (they're both Russian spies).
Claire (Robin Wright) from House of Cards is such a strong, independent woman, not even Frank's annoying camera asides can faze her. While their relationship creates conflicts for her husband, her actions have some semblance of purpose beyond the "she's always bitching about something" trope lazy writers love to lean on these days.
4Actors Who Are Almost 30 Make the Best Teens
Hollywood's version of high school is filled with students so far along in their maturation they appear to have kissed the ravages of puberty goodbye sometime during the Clinton administration. This physically advanced, over-ripened representation of "youth" certainly isn't a new phenomenon. From a well-worn Steve McQueen playing a 17-year-old in The Blob ...
Going on 70.
... to Stockard Channing's high school senior on the wrong side of 30 in Grease ...
This is what your mom has always looked like.
... movies and TV shows have a longstanding tradition of filling roles for teens with much older actors. Fox's Glee, the hourlong iTunes ad for awful karaoke music disguised as a television show, is one of the biggest offenders. Mark Salling was 27 when he started playing 15-year-old high school student Noah "Puck" Puckerman ...
That's his "I need someone to buy alcohol for me" face.
... and he wasn't the only member of the glee club whose voice had already dropped an octave by the ninth grade. His good buddy, 15-year-old Finn Hudson, was played by another 27-year-old, Cory Monteith. Teacher/glee club mentor Mr. Schuester, played by doe-eyed, baby-faced Matthew Morrison, is only four years older than those "students" in real life.
The problem is more apparent with male actors. In real life, girls generally mature earlier, while boys do most of their filling out during the college years. Friday Night Lights, for example, is a show about how we love our small-town high school football heroes so much, we let them keep playing until they're nearly 30. With his fully developed physique and backward creeping hairline, Tim Riggins (Taylor Kitsch), a 25-year-old high school sophomore when Friday Night Lights debuted, looked a little long in the tooth to be legally roaming the halls of Dillon High without pushing a mop and bucket.
Meanwhile, co-star Minka Kelly (a year older in real life) makes for a much more believable teen girl.
Why It Needs to Stop
Not only is it distracting when the adults and "kids" look roughly the same age, it also sets up false expectations for teens. Most male high school students aren't broad-shouldered, deep-voiced men sporting a five o'clock shadow by fourth period. Yes, real-life teenage actors come with their own set of unique issues that make casting adults more appealing. Besides occasionally being saddled with nightmare stage parents, younger actors are subject to restrictive laws that limit filming times and require on-set classrooms. But it can be done. The Disney Channel regularly casts age-appropriate young stars, and their shows look much more realistic, even if they're completely unwatchable.