5 Terrible Life Lessons Hollywood Loves to Teach You

5 Terrible Life Lessons Hollywood Loves to Teach You

Hollywood goes with what works and, let's face it, there are a few things audiences like to see again and again in their movies. The underdog wins big, the loser gets his dream girl, Batman is awesome, etc.

But there are some themes that are either so wrong, stupid or harmful that they need to be retired once and for all. Such as ...

Technology is Dangerous and Will Eventually Destroy Us

As Seen In:

2001: A Space Odyssey, War Games, Terminator, A.I., The Matrix, I, Robot

Why They Do It:

Deep down, we're all scared of change and, by extension, technology. In the '40s and '50s, the boogie man was atomic energy--in those old monster movies, it was always some kind of atomic accident that started it all. By the '80s, Hollywood needed something shiny and new for people to fear. And low and behold, there were these newfangled things called computers showing up everywhere, and most people were made nervous by the way the inanimate boxes seemed to be able to outsmart them.

Starting wars on a rudimentary home computer is both fun and EASY!

Writers played off that fear, telling audiences that as computers get faster and stranger, it is only a matter of time before one of these things pulls an Asimov and becomes self-aware. And when they do ... watch out.

So What's the Problem?

Keep in mind, none of these cautionary movies are based on real dangers. They're not talking about the difficulties in adapting the labor market to sudden improvements in automation, or the challenges of educating children who know computers better than you. Mainly because that film would be approximately as exciting as watching sloths fuck.

The original plot for The Matrix.

No, to drum up the fear, they've always had to invent a danger: "With a few keystrokes a team of hackers can blow up your house! Once computers get smart enough, they'll become sentient and start hating us! Robots will eventually cause the extinction of mankind!" And so on.

The whole idea is to play off people's ignorance on the subject. And people give them a lot to work with.

Will They Ever Stop?

It won't be long before the entire theater will be full of people who were raised with computers, and won't be all that scared of them. But that's OK--all that'll change is screenwriters will find new targets.

Soon you'll have less talk of a robot apocalypse, and more talk of a nanotechnology apocalypse, or a worldwide disaster caused by genetic engineering. As long as it's new and weird and unfamiliar, Hollywood scriptwriters will figure out a way to make it bring about the end of the world.

You Don't Have to Take Any Initiative in Your Life, Because You Have a Hidden Talent

As Seen In:

Star Wars Episode I, IV, The Matrix, Harry Potter, Chronicles of Narnia, Wanted, 90 Percent of All Fantasy Films

Why They Do It:

Because your mom did it. No, seriously. When you were a kid, didn't your mother--along with every teacher in elementary school--sit you down and say you could be anything you wanted when you grew up? Making most of us think that by age 20 we'd be video game programmers by day and champions of the Ultimate Fighting circuit by night?

These films are the ultimate wish fulfillment. See, life isn't really all that hard! It just seems hard, because you haven't discovered the hidden talent that will make you special!

It's the embodiment of all our daydreams. Well, not the naked ones necessarily.

So What's the Problem?

Of course, the reason people like to think about being a Jedi or a Wizard is that it's not something they have to work for, it's just encoded into their DNA that they'll have the ability to do kick-ass things at the drop of a hat. A hat that you will be able to catch and then kill someone with.

But it doesn't appeal to our optimism, it appeals to our laziness.

You if you could afford better beer.

Luke became a Jedi master over a couple of training montages. Neo just had to do a direct brain download to become a kung fu machine. Harry Potter showed up at high school and found out he was fucking awesome at a sport he'd never even played before.

In reality we grew up and found out that if we wanted to be amazing at something, we had to practice so much that all the enjoyment dried up under the tedium. It's no wonder that by our 20s, so many of us wind up depressed, jobless and drunk (OK, we'd still get drunk if we could use the force, but it would involve a lot less brooding and much more car throwing).

Will They Ever Stop?

As long as there is film, or novels, or any entertainment media at all, there will be these stories. Nobody wants to walk out of a movie with the feeling that they should buckle down and spend more time at the office.

I guess I'm good at swords now.

No, we'll be seeing these movies right up until we're sitting in a shitty retirement complex, wondering why the hell Morpheus never showed up to rescue us from it all.

Corporations Exist Only to Create Evil

As Seen In:

Wall-E, Iron Man, Erin Brockovich, Robocop, John Grisham's The Rainmaker and Runaway Jury and The Firm, Wall Street, Tank Girl, Fight Club, Michael Clayton, countless others

Why They Do It:

Getting an audience to hate a corporation is like shooting really slow fat fish in a really small, well lit barrel that you're standing over with a laser scoped machine gun. Everybody's gotten screwed by a big, uncaring company at some point, either by getting put on indefinite hold by customer support, or by getting downsized, or by installing Windows Vista.

In the old days, it was always a tyrannical government who was going to take over and ruin the world--see Darth Vader and the Empire. But for the last couple of decades, in movies from Robocop to Wall-E, it's been all huge unfeeling corporations.

So What's the Problem?

We can already see the comments: How dare we suggest that some corporations might not be evil! And on the internet no less! But think about it this way. Each and every one of these films are made by a corporation every bit as huge and unfeeling as the ones being portrayed in the movies (and the Walt Disney corporation could crush all of them like a grape). There's almost something condescending about the way enormous companies are willing to cast themselves as the villains, knowing we'll give them more of our money to watch it.

Above: Current CEO of Disney

But besides that, there's the laughable over-simplification. The big corporations in movies aren't made up of hundreds or thousands of people from every walk of life trying to live the American dream. No, they're evil, sadistic spirits that gained physical form by eating poor children and tricking old people out of their retirement funds. Even the evil corporations in most "serious" films are about as complicated as the cartoon villains from Captain Planet. Why do they cut down trees? Because fuck those trees, that's why.

So it winds up being just like the technology scare-mongering. It's not making us afraid of real corporate shenanigans (shady bookkeeping, closing factories and moving jobs to offshore sweatshops) but instead showing evil old guys in shadowy offices hiring hit men to silence whistle-blowers.

Will They Ever Stop?

More Globalization means bigger business and bigger scandals, so it's almost certain that corporations will continue to realize there is huge profit to be made with movies that demonize corporations like themselves. Presumable they'll do it while lighting hundred dollar cigars with your pension money. That's just good business.

Love Conquers All

As Seen In:

Titanic, The Bridges of Madison County, As Good As It Gets, Lost in Translation, almost every Hugh Grant romantic comedy, every Sandra Bullock romantic comedy ... hell, like half the movies ever made.

Why They Do It:

Love is sort of a big deal. Probably 7 times out of 10 in the movies, it's the reason humanity isn't destroyed by robots/aliens (the other three are usually free choice or some sort of clever use of a rocket launcher).

But we're not talking about, say, the love a mother has for a child or (even worse) the boring love between two people who have been married for decades. No, this love is the sudden, rapturous emotion between two physically attractive people who just met.

Nothing can stand in their way, damn it!

Nope. Not even rain.

So What's the Problem?

When they say love conquers "all," by God, they mean it. Our two, hot, usually young lovebirds can be on board a fucking ocean liner where a thousand other people are endanger of dying, and as the bodies fall around them, all we're to care about is whether these two can survive long enough to have sex just one more time.

"Well, since we're both here ... "

Seriously, it doesn't matter if the characters are married to other people, with children (Lost in Translation, The Bridges of Madison County) or will lose their job (Two Weeks Notice) or will have to abandon the world completely to go live in an alien undersea kingdom forever (Splash).

The moral of all these movies is that all of the adult, rational decision-making that keeps us from doing really retarded things, should go out of the window if we get that one huge crush on the girl or guy of our dreams. Because, you know, love conquers all of that other stuff.

The problem is, they don't really come back and show those relationships as they exist a couple of years down the road, after the rush of emotion has worn off and we're left with two people who actually aren't compatible at all, with at least one of them no longer able to remember why they gave up their job or city or previous marriage. Think how pissed off Tom Hanks' character in Splash would be after breaking it off with Daryl Hannah's mermaid, only to find he was still doomed to live the rest of his life among the mer-people.

We're pretty sure we can credit those movies for most of the really bad marriages in the world (and their divorces).


Will They Ever Stop?

As long as there are men and women who date each other, and as long as those couples go out to see movies on those dates, the "Love Conquers All" genre will have people to sell tickets to. And as long as there are middle-aged women trapped in unhappy marriages, there will be someone willing to buy the DVDs.

The Underdog Will Always Win, and Automatically Deserves To

As Seen In:

Karate Kid, the Rocky films, Major League, every other sports movie ever made

Why They Do It:

People love to root for the underdog. Probably because we think of ourselves as the underdog, scrappy nobodies dealt a bad hand by life, who can overcome every disadvantage with sheer pluck and attitude.

Of course it also makes for more interesting drama, since nobody wants to watch a movie about a high-priced Yankee team taking a frictionless cruise to another title.

So What's the Problem?

The underdogs are usually up against far more qualified and talented individuals, who we're presuming have worked pretty hard to get where they are. It's usually a show down between the bad guys, who spent years honing their skills vs. the main character(s) who are usually underachieving slobs who spent a couple of weeks getting their act together. So why are we rooting for the second one?

It seems to play to our jealousy more than anything. All these people out there grinding away to get better and better at what they do, they must surely also be bad people somehow, right?


And they're probably ... cheating or something! Yeah! Otherwise they wouldn't be succeeding where we fail! And they certainly can't have the wacky, interesting personalities of us and our ragtag band of misfits!

Will They Ever Stop?

America hasn't been the underdog since, oh, the 1940s or so, so it would actually make sense if there were a subtle shift, and the favorites became the good guys.

Maybe a generation from now we'll get that Yankees movie, with the powerful scene halfway through where they make the mid-season trade for yet another superstar to add to their $200 million roster. Then there'll be the finale where they pop the champagne in the locker room after sweeping the series, talking about how absolutely everyone expected them to win, and sure enough, they did!

OK, maybe we should just stick with the underdog thing after all.

Find out even more about how profoundly stupid they think you are in 5 Ways Hollywood Tricks You Into Seeing Bad Movies. Or get a law degree in comic book movies with our article on 8 (Pointless) Laws All Comic Book Movies Follow. Or, see the Hollywood spin machine in all its glory as Gladstone counts down 5 Reasons You're Going to Hate 'Hancock.'
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