Cinema and literature can change our lives in noble and profound ways. They can, but usually don't. For every Uncle Tom's Cabin that can take credit for a net benefit to the human race, you have a Jaws, which made a generation of Americans afraid to even climb into their swimming pools for fear a great white was hiding in there.
Think we're exaggerating? Trust us, some of Hollywood's effects on the world are far stupider than that. Such as....
Seen in: CSI
Impact on real life: Murderers are being set loose on the streets.
To put it simply, some experts believe that the growing popularity of the CSI franchise has created unrealistic expectations among juries, who see on TV that a single skin cell is all you need to create a 3D hologram of the suspect's face, and assume that if you don't have that, then he must not have done it, right? Therefore you have jurors who think they need to vote "not guilty" in every case that doesn't have 100 percent indisputable DNA evidence (which it turns out is pretty much all of them all of them).
Take Robert Blake, a man accused of murdering his wife: Over 70 witnesses testified against him, including a few Blake had approached and offered money to kill his wife. The only thing the prosecution didn't have was forensic evidence, but there was no way a jury would acquit a man based on such stupid reasons like "there was no black-light semen."
Poor girl: Raped by an entire circus.
But of course, because we here at Cracked don't tell you about reasonable reactions and logical responses, that is exactly what they did. Robert Blake walked free, probably ticking off a mental note: You can get away with murder as long as you don't jerk off all over it.
Similar fuckery occurred in the case of Robert Durst, whose lawyer got him acquitted by convincing the jury that Durst dismembered his neighbor in self-defense. Forensic evidence on the head would totally prove it, too. If only somebody could find it...
"Me? No, no I don't remember what I did with it. I was too busy bathing in his bl- uh... defending myself."
Seen in: Finding Nemo, 101 Dalmations, Babe, basically any movie starring an adorable animal
Impact on real life: Roving packs of neglected, occasionally furious predators.
Whenever a movie with a bunch of cute critters hits the theaters, there is an immediate, sharp spike of adoptions for that breed... because some people impulse buy Slim Jims because the display stand has titties on it, and some people impulse buy baby elephants because Operation Dumbo Drop: The Origin was freakin' awesome! Different strokes for different folks and all that.
Do not dismiss them lightly, for it takes Diff'rent Strokes to rule the world...
It happened when 101 Dalmatians premiered, it happened after Beverly Hills Chihuahua, it even happened during the Teenage Mutant Nina Turtles craze (although only one of those trends resulted in hilarious impromptu turtle-dojos).
Of course, when the realization inevitably hit that your new pup actually requires work and can neither spout cutting one-liners nor surf, they usually end up in the pound or on the streets. That's depressing and all; that adorable animals have to pay because you can't tell the difference between fiction and reality or your head and your asshole. But still, can you imagine how much more nightmarish this scenario would be if the dogs could fly and had razor sharp claws they could sink deep into the throats of their oppressors?
That seems like an oddly specific hypothetical scenario, doesn't it? Well, that's because it actually happened in England. They wound up with huge flocks of abandoned and starving snow owls after kids saw Harry Potter use one instead of e-mail. An entire wildlife sanctuary had to be built to contain these forsaken flying ninjas, allowing them to congregate and probably plot against us.
Oh, you think owls are cute too? Here's what they do when you don't have an on-set trainer and the blood of precocious English child-wizards to sate them:
Seen in: ER, Chicago Hope, Rescue 911; every single other medical show in history.
Impact on real life: Endangering the lives of hospital patients.
Multiple hospitals have been reporting that their residents and medical students are screwing up "life-saving procedures" after seeing them performed incorrectly on TV.
No dude, I saw this on Grey's Anatomy; we have to do it in sync, though, or it won't work!"
As we pointed out earlier, taking medical advice from Hollywood is like taking investment advice from the guy peeing on you on the train. Believe it or not, there's quite a bit of difference between what you do with an actual sick person versus an extra merely pretending to be one; the techniques you see them use on TV were developed purely so they can appear to wedge tubes into the orifices of an actor without actually doing it.
For instance, the procedure most interns are failing at is the insertion of breathing tubes--most often used when your airways close up and you start suffocating to death--but hey, take solace in the fact that the oxygen deprivation will most likely get you so high you won't care that the new season of House just killed you.
Like we said when the show first came on: "One day, that man will kill us all."
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.