6 Things Movie Characters Always Seem to Forget
The one thing you always have to remember about characters in a movie is that they don't know they're characters in a movie. But sometimes they seem to forget things from one episode or scene to the next that makes us think they have some kind of brain injury that has ruined their short-term memory.
Not sure what we mean? Well, we're talking about things like...
Insisting That The Paranormal Doesn't Exist (Despite Dealing With It Daily)
The victims: Ghostbusters II, Stargate SG-1, Star Trek, Indiana Jones, X-Files, Fringe
It makes perfect sense for the characters in a vampire or zombie movie to need some time to adjust to the idea that they're being attacked by vampires or zombies. We don't even mind that there's always that one character who remains in denial until the second act (aka Carl Weathers in Predator insisting their nemesis was "just some guys in camouflage").
Death, courtesy of your local Army/Navy store.
But then you have a character in a series that deals exclusively with the supernatural, who completely forgets from one episode to the next that they are in fact characters in a series dealing with the supernatural. Take Indiana Jones, so quickly dismissing the idea of psychic alien skulls in the fourth movie, in spite of having witnessed firsthand the supernatural powers of the Ark of the Covenant, the Holy Grail and Indian spirit rocks. Pretty much every artifact the man digs up has magical powers, this should not be new territory for him.
But that's nothing compared to the X-files and Fringe, two shows with skeptical characters who seem to never manage to learn anything from their numerous encounters with Halloween beasts. Here's how basically every episode goes:
Agent 1: Wow! A thing/creature/occurrence/artifact from beyond the realm of science and nature!
Agent 2: No, that's probably just a weather balloon.
"That, or Duchovny's ego has finally assumed physical form."
How many aliens and lizard people did Agent Scully run across before she stopped rolling her eyes whenever Mulder suggested "monsters" as the solution to the next case? Fifty? A hundred? Scully, you get a nice paycheck and a robust government benefits plan to fight werewolves and vampires. Why are you embarrassed to have our dream job?
But nobody got screwed by this as badly as the Ghostbusters. As we've mentioned before in exhaustive detail, the entire city of New York sues the Ghostbusters for supposedly staging the ghost attack that destroyed several city blocks in the previous film, despite the fact that tens of thousands of witnesses saw it first hand. And where the hell did they think those hundreds of tons of melted marshmallow came from?
From left to right: swamp gas, LSD in the water supply, solar flare.
Then you have the selective skeptics, like in the show Medium, where everyone accepts the psychic detective's ability, but somehow still manages to second-guess her tips. Just to be clear, they believe she is communicating with ghosts but they question the reliability of the ghosts' testimony. That's like watching Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and believing everything but the "ninja" part.
"Karate? Isn't that the spicy shit Japanese people put on everything?"
This brings us to our next point...
Forgetting That The Main Character Is Always Right
The victims: House, X-files, Fringe, Monk, Psych, Medium
OK, so maybe we can forgive Scully for shaking her finger at Mulder every time he pins a murder on a banshee. Maybe it's just that she always hopes it's something mundane, so the goddamned report will be easy to fill out this time.
But then you have House, where even though Dr. House's co-workers and superiors give lip service to how brilliant he is, at least once an episode we need to hear him suggest some radical new and risky treatment for this week's patient only to have someone else (usually Foreman) say, "But that'll kill him!"
Maybe he'd be right more often he'd grow a real fucking goatee.
No, no it won't. House is right approximately 100 percent of the time. He may need multiple guesses but in the end he will be right and you will always, always be wrong.
Cuddy is usually wrong too, but her chest is infinitely more fun to stare at.
Likewise for the show Monk, which stars the comically depressed guy from Wings as an obsessive compulsive yet impossibly brilliant detective. The man could literally find a moldy pancake in a dumpster and use it to solve the Kennedy assassination, but for some reason a perfect prosecution record on the cases he handles doesn't stop the San Francisco PD from continually dismissing him (you know, because he's weird).
"We're sorry Mr. Monk, but your hilarious quirks clearly outweigh your years of experience and flawless investigative record."
Ironically, in one episode when he tried to persuade San Francisco's finest that an apparent traffic accident was actually an elaborately staged murder, they ignored the years of savant-like assistance he'd given them in the past because his theory didn't match up with... the testimony of a psychic. Dammit, these people need to trade detectives with Medium.
Honestly, the fact that they trust a blonde to solve cases strains our suspension of disbelief more than the whole "psychic" thing.
Which only takes us to the opposite problem, which is...
Forgetting That The Stupid Character is Stupid
The victims: TMNT, Gilligan's Island, Lost in Space, any comedy with a wacky bumbling character.
Anyone who has ever sat through an episode of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles has probably wondered why the Shredder keeps Bebop and Rocksteady around. By all accounts it doesn't make sense. Bebop and Rocksteady manage to thoroughly botch every single task they're given, yet the Shredder still insists on including them in his evil schemes episode after episode. It's almost like he hates success more than the Turtles.
We're pretty sure pigs are more intelligent than turtles, but we could be wrong.
But, hey, he's evil. Villains are known for relying on demonstrably unreliable henchmen. Hell, we're still baffled at how Megatron could go an entire series trusting Starscream, despite the latter arguably being the most treacherous and unreliable of all henchmen.
But decades earlier on Gilligan's Island, the band of castaways suffered from the same mental omission and allowed Gilligan to continually damn any chance they have of ever getting rescued. Crucial task after crucial task was placed in his hands--during the course of the show, Gilligan failed to signal a Navy vessel while flying a fucking jetpack; managed to find and lose a submarine in a single day; and wasted a magic wishing stone on goddamned ice cream.
Can we all just agree that no one wearing bell-bottoms should, under any circumstances, be allowed to man a jetpack?
After so many incidents, why didn't anyone remember to lock Gilligan in a cave whenever a chance to escape the island appeared? Their freaking lives were at stake.
Just hold him underwater until his eyes go dead.
Likewise on Lost in Space, what stopped the Robinson family from ganging up on Dr. Smith and jettisoning his stupid ass right out the airlock? Not counting the numerous times he endangered the entire crew with his cowardice, he had all the instinct of a monkey with a coke bottle lodged in its brain (as demonstrated when he once used their scarce water supply to take a fucking shower). Someone should've busted his head open with a moon rock.
Anyone with this as a Facebook profile picture would be reported to the FBI in a matter of seconds.
Failing to Remember That Bulletproof Vests Exist
The victims: Mr. and Mrs. Smith, Firefly, Human Target, multiple Lethal Weapon movies
If your job typically puts you in front of waves of rampaging gunfire, one would think you would be keen on wearing some kind of protection between your ZZ Top T-shirt and your chest. And, in fact, during some crucial dramatic scene where you see the hero take a bullet, you'll inevitably find he's pulled a Doc Brown and hidden a vest under his clothes. Only the hero does this, and only on special occasions.
"Remember Akmed: Torso shots only!"
For some reason, the onslaught of nameless goons employed by every evil organization in the history of the world, no matter how well-funded, apparently skipped the "bulletproof vest" section of Kohl's on their way to murder John Rambo.
"Holy shit, what are bullets doing here?"
Usually this only affects the anonymous henchmen, like the ones hunting Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie in Mr. and Mrs. Smith. The pair has been described in the movie as the world's top assassins, probably because they're the only ones who remember to wear bulletproof vests.
"Thank God these were the last two Wal-Mart had on sale."
But even the good guys seem to forget from one week to the next. The TV shows Firefly and Human Target both featured bulletproof vests in their pilot episodes, coming to play in critical moments that save two major characters from death. But after those episodes, none of the principal characters ever wear one again, despite plunging headfirst into frantic gunfights two to three times a week.
We loved the show too, but it's pretty clear that none of the writing staff had ever been in the same room as a real gun.
Likewise, Mel Gibson gets saved from a shotgun blast partway through Lethal Weapon by a vest, but is never seen wearing one again. His partner, Murtaugh, nearly dies at the end of the second film from a gunshot because he wasn't wearing one.
Oddly, Rene Russo is saved from ultimate destruction in Lethal Weapon 3 by wearing two bulletproof vests (the plot involved special anti-bullet proof vest bullets), but in virtually every other scene, no one else can think to wear even one. Guys, you live in Lethal Weapon. At some point today you're going to be involved in a car chase that involves machine gun fire. Don't leave the house without that shit.
Taking it to the bathroom might be overkill, though.
The Dust-Gathering Superweapon
The victims: Star Trek TOS, Star Gate SG-1, Dr. Who, any movie or show with time travel
Have you ever spent three hours trying to put up a shelf with a butter knife before remembering you have a Phillips-head screwdriver in a drawer in the kitchen? This is a memory lapse frequently seen on any show or movie that relies on technology. Remember the first time Tony Stark breaks out the Iron Man suit, and he uses a tiny little forearm missile to destroy a massive tank?
That sure would have come in handy in the final battle. Could he only afford one of those rockets?
But nothing compares to Star Trek when it comes to life-saving device amnesia. During its many travels, the Enterprise has encountered and promptly forgotten about a plant that can cure any illness and re-grow lost body parts, a drug that grants psychic powers, and an advanced cloaking device and a Warp 11-speed engine. Fans have suffered through entire story arcs that could have ended by simply utilizing some Deus ex Machina the writers put into the show no more than two weeks prior.
But hey, why waste high technology when a good scowl usually does the trick?
Dr. Who, meanwhile, at one point introduces a colossal laser emerging from underneath London and then never mentions it again. Stargate SG-1 sweeps neat little things like immortality pills under the rug, not to mention the fact that they ignore after just two episodes that the titular Stargate can blow up suns.
And don't even get us started on time travel. From Harry Potter's Time Turner to Superman's ability to rewind the universe, no one ever remembers that every single problem they have could be solved by just jumping back to before it started.
An albatross J.K. Rowling will take to her grave.
Assuming That The Hero's Super Powers Won't Work On You
The victims: Superman, RoboCop movies... basically any superhero film ever made
We've all sat and watched henchmen fire an endless stream of bullets at the likes of clearly bulletproof heroes like Superman and RoboCop and wondered what the hell they were expecting to happen. RoboCop deals with this problem in virtually every action sequence in the original film, even after the bad guys learn who he is and what his capabilities are. It's like the thugs all have the Memento disease and can't remember the last 800 bullets they shot into RoboCop's armored chest had no effect. Or maybe they just figure his armor is designed to fail on the 801st, and it's just a matter of being persistent.
"...maybe one of us should aim for the face?"
In Superman Returns, when the Man of Steel flies back to Metropolis after a several year absence, he is almost immediately greeted by gunfire. Regardless of how much time had gone by, a bulletproof alien zipping through the air in bright blue tights is something we imagine would stick out in the minds of Metropolis's criminal underworld.
"...maybe he's a copycat superhero!"
Yet we watch as some guy empties a machine gun into Superman's chest, and after that doesn't work he pulls a pistol out and shoots him in the face only to have the bullet flatten out against his eye. You would remember that for the rest of your life.
"Goddamned hard contacts!"
Not that the villains of Gotham learn any faster. They'll keep charging at Batman one at a time, even with 13 of their cohorts lying on the ground with broken collar bones. We're not suggesting they just walk away and give up their life of crime--we understand that anybody who's signed up to be a henchman for The Joker probably isn't qualified to do anything else. But maybe you should fall back and try a new strategy. You're not going to be the first guy in history to punch Batman into submission. Leave until you can come back with some dogs.
Attention Henchmen: Mace in the mouth really hurts.
Cezary Jan Strusiewicz is a freelance online journalist and Japanese-English-Polish translator. Contact him via firstname.lastname@example.org
For more head-scratchers from your favorite movies, check out 6 Life Saving Techniques From the Movies (That Can Kill You) and 5 Ridiculous Gun Myths Everyone Believes (Thanks to Movies).
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