People dress and style themselves like people from movies. They use quotes and gifs from their favorite TV shows. Being a fan means wanting to have the thing as a part of your life. Unfortunately, when too many people hit on the same dumb idea for how they want this to work, it can become a major crisis ...

Fans Of The Truman Show Who Think It’s The Them Show

The Moment:

The Truman Show follows Jim Carrey as an ordinary man who learns that his entire life is the world’s most popular TV show, with millions of people watching his every move 24 hours a day. The movie makes sure to show that “his every move” really is his every move, including sleeping and shitting and all the normal parts of a real person’s life that you have no reason to show in fiction.

The Truman Show

Paramount Pictures

Be happy they didn't make it today for HBO, or they would have shown us ALL of it. 

But even reality TV can’t stay on the air forever, and once Truman starts to find a reason to leave his squeaky-clean TV home, he starts pulling at the threads and learns the truth. There’s a lot of serious, existential stuff going on in the movie; it’s just done with stuff like talk shows and boat chases and Jim Carrey’s silly face. You get so caught up in the clever “what if your whole life was fake?” idea that you don’t even notice you’re basically getting a crash course in philosophy.

Where The Fans Took It:

This isn’t something you can actively blame fans for, but it still happens weirdly often: People thinking that they’re in their own personal Truman Show, and everything about their life is an elaborate lie. 

The movie succeeded because it’s such a gripping and easy-to-identify concept—we’ve all been paranoid that people are planning things behind our backs. After the movie, though, people had something even worse to imagine, and it was easy to map onto their own lives. It’s become so common that actual respected psychologists have done serious studies on “Truman Show delusion." 

The Truman Show

Paramount Pictures

Not to be confused with the delusion that Jim Carrey won an Oscar for playing Truman instead of just a Golden Globe.

They’ve had patients expect the million-dollar prize for making it to the end of the show or who went to NYC to check if 9/11 had been faked as a shocking plot twist in their own personal narrative.

These are extreme examples, but like we just said, they just have deeper and more powerful versions of the feelings everyone has from time to time. The world is a scary, confusing place, and it’s easy to latch onto a single answer when it feels like it explains everything. In reality, though, people are too consumed with their own personal bullshit to care about yours. If everyone was watching you scroll through the rest of this article, the least you could do is give them a show.

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The Never-Ending Downpour Of Roof Pizza From Breaking Bad

The Moment:

Even though it went off the air less than a decade ago, Breaking Bad still feels like it was from a whole different era of television. One of the shows that ushered in Peak TV managed to avoid the pitfalls of so many other famous contemporaries, mostly by being way weirder than any of them.

Part of why the show got big was because it’s so specific. Its main characters were losers and weird relatives as much as drug kingpins, the story was about people’s weird hobbies and awkward situations as much as the crime and family drama, and an exciting moment might be a shocking confrontation, or it might be a guy throwing a pizza.

Breaking Bad pizza

AMC

The point of tossing pizza dough is to make the crust stronger, not to enjoy the view.

So much of the show’s appeal can be summed up by the Season 3 episode where Walter throws a whole pizza onto the roof of his house. It’s just on the edge of something that could happen in real life, but too unlikely and crazy and nearly supernatural to happen without actually trying deliberately. And who’d be silly enough to waste a whole pizza on that, just because it was in a TV show?

Where The Fans Took It:

As it turns out, the answer is “Too many fans to count." People want to make their lives as interesting as the people in the show, and for anyone who doesn’t know a good meth dealer, this is the next best thing. Anyone with a few bucks, a good throwing arm, and the right house can recreate the improbable moment, and lucky for them, the right house is just sitting out there in Albuquerque.

The problem is that a real house actually has real people in it, who have their own lives and concerns and things to deal with that aren’t more obnoxious tourists looking for a photo op and leaving you with a cheese-topped house for the day. Put yourself in these people’s shoes: Think of how annoying house maintenance is when something gets stuck where it doesn’t belong, and multiply that by so many pizzas that the homeowners needed to put up a six-foot fence around their property.

Breaking Bad Blood Money

AMC

Artist's impression.

It might be fun to imagine your house becoming famous on TV, but famous people have to put up with a lot of bullshit, and so do famous houses. Bothering a celebrity for a photo is one thing, but Vince Gilligan, Bryan Cranston, and Jonathan Banks have all had to publicly say, “quit throwing Italian food at these people’s houses," and people still refuse to listen.

“867-5309," About The Same Number Of People Who Tried To Call That Phone Number

The Moment:

Getting someone’s phone number has been a big deal for about as long as the telephone has existed. Back in the day, when picking up the phone would connect you to an actual human operator, you didn’t want to have to ask them to look up your crush’s number, especially if it was some random woman you happened to see at a bar.

That’s the focus of the '80s song “Jenny/867-5309” by Tommy Tutone, sung from the point of view of a boy who finds the titular name and number written on a wall and fixates on it the same way most teenage boys will cling like barnacles to the tiniest possibility of getting laid. 

Back in the days of dirty magazines and hotlines advertised with women’s legs, phone numbers could really take on this important quality if you were young, hopeless and horny, and turn into the secret passcode for everything you were missing.

Where The Fans Took It: 

As it turns out, if you write a catchy song about how important a phone number is and how much it matters to you, people will want to call that number. Most songs about phone numbers are commercial jingles, designed to get the number stuck in your head so you’ll call, but “867-5309” is just a regular number that regular people use for regular calls.

Not that you have much of a chance if you’ve got the rotten luck of owning that number: For four decades, every version of that number across America has been ringing off the hook with a mix of prank callers, people thinking they’re clever, curious people who just heard the song, and a few actual horny teens looking for dates. We leave it up to you to decide which group is the most pathetic.

Checking Her Smartphone

Daria Nepriakhina/Unsplash

"I don't know what song you're talking about. It's from before I was born. It's from before my mom was born."

Whichever one you pick, some kind of honorable mention has to go to the DJ from New Jersey who put down money to get the number for his radio station, only to find it bombarded by all these different types of callers, all day, every day. The dude walked right into that one, even now that horny teens have so many more obvious places to go than a phone number from an old song.

When Rick And Morty Made The Streets Run Red With Szechuan Sauce

The Moment:

Rick and Morty is an ambitious show, but usually, calling a TV show “ambitious” means it tries to tell big, complicated stories, not that it has specific goals for changing things in the real world. When the show’s third season premiered, it had been delayed for more than a year, and anticipation was at a fever pitch. It was the perfect time for the creators of the show to begin their real master plan: Fulfilling their own warped, highly specific nostalgia.

The centerpiece of the season premiere was Rick going back into his memories, not to discover some hidden secret, but to enjoy the limited-edition Szechuan dipping sauce McDonald’s put out as part of a cross-promotion with Mulan in 1998. Dan Harmon would go on record saying he did it as a joke on co-creator Justin Roiland, who kept invoking the memory of the sauce until it became annoying.

Rick and Morty The Rickshank Rickdemption

Adult Swim

Guess it’s not always interesting to ask where sci-fi writers get their crazy ideas.

Roiland was down to make the joke serious, like so many people who become memes before him, tweeting that he was fully on board with the fan petitions asking McDonald’s to actually bring the sauce back.

Where The Fans Took It:

None of the above was done with any consultation of McDonald’s, but Mayor McCheese didn’t get to high office by turning down that kind of opportunity. The sauce went into production as fast as they could retrieve the last few bottles of the 20-year-old original they had left, and they quickly announced another limited edition promotion.

Chicken McNuggets with Szechuan Sauce

N509FZ/Wiki Commons

They were going for “bring back the ‘90s!” and got “let’s make milkshakes out of everything under the bathroom sink!”

In the meantime, the fans’ anticipation grew to a frenzy: The sauce was mostly sugar and soy sauce, but it was the perfect cocktail of specific nostalgia, comfort food, loyalty to faceless global corporations, and a chance to feel like you were following in the footsteps of the shouty cartoon man.

But when the promotion happened, that perfect cocktail got set on fire. The supply was so limited that burger joints across the country got mobbed by angry fans, leading to shouting, 9-1-1 calls, riots, and too many angry hashtags to count. The whole debacle left everyone embarrassed - the show, the fans, the chain, and especially the fine cooks of China’s Szechuan province, who never asked to have their name attached to this.

Mulan

Walt Disney Pictures

Plus, Disney was inspired to do another live-action remake, so we got two travesties. 

The Realistic Robbery In Heat That Got Too Realistic For The Movie

The Moment: 

Heat is a three-hour-long movie that’s mostly about nerds. Luckily, instead of math nerds or Star Wars nerds, it’s about crime nerds. Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, and their teams are all experts in the tiny details of robbery, murder, and combat -- the details you usually don’t see in movies.

Heat Al Pacino, Robert De Niro

Warner Bros.

Like how if you’re a lonely enough criminal mastermind, you’re allowed to grab a cup of coffee with the cop who’s on your tail.

That attention to detail means that when things go wrong during a robbery, it almost feels disappointing before the action and tension take over because it means all those careful plans have fallen apart. Luckily, both the cops and the robbers have come prepared with backup and heavy firepower, so the whole thing turns into a firefight that’s so close to real shootouts that it’s regularly used for actual combat training. This is a movie by nerds and for nerds, and for once that means appropriately brutal and tense gunplay instead of comic-book continuity.

Where The Fans Took It:

So remember all those annoying windbags who have cried for decades about how violent media should be banned, or it’ll people to be violent in real life? Usually, they’re full of crap, but there are definitely exceptions here and there, and the meticulously researched Heat turned out to be one of them.

Heat DVD cover

Warner Bros.

"Hmm, reloading, suppressing fire ... oh, and I have to yell that she’s got a great ass!”

In February 1997, two heavily armed men robbed a Los Angeles bank in broad daylight, just like in Heat. They ended up in a grueling standoff with the police that led to the robbers dying and running away, just like in Heat. In the ensuing investigation, the LAPD found they had been watching a VCR copy of Heat extensively before the robbery ... which didn’t happen in Heat because watching a videotape of a movie inside the movie is way more of a Spaceballs thing.

Unlike the rest of this list, this only happened once, but considering all the injury and property damage, one is way too many. These people were already career criminals who had pulled off multiple successful robberies; Heat didn’t flip some switch in their minds, but it says a lot that even they were looking for guidance and inspiration from media, and it led them to ruin just like all the rest of the people we’ve covered.

Top Image: Paramount Pictures

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