5 Movie & TV Plots That Get Ruined By Basic Science
We get that movies and TV shows aren’t real, which is why all of our childhood letters to Robocop went unanswered. And because so many of our favorite stories are merely the product of some whiskey-soaked screenwriter’s imagination, they can often be completely undone by scientific scrutiny -- and not just in a Neil “the sloppy constellations are ruining my enjoyment of Titanic” deGrasse Tyson kind of way. Some pop-culture moments may never be the same after you find out how …
Black Widow -- Pheromones Can’t Be Used For Mind Control (Because We Don’t Even Know if They Exist)
Obviously we don’t enjoy the Marvel Cinematic Universe for its abject realism; it has purple aliens, flying nanotechnology armor, and multiple scenes in Endgame in which not a single Avenger makes fun of Hawkeye’s “divorced dad’s new Instagram account” look.
Still, one moment in the recent Black Widow was especially debunkable. In the big finale, Natasha Romanoff tries to kill the villainous General Dreykov -- but she can’t do it. Even with a knife just inches from Dreykov, Black Widow can’t hurt him. It turns out that the guy who trained/abused her in the Red Room also programmed her with a “pheramonal lock” -- meaning that she can’t do him harm while in smelling range, which is … pretty gross.
Not only is relying on your perspiration and farts a wildly impractical form of personal security, it’s basically impossible. Why? While we’ve often heard about human pheromones and how they get more people laid than a bear skin rug shaped like an Al Green record, but in reality “experts are divided about whether human pheromones even exist.”
In the past, people have marketed “love potions” purporting to utilize pheromones, but even then they “often use pig pheromones.” So, pretty much useless to everyone outside of the Muppet-verse. While chemical smells have been shown to influence the behavior of male moths, studies have illustrated that, with humans, smells can “only influence, not control.” So in reality, Dreykov’s scent-based brainwashing scheme would have just resulted in an immediate bullet to the head.
Tenet -- Um, Backwards Fire Wouldn’t Turn to Ice
Christopher Nolan’s movies are famous for playing fast and loose with science -- like how the end of The Dark Knight involves Batman turning every cell phone microphone in Gotham into a sophisticated network of sonar mapping when most of us have trouble even hearing the Domino’s guy on the other end of the same device. But Nolan’s recent blockbuster Tenet was very much about the physics of what it would be like to move backwards through time, like Doctor Strange or Florida. Once “inverted” people observe everything in reverse order, and thus are able to decipher all the Satanic messages on rock albums and Teletubbies episodes.
While the movie gets a lot right, such as the need for an oxygen supply for the inverted, other things make zero sense. For instance, light itself. The nameless protagonist simply called “the protagonist” doesn’t bring a light source with him when venturing into backwards-town, so really he wouldn’t be able to see objects the way we typically do. Instead of light bouncing off the sun, hitting an object, and then hitting your eye, it would be the reverse, meaning that “you wouldn’t see the object. You would just see the light first.”
And as for the car chase, that too doesn’t add up. The (sigh) “protagonist” doesn’t bring a car with him through the time-inverting-turnstile, so the machine wouldn’t function properly for him. And most insanely, when the car crashes, the fire … turns to ice?
The heat caused by particles in motion would still exist even if the particles were moving backwards. Just because we’re seeing things in reverse order doesn’t mean that they randomly become their opposites; cats don’t turn into dogs, Pepsi cans aren’t suddenly Cokes, and an inverted DVD copy of Tenet wouldn’t become some movie with an audible soundtrack.
Godzilla vs Kong -- In Real Life, Kong Wouldn’t Be Able to Stand Up
We’re guessing you won’t exactly be shocked to find out that the story of a giant ape battling a radioactive lizard monster after journeying through the realm of Hollow Earth contains some slight inaccuracies. But even the very existence of King Kong is at war with how the world truly works. According to experts, Kong isn’t actually a “physically viable organism” because he’s just so damn huge.
The problem is bigger objects are fundamentally different from smaller ones. If we make an ape larger, mathematics “dictates that the creature's mass would increase cubically, or by a power of three.” Which would also mean that Kong’s tiny legs, while practical for a normal-sized ape, wouldn’t be able to support his mass anymore. For Kong’s body to make sense, his arms and legs would have to be “way thicker than his body than you would expect,” which sounds pretty darn goofy. Good luck making a tie-in whiskey decanter out of that character.
And while one of the film’s most exciting set-pieces involves Kong and Godzilla duking it out while surfing on an aircraft carrier --
That would also be a problem. Kong would likely have around half the mass of said aircraft carrier; and if Godzilla has roughly the same mass as Kong, presumably the ship would just sink. Which would, admittedly, be far less badass.
James Bond is an Alcoholic and His Junk Probably Doesn’t Work
One of the most iconic screen characters of all time is James Bond, the suave secret agent/violent madman. But while schlubby nobodies everywhere have lived vicariously through Agent 007’s globe-trotting, martini-downing adventures, medical science has stepped in to point out that, in reality, being James Bond would be kind of a huge drag.
In 2018 public health experts studied every James Bond movie from 1962 to 2015, specifically looking at his alcohol use. They found that Bond has a “severe” and “chronic” drinking problem and meets “more than half of the criteria for alcohol use disorder.” Which kind of puts a damper on the new No Time to Die-branded champagne, doesn’t it?
This also means that Bond could suffer long-term effects including “sexual dysfunction” and an early death. The authors of the study estimate that he would have a life expectancy of fifty-six -- that’s only three years older than Daniel Craig is right now. And even if the excessive boozing didn’t cause erectile difficulties, according to one doctor, based on Bond’s prediliction for having unprotected sex with suggestively-named women, there’s an “extremely high” chance that he has chlamydia, and he should probably get an STI test immediately.
Sorry Riverdale, the Serial Killer Gene isn’t a Thing
Riverdale has done a lot to subvert its wholesome comic book source material; Archie having an affair Ms. Grundy, Jughead faking his own death, and did we mention the crazy cult leader who tried to escape the cops in Evel Knievel’s rocket ship? Because that was a thing that really happened on this demented show. There’s also been a running storyline involving Betty Cooper’s descent into darkness, which mainly just involved wearing a wig, black outfits and being kind of a jerk.
The so-called “Dark Betty” trait was later explained when her mom Alice revealed that Betty, like her murderous father, possesses the MAOA and CDH13 genes -- AKA the dreaded “serial killer genes.” Betty’s DNA not only promises a future full of mass-murder and dressing in Johnny Cash colors, it also somehow gives her a “sixth sense” to detect other serial killers who all possess the genetic abnormality.
Psychic powers aside, this isn’t without some precedent, but Riverdale wildly misrepresents the findings. For starters, everyone has the MAOA and CDH13 genes, the real life suggestion is that a “specific mutation of these genes” can affect someone’s mood. The idea of a so-called “warrior gene” was popularized by TV shows like Dr. Phil following a 2009 study which claimed that “MAOA-L carriers were more likely than noncarriers to respond with ‘behavioral aggression.’” But if you read the study, the documented “aggression” in question involved test subjects merely dousing someone’s food with hot sauce which, you have to admit, is a pretty far cry from murder. And while 75% of the warrior gene carriers did the deed, 62% of the non-carriers did as well.
As for CDH13, a 2014 Finnish study found that a CDH13 variant was associated with aggressive behavior among criminals -- but they also found it could actually “increase the happiness of women.” So really, Betty might conceivably be less troubled. And Riverdale giving a ton of credence (not to mention the addition of telepathy) to these theories isn’t entirely unharmful; the “warrior gene” has been adopted by white supremacists and used by frauds to “scientifically” validate repellent acts of institutional racism. So maybe we don’t need see it pop up on the same show that had Jughead get anal-probed by aliens (yes, this really happened, too).
Top Image: Marvel Studios