4 Myths About The Human Body We Believe Because Of Movies

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San Andreas

Warner Bros. Pictures

Movies are magic. Only in the movies can a person kick someone so hard, they go flying through the air like a truck just hit them … only for both parties to walk away like all they did was a bit of thumb wrestling. The world of movies doesn't give a hoot about physics, and it doesn’t take the human body seriously, either. Because in actuality, that guy getting hit would be dead in an hour from internal rupturing, and the guy doing the kicking is apparently Superman.

Also …

You Can’t Kill A Person By Simply Twisting And Breaking Their Neck

It’s been used in oodles of movies, but here’s an example anyway — by way of the classic Kansas City Shuffle:

It turns out that snapping someone’s neck and killing them is way harder than the movies want us to believe. You would need an incredible amount of strength to pull it off, and instant death is extremely unlikely. The only way someone would immediately die from a neck fracture is if pieces of vertebrae manage to shoot into the brainstem and effectively shut down the person's brain function. A broken neck doesn’t guarantee death, even though it remains a serious injury. 

Also, did we mention that you’d need superhuman strength to do it? See, neck muscles are actually pretty strong, and muscle resistance would be almost instantaneous. Online math wizards have theorized that you basically need to drop someone on their head from a distance so that gravity can do its job to create the force necessary. Hangings are an example of this: It was used as an execution method because it snaps the human neck, but only if the drop is high and the rope is long enough. In cases where it wasn’t, hanging victims didn’t die instantly, and their cause of death was asphyxiation instead. 

So the idea that someone can simply use their bare hands and arm muscles to snap a neck like a twig is simply fiction. Unless, of course, you are actually Superman.

CPR Isn’t Going To Magically Bring People Back To Life

“San Andreas” / Warner Bros. Pictures

You know the scene. Someone has drowned, sad music plays, and everyone’s already mourning another onscreen death. But wait! A hero drops to their knees, yells “Not today, Death!,” and starts performing CPR like they’ve been training for this their whole life. The tension builds, the music swells, for a second it seems absolutely futile until … gasp! The drowning victim lives, and the day is saved. They all talk about going to the movies later, probably.

And it’s not only drowning victims that get saved by movie CPR. Many characters have survived electrocution this way, too.

By now you get that it’s just another dramatic Hollywood maneuver to up the stakes and make the bad feels go good again. In real life, when someone goes into cardiac arrest — when their heart stops due to drowning or electrocution or whatever evil screenwriters come up with — CPR isn’t going to do jack to get that heart beating again. The point of CPR is to keep blood pumping inside the body until the medics arrive. And you have to do that CPR thing right. Characters will often press so fast and erratic, you swear the person dying was actually choking. The correct way, as many of you know, has been well demonstrated by those goofballs from The Office:

Know that CPR can totally save someone’s life, just not as dramatic and as frequent as movies would have us believe. 

Going Into Labor Is Almost Never As Dramatic As The Movies Show It

We could probably write an entire article about movies getting pregnancy wrong, but one of the most egregious Hollywood tropes — that’s been used over and over for slapstick comedy effect, we guess — is the one where a woman goes into labor while knowing she has to deal with a flooded apartment later. Ah, the joys of childbirth.

Let’s look at the facts. That “water” isn’t actually water. When a woman goes into labor, the amniotic sac — which is mostly filled with the baby’s urine — is no longer necessary and therefore ruptures, leaking the fluids out through the vagina. So yeah, that’s not water, that's baby pee, and it’s usually just a trickle that can easily be absorbed by a woman’s underwear. Which puts forth the argument that maybe all these women dropping buckets of fluids in the movies are probably going commando.

And sure, some women do experience a rush of fluid, but it’s not as common as in the movies, and it’s closer to a person sneezing and accidentally pissing themselves. 

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Movies Don’t Really Know What They’re Doing With Gunshots And Bullets

Getting shot sucks, no matter which part of the body takes the hit. Hollywood, however, will have you believe that there are certain parts of our anatomies that we’d rather want a bullet to land. Many movie characters have taken a shot to the leg or the arm, only to be totally fine and somehow still able to retaliate and kill the villain in the end. Science will always come second in the pursuit of an ego’s arc.

The reality, of course, is much more grim and way less heroic. The human body is absolutely filled with blood vessels, and a bullet in just the right spot can cause fatal blood loss. Connor Narciso, a former combat medic for Special Forces, has seen how easily a bullet can make a person bleed out: “Ruptures to the body’s arterial thoroughfares—including brachial arteries in each arm, bilateral inguinal arteries in the groin, and the thick subclavian arteries sitting unnoticed beneath each clavicle —can potentially result in massive hemorrhaging. It isn’t uncommon to see heroes on the silver screen fighting courageously through their extremity wounds, when in fact the disruption of peripheral or junctional arteries can cause irreparable harm within minutes.”

Narciso also explained that movie guys aiming for a “flesh wound” is a total myth, because it’s simply too dangerous and will probably end up causing way more damage. On the flip side, it turns out that it’s totally possible to survive multiple gunshots to the chest. Narciso recalls a story told by Arun Nair, a physician at Johns Hopkins: “‘Bullets are magic,’ Nair tells his students. He recounts the story of a young man in Lebanon who survived after being shot six times. He took repeated shots to the chest and throat. One of the six bullets stopped inside his pericardium, the narrow space between the heart and its thin protective membrane. Another bullet ended up in the victim’s esophagus; he swallowed it. Amazingly, the patient was alert and speaking lucidly to the doctors. You can't assume anything, says Nair. Bullets can bounce, ricochet, and change vector under the skin.”

So yeah, we guess that’s one part where Hollywood magic could possibly be believed.

Thumbnail: New Line Cinema

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