4 Bizarrely Specific Rules That Exist in Movie Universes
There's no reason to make a secret about this: I have been training my entire life for the admittedly unlikely event that I suddenly get sucked into a movie world. Why? I love movies. I appreciate their simplicity. Life can be confusing and terrifying, but movies are exciting and wonderfully predictable. You just need to watch enough of them to spot the rules. Once you know the rules, you can rule.
Coroners Sure Love to Eat
Once upon a time, some director or screenwriter wanted to show the audience how desensitized to death their experienced coroner was, maybe while getting a few laughs at the same time. So they had their coroner eat something right in the middle of an autopsy, a concept that would freak out normal, squeamish people like you and me.
Gone in 60 Seconds
He even puts his sandwich on top of the corpse when he gets a phone call!
It's effective. So effective that a few other folks tried it. Here's the doctor who checked in Jason's corpse in Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter:
And here's that same doctor also putting his sandwich on the corpse.
Here's the chief coroner on the TV show Scrubs, never seen without a lollipop:
There was another character on Scrubs called Doug who worked as a standard doctor for several seasons before switching jobs and becoming a coroner. And, surprise, he also started carrying a lollipop just as soon as he made that transfer.
Hey, look, it's the nerds from Big Bang Theory eating a meal while dissecting a brain:
There are plenty more, enough that there's a whole entry about this over on TV Tropes.
I'm sure it was originally done as a quick gag or to emphasize the fortitude of the coroner, but so many films have used this same tactic that I'm convinced that every single movie coroner can't eat unless there's a corpse in the room.
All Dads Go to Heaven
Remember Air Bud, the movie about the sad kid who moves to a new town and teams up with a basketball-playing dog to win the championship game for his local team? Well, it happened. A dog joins a basketball team because, according to the movie, there's no rule that says a dog can't play basketball (although there are in fact several other rules that should have prevented him from playing).
What about Soccer Dog: The Movie? It's a movie. About a dog that befriends a lonely kid and plays children's soccer, which drives the mafia crazy.
Actual dialogue. Did the mafia have money riding on this pee wee soccer game?
Or what about Cop Dog? That's about a boy and a dog who team up to solve crimes. (I know that might sound like a dumb idea, but this was made all the way back in 2008. It was a different time, no one knew how bad cocaine was yet.)
"You're under bark-rest!"
Or, hey, what about MVP: Most Valuable Primate? It's about a chimpanzee that plays hockey. I know that chimpanzees are different from dogs, but the film still falls into the popular "animal capable of things you wouldn't expect befriends lonely child" film genre, so I think it's OK.
What do all of these movies have in common? In every one of them, the father is dead. In Air Bud, the kid is sad because his dad just died in a plane crash. MVP starts off with the death of a kindly scientist who functioned as a father figure for the chimp. The kid that Soccer Dog befriends in the movie Soccer Dog: The Movie is an orphan. The crime that the boy and dog team up to solve in Cop Dog is the murder of the child's father.
I have no idea why this is. Sure, I've written a gritty screenplay about a corgi that stalks the night committing people crimes (because there's no rule that says a dog can't sexually assault), but that doesn't make me an expert on the genre. Maybe it's too believable to imagine a kid with a father being lonely enough to have a dog as a best friend. Maybe the writers think all dads hate dogs. Or maybe Air Bud made the choice first and then every producer in Hollywood said, "Just do that again with a different sport. That exact thing." We'll never know. All we know is that if you see some lonely kid striking up a good relationship with a dog that has a tennis racket in its mouth, you better find that kid's dad and tell him to watch out.
You'll Never See a Woman Get Her Brains Blown Out
(Not in an American movie, anyway.)
The bullet to the head, accompanied visually by dramatic blood/brain splatter, is associated with some of film's most shocking moments, such as the bathroom scene in Full Metal Jacket, and/or punctuates the visceral impact of a death for the audience -- particularly if that gunshot comes unexpectedly, e.g., Samuel L. Jackson's death in Goodfellas, Brad Pitt's in Burn After Reading, or DiCaprio's in The Departed.
Damon's all "Ew get outta here," and DiCaprio's like "Oh no, my brains!" -DOB
However, that kind of graphic "headshot" seldom seems to occur among female characters; that is, even when a woman is unambiguously shot in the face or head, although we may see a bullet hole afterward, it remains exceptionally rare to see the same degree of background splatter in mainstream dramatic narratives as we do with the men.
Do whatever you want, lady, just keep those brains inside your head. Have some self-respect.
Case in point: In a YouTube video titled "100 Movies 100 Headshots" (of course this exists), which compiles bullets to the head/face with varying degrees of gruesomeness, only two victims are women. A sequel video, "Another 100 Movies Another 100 Headshots," features between six and nine identifiably female victims, depending on whether you count monsters and zombies.
Nothing gross about a zombie woman's brains.
I think it's fair to say, first of all, that bullets to the head are generally received as "more violent" (certainly more likely to receive an R rating) than bullets to the body. If the headshot is deliberate, it may suggest an execution, and therefore a heartlessness on the part of the shooter. Headshots also carry a sense of "difficulty" or "exclusivity" with them, given that the head is a smaller target than the body; this is evident in video games in which successful headshots earn greater achievements.
While doing photo research for this article, I Googled "DiCaprio headshot" and then felt like such a turd.
This further suggests that a bullet to the head is an unusual or unnatural act in excess of what it takes to shoot the body -- it is about skill and precision devoid of the sloppiness and emotional trauma that may come with murder. Why, then, is this "exceptional" form of violence reserved for men?
Some of the recent debates on gun control attempt to put a precise finger on the very imprecise assertion that there are deeply cultural roots for American gun violence -- after all, violent films and video games, even widespread gun ownership itself, do not result in the same levels of gun violence in other industrial countries. While not positing any definitive answers, I believe that Jack's recent article touches on an interesting point when noting that guns in America are shown to compensate for some kind of crisis in masculinity (or patriarchy generally). We might argue that if guns equal manliness, then a well-placed, well-timed shot to the head is an impressive display of one's masculine command of the weapon. Shooting for the head takes rational calculation and physical control of the firearm. Emotional indecision (coded stereotypically as "feminine") will lead to failure or misfire.
And how about how women be shopping, right? Boy, I am just RUINING this article with how dumb I am.
Let's apply this logic to a female shooter. In The Matrix, Trinity blows a man's head away ("Dodge This").
She has already demonstrated that she can fight alongside the best of the men, and it culminates in this point-blank execution (although there is no splatter) that, each time I've seen the film with a crowd, elicits cheers from the audience. The scene confers the status of "badass" to her already androgynous characterization. Significantly, as some have criticized, Trinity becomes increasingly relegated to the traditional feminine role of lover/supporter after this scene, which belies her masculine proficiency in combat.
But we're talking about the victims, not the shooters. If shooting someone through the head makes you a badass, it suggests greater weakness, even shame, on the victim's part. To be shot in the head is to be "owned" and reduced to nothing -- as seen in action films, a hero can be shot virtually anywhere on his body and still stagger on to continue the fight. A shot to the head, however, ends things right there. And this, to my mind, is where gun violence most reveals its phallocentricity -- wherein "fucking someone" and "fucking someone up" converge to produce this particular form of "fucked up" ultraviolence. Take a listen to the thunderous Nine Inch Nails song "Big Man With a Gun," which explicitly links the power of firing a gun to hyper-masculine fantasies of sexual violation. Through this metaphor, the song clearly assumes that the combination of sexual power with firepower produces a total domination over another person. Interestingly, the victim's gender in the song is not specified.
Guns are wieners!
If NIN correctly likens the joys, entitled sense of power, and recklessness of using a gun with those of using a dick, then gun fighting between men really amounts to a dick-measuring contest. Being shot in the head, then, is a form of emasculation. Blood splatter invokes a kind of perverse "money shot" that underscores how thoroughly someone has been made the object of another person's violence. Shooting someone in the head would seem to guarantee "making him his bitch" -- it is, in essence, the use of a specifically masculine tool to make the other person wholly submissive. People have commented for ages on the symbolism of society's weapons of war often being phallic in shape and design ... following the logic that firing a gun is a form of masculine assertion of power, shooting another man in the head and dropping him dead, as opposed to chipping away at his strong, resilient body, is an ultimate form of domination over other masculine competition.
The reason that we so rarely see women getting their brains splattered? Masculine violation of, and domination over, a woman occurs on her body and not her head ... which, of course, opens a huge, separate can of worms ...
Worms also look like dicks!
The Future Is Bright
If you have any money laying around, invest all of it in a company that makes weird sunglasses that are round, goggley, or round and goggley. If movies are any indication, those are the only things we'll be wearing in the future.
Sure, Deacon's using it as an eye patch, but that was clearly a pair of round, goggley sunglasses at one point. You're not fooling me, Deacon.