We can learn manners and mores from movies, but we must beware. Movies are full of misinformation.
See enough of them, and you can start believing things that aren’t true. You can start believing them without knowing you’re believing them, taking things on faith without knowing you’re doing it.
With this in mind, I offer a list of 12 things I learned from movies that aren’t true at all.
1. Never, but never, set up a fruit stand in an outdoor location.
Inevitably there will be a car chase and some idiot will come crashing into it, possibly even two idiots – one driving the car being chased; the other, the car doing the chasing. And no one will care. Your whole life can be in that fruit stand, but no matter. It’s not fair, is it?
2. The first thing everybody does when they come home from work is get a beer out of the refrigerator.
Unless they make more than $100,000 a year. Then it’s wine or spirits.
3. Eat and drink whatever you want – you’ll be fine.
There’s a moment in Up in the Air when George Clooney comes home and pours himself a big fat drink that, for a moment, made me think I wasn’t drinking enough. But no, serving sizes are huge in movies. No one has dinner without wine, and the wineglass is always enormous. The same principle applies to food. In real life, if you go to a restaurant and notice who is eating the really fattening food, it’s almost always someone overweight or younger than 25.
4. Driving is so easy, you don’t even have to look at the road.
Actually, you do need to look at the road. In the movies, the actor isn’t really driving. A truck (with a camera) is in front towing the car.
5. Sex standing up? It’s a breeze.
In the movies, people love to have sex standing up. It’s a way for the actress to do a sex scene without having to take off her clothes. And, of course, they make it look like the easiest thing to navigate. The women always wear a skirt and never any underwear, apparently, because you never see them ever having to take anything off. Thus, something that in real life is rather clumsy and requires a lot more mutual cooperation than it’s worth – and risks lower-back distress – is made to look like the easiest thing in the world. Don’t try this at home.
6. Gay people worry about straight people, all day long.
In the movies, all gay people ever do is sit around worrying about the sex lives of their straight friends, as though they have nothing else going on. It’s a little reminiscent of Mammy in Gone With the Wind, who had no life but Scarlett, and this may represent some peculiar stage in the emancipation of any minority: In order to pass from oppression to full acceptance, there must be a phase in which the minority is presented as caring, to the exclusion of all else, about the happiness of the majority. Peculiar.
7. Love isn’t love unless you destroy an apartment.
In romantic comedies, when two people are really attracted to each other, they destroy everything in the apartment. They can’t make it to the bedroom. If it’s a romantic comedy, no one can have sex for the first time without property damage.
8. People in romantic comedies are cryogenically frozen at 22.
If you watch Jennifer Aniston or any other romantic-comedy star in their 40s, it’s as if the characters they play have no history. They have no ex-spouse, no former live-in lover, no children. They have done nothing but hover in place for 20 years, waiting for the movie to start.
9. Cough once, and you’re dead.
In the movies, there is no such thing as a benign symptom. Every cough, every headache, every scratchy throat is a fatal disease.
10. In foreign countries they speak English, too, only with a funny accent.
Actually, they have no accents at all. They speak their own languages as accent-free as we speak ours.
11. If you annoy a woman long enough, she will eventually like you.
This myth dates back at least to the Astaire-Rogers movies and continues to the present time with Kevin James and Salma Hayek in Here Comes the Boom. In real life, she will not like you, but she might get a restraining order.
12. Good guys drink only black coffee, no sugar.