Apr 26, 2014

What universe do these movies take place in?

It's an easy post to make fun of the cliches and unrealistic plot devices in movies.

It's easy and it's fun.

Here are some that I've often wondered about. Some of these things might be real in American life, or they might only exist in movies - I don't know. Can you tell me?  Can you think of any more?

"Use my credit card" 

This has existed in movies forever, way before online shopping.
Before online shopping, how was one person ever able to use another person's credit card? Didn't they have to sign, or did Americans get PINs years before the rest of us? Did no shopkeeper ever bat an eye when a kid paid for something with a credit card, or a person with a different gender to the name on the card? I don't know.

"Don't worry, I'll return it tomorrow."

In movies people seem to be able to return unwanted items for cash. In Australia this doesn't exist*; you can only get a credit note for something else in the same store. Do Americans have better consumer protection laws and stores willingly take back items for cash? Probably. I don't know.

* Except for Kmart. They are awesome.

"You're fired!"

In TV shows and movies you can fire anyone, for any reason, with no notice. Is this allowed in America? Because here, unless you are an intern, a nineteen year old who doesn't know their labour laws, or a contractor, you can't be fired summarily for messing up or kissing your boss' girlfriend or whatever. Even if you steal money, your boss needs to do some stuff before they can fire you.

Take your pet to school day

Ok this only seems to exist in kids' TV shows and it has probably never been a real thing. But how much did you wish this would happen at your school?

No seats left at the high school cafeteria

First of all: wow, high schools in America have cafeterias. I'm not sure if they all do - do they? They all seem to in movies. Not like Australian highschools which have a canteen staffed by three parents and the kids sit around on benches outside to eat their lunch.  But how about that scene, where someone is new or has been ostracised, and there are no seats left for them to sit at so they have to sit on the floor or in a toilet cubicle?
So do they furnish these school cafeterias with the exact number of seats as there are students, less one? Is there nowhere outside kids can sit? Does everyone always eat in the cafeteria? I don't know.

Single parent works but also has scenes bringing kids to/from school 

Cushy working hours, obviously well paid. Is there no before-school and after-school care in America, or just not in the movies?  I don't know.

Family dog understands human conversation and emotions

The dog barks to answer questions. It covers its face with its paws when something embarrassing happens to its owner, or when its owner kisses someone.

New kid goes to school by him/herself

Even primary school kids. Never accompanied by their parents. They just walk in alone, and have to find their way around.

Kids have stuff to do after school

Not homework. Solving mysteries and stuff. All the kids are available after school and their parents are all home, so they all get to visit each other, ride their bikes to places, and solve mysteries or negotiate social challenges before dinner.

These shortcuts:

These are well known. They are shortcuts, keeping the action going and reducing unnecessary dialogue:
  • no one says "goodbye" when hanging up the phone
  • everyone drinks coffee "black", no milk or sugar
  • "keep the change"
  • too busy for breakfast
  • parking spots right outside the place
  • no one else in the clothing store
  • dinner if working late = noodles in a box 

Fantasy Land:

These ones exist to make the movie cool and the movie-goer jealous:
  • amazing houses and apartments, always clean and tidy
  • clueless bachelor / very young person still has fully stocked kitchen and every appliance/gadget
  • walkable neighborhoods
  • new cars - notice how the windows are always super shiny
  • clean pet dogs sleep on couches and beds without shedding hair, fleas or smells
  • kids have tree-houses
  • excellent clothes
  • young people have cool careers that they are at least ten years too young to have


Then there is dialogue cliche. We all know the most common phrase in all movies is "Let's get out of here."
But did you ever realise how many movies contain the line "You just don't get it, do you?" That's a phrase I don't think I've ever heard uttered in real life.  And yet....:

Got any more?


  1. And now next time I watch a movie I will be ignoring the plot waiting for 'You just don't get it, do you?' which I have never said, or heard in reality.

    1. I'd never noticed it before I saw this mash-up!

  2. What Universe?
    Universal Studios of course!
    Ha Ha, I'm so funny...
    the improbability of all those things is what makes movies so much fun to tear apart.

    no-one ever has to go to the toilet in spite of a dozen coffees per day
    people always have the exact change for parking meters, coffee etc
    clothes come out of washers and dryers already ironed
    everybody sleeps with their makeup on and no one has smudged mascara or lipstick the next morning

  3. Have you ever noticed in movies or TV shows that hardly anyone closes a door or that no one ever has to look up a phone number (even in the old old movies) they just automatically know the number for whoever or whatever they are trying to reach.

    1. Oh yes, the door thing really bothers me! The characters have walked through to the lounge and I'm still thinking 'you didn't close the front door!'

  4. These are great, love Fantasy Land. Too much to comment on it all, but yes we have school cafeterias with plenty of seats, but seats at the cool table are limited. We do have firing rules, but is small businesses they can be easy to get around, and yes, our dogs are that smart.

    1. Thanks for answering my questions. I need an American dog.

  5. Everyone in Britain who is not working class lives in a stunning apartment on a river in the centre of town, River Thames, Clyde, Tyne and a heap more.

    Americans generally don't use pins or chips, but sign. I stand to be corrected.

    I was always envious of Americans who had extremely long telephone cords and could walk around the room with the phone in their hand, unlike us with less than a metre of cord and stuck at the hallway telephone table. And another, the wall light switch turned on every table and standard lamp in the room.

    River's makeup one is good, as is Delore's about the phone numbers.

    1. Yes, all very true! Those long telephone cords were great in the days before cordless phones. Why didn't we have those here?
      For some reason when we lived in LA everyone had lamps, there was never a central light in the ceiling.

    2. Those long phone cords are extensions, you could get them with your phone when you had it installed, these days you can get them at Dick Smith stores or officeworks, pick the length you want or get two and connect them.

  6. Crazy, I'm about to publish a post with questions I have to TV shows. Great minds and all that!

    Anyway terrible tropes. "Secure the perimeter" There has never been a show or a movie where they say that and it works. "Secure the perimeter" is almost code for "Let's create a clusterf**k of bureaucratic incompetence so every bad guy in the city can safely walk away unnoticed.

    1. Ha ha yes very true! I'll look forward to reading your post for more :)

  7. Jackie, movies very often present unrealistic world but some people believe that in some countries their citizens lead this lifestyle but it in not true,.



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