Knowledge November - Day 26 - What the movies have learned me
Most of my lifetime has been spent watching American-made movies and television. A bit of British stuff has crept in at times and maybe some Canadian (without me really noticing) and a smidge of art-house sub-titled stuff, but mostly American.
Apart from being able to list more US presidents than Australian Prime Ministers, US movies have taught me many things about life over there that differs so greatly from my own.
* When the hero or heroine returns back to their apartment, they never turn the light on, instead preferring to read by the street light streaming in through the window or when the fridge door is open. This love of darkness seems particularly prevalent to private investigators and forensics experts. Why examine some DNA or vital alien clue in a well lit laboratory when you can do it with a portable torch or a cigarette lighter?
* Likewise, they'll wearily sort through their mail, dump it on a table and listen to their answering machine. They'll have message after message on there, from syrupy voices saying 'Hey honey, how come you haven't called me?' to a couple of generic ones from their celluloid parents asking about their health. I'd be lucky to have more than two in an entire week that aren't just recordings of someone hanging up and not bothering to leave a message.
* Labor starts immediately. If a character is pregnant, her cervix will be ten centimetres dilated; waters splashed all over the shop and whatever strongly-worded argument she's engaged in will cease as the baby's head starts to emerge - all in the time it takes you to unwrap a Lindt ball. No 'count the minutes between the contractions, darling, the ante-natal teacher said they'll send us back home if it's more than five minutes' for these characters but BOOM - instant baby!
* Said babies, when they emerge two minutes later, look around three months old and smeared in red jelly. Otherwise they're gargantuans that would surely have the Guinness Book of Records staff popping over with a camera and a set of scales.
* Back at home, if a character offers you a drink, it will come from a bottle of scotch that's conveniently in the living room. As you do. If it's coffee they're offering, the receiver always says 'black' so that the star doesn't have to faff about finding milk, asking about sugar or sweetener and so forth. Tough luck if you don't fancy a neat Scotch or black coffee - "Erm, can I have a glass of water or a diet coke with some ice in it?"
* Sneezes are fatal, or at the very least require a hospital stay. There's no 'Gezundheit' or 'bless you, go get a tissue you pig' in the movies - it's a coma, bereaved rellies at the bedsite in tears, wasting away whilst still remaining heart-rendingly beautiful and all accompanied by a gorgeous string-laden soundtrack. Spilled bedpans, over-worked nurses and rooms of six patients or more separated by too-short curtains are only ever seen in UK-sad-sack films or dodgy comedies.
* Yanks luuurve their celery sticks, don't they? If a character is going to come home with a sack of groceries, it's in an old-fashioned brown paper bag (last seen in Australia in 1975) with a bunch of celery poking out the top. Apart from our rabbit getting a stick or two each week, the rest of ours tends to go all droopy and then slimy before it drips down the back of the fridge and ends up as a green puddle under the vege crisper bins.
* Whatever groceries are purchased on screen, they clearly get their money's worth. In any scene featuring a conversation over the dinner table, the all-American family has put out enough bowls of steaming vegetables (not celery), gravy, mashed potatoes and bread to feed a classroom of ravenous teenage boys. No removing the self-serve option or saving on how many dirty dishes are created by instead slopping a bit of stuff on a plate in the kitchen for these fictional families.
* Eating the food takes an eternity. The camera will show someone at the precise second the fork leaves their presumably full mouth and for the duration of the scene they'll be chewing that mouthful. Either they're eating Wrigleys for dinner or the actor is an anoxeric, lactose-intolerant, coeliac vegan who is praying that the scene will be wrapped in just one take.
* Ugly girls wear thick-rimmed glasses, pony tails and denim overalls. No acne scars, dented noses, bulging eyes, double-chins, warts or lumpy arses are evident. A mere pair of contact lenses and new threads sees them turn into hot swans who can sing, dance and entrance the high school hunk.
* If the characters are trick-or-treating or at a fancy dress party, none of the costumes are ever home made. They look more professionally put-together than anything appearing at the Myer Christmas Pageant; even if done by a 'loser' or nerd with a complete lack of social skills or available money to rent a good costume.
* Chiropractors and a decent nights' sleep aren't important exist in movieland. In the evenings, if people wish to talk to each other in bed, they'll have their necks virtually cricked at a cruel 95% angle by resting up on at least four pillows. Even when the bedside lamp is switched off, the pillows all stay in their stack of torture and curtains remain open with a huge moonbeam appearing across the face of the sleepers that seems brighter than the lamp ever was. In my room I need the blinds firmly shut, no more than one puffy pillow, the mouthguard inserted, one last loud honk into my hanky and the fan on before Mr Sandman is ready for a home visit.
There's plenty more out there - the busty girl who always ventures into scary and dark situations is always dressed in a skimpy singlet and sexy shorts and never the neck-to-knee towelling bathroom and aqua blue crocs that I wear and baddies always treat even their friends and henchmen badly and are even worse when it comes to accurately aiming or shooting their guns at any of the goodies. Everyone's phone number starts with 555 but they rarely say 'goodbye' when they hang up, and the astonishing news event that shapes the course of their lives is always running at the exact moment they decide to switch on the tv.
What have US movies taught you?