Twentieth Century Fox
Twentieth Century Fox

6 Ways Movies Subtly Distort Reality

Twentieth Century Fox
Twentieth Century Fox

In order to tell big, sweeping truths about the human condition, film and television productions often have to cheat a little when it comes to the small stuff. Few people talking on a phone onscreen ever say “goodbye,” because it would be tedious for an audience. Take a look at a few more examples of how Hollywood tweaks reality to fit their narratives.

1. CAR SEATS DON’T HAVE HEADRESTS.

A screen capture of a film featuring two removed headrests in a vehicle
Brett Smrz, YouTube

The next time you see characters in a film going for a drive, look closely at the vehicle's features. In a lot of cases, the headrests will be missing. The adjustable cushions are there to help protect your head and neck in the event of an accident, but in fiction, they tend to get in the way of the camera when it’s trying to photograph passengers. Which is the same reason why rearview mirrors are often removed, too.

2. THE STREETS ARE USUALLY WET AT NIGHT.

A wet street is photographed at night
iStock

As protagonists drive recklessly around town without headrests, you might notice that nighttime scenes usually feature glistening, rain-soaked streets. You can chalk it up to atmosphere, but in most cases, it’s because the director of photography mandated it: Wet pavement cuts down on diffuse reactions that will cast shadows from nearby production equipment. It can also reflect the available light to create a moodier frame.

3. SPRINKLER SYSTEMS DRENCH EVERYTHING.

A reliable distraction in movies, fire suppression sprinkler systems usually respond to a character lighting a match by setting off every sprinkler in a building. As the sprinkler industry is eager to point out, the systems don’t work this way—because no one wants to clean up multiple floors of water damage. A fire source will set off the nearest sprinkler by melting the heat-sensitive element inside of it, and only those sprinklers exposed to the heat will respond. You can also forget about pulling a fire alarm level to get the water flowing; that typically won't activate the system, either.

4. CHLOROFORM WORKS IMMEDIATELY, AND IS ESSENTIALLY HARMLESS.

A man forces a patient to inhale chloroform
iStock

A staple of operating theaters over 100 years ago, chloroform took on a second life in the movies as a quick, easy way to subdue characters who were apparently too important to be killed immediately. But unlike the rapid effect of a drug-soaked cloth wielded by a villain, real chloroform needs to be inhaled for several minutes in order to affect a person’s consciousness. It’s also incredibly dangerous to breathe in, making any detective or noir movie reenactments very ill-advised.

5. AIR DUCTS ARE A FEASIBLE WAY TO GET AROUND WITHOUT BEING DETECTED.

For heroes trapped in confined spaces, nothing beats crawling into the HVAC system and navigating a building without being seen: Think John McClane snaking his way through Nakatomi Plaza’s ducts. Unfortunately, real systems aren’t designed to support the weight of a fully-grown adult and aren’t typically big enough to fit one. The interior of a duct would also be caked with dust. Even if a protagonist somehow found a weight-bearing system, he or she would make so much noise that they'd be discovered immediately. (That being said, Die Hard is still a flawless movie.)

6. SILENCERS ELIMINATE ANY NOISE A GUN MIGHT MAKE.


iStock

When a villain wants to be as discreet as possible, he or she often screws a silencer to a firearm in order to muffle the sound of the gunshot. While movies usually depict this as something akin to a mouse fart (“pfft”), the reality is that silencers are still plenty loud—they lessen, but hardly eliminate, the crack of a shot (as MythBusters once demonstrated).

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Always Fits
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Revisit Your Teen Years With Vintage Sweet Valley High Editions
Always Fits
Always Fits

The '80s and '90s were a special time to be a reading-obsessed child. Young adult series like The Baby Sitter’s Club and Sweet Valley High were in their prime (and spawning plenty of spinoffs and blatant knockoffs), with numerous books a year—Sweet Valley High creator Francine Pascal published 11 books in her series in 1984 alone.

You can't find original Sweet Valley High books on the shelves anymore (unless you want to read the tweaked re-release versions published in 2008), but fans of Jessica and Elizabeth no longer have to trawl eBay looking for nostalgic editions of their favorite installments of the series. Always Fits, a website that sells gifts it describes as “nostalgic, feminine, feminist and wonderful,” has tracked down as many vintage teen series from the '80s and '90s as it can, including a number of Sweet Valley High books.

A stack of Sweet Valley High books
Always Fits

The collection of books was sourced by the Always Fits team from vintage shops and thrift stores, and covers editions released between 1983 and 1994 (the series ran until 2003). While you can’t get a shiny new copy of books like Double Love, you can pretend that the slightly worn editions have been sitting on the bookshelf of your childhood bedroom all along.

Each of the Sweet Valley High books comes with an enamel pin inspired by the cover for one of the series's classic titles, Secrets. Unfortunately, you can’t pick and choose which installment you want—you’ll have to content yourself with a mystery pick, meaning that you may get In Love Again instead of Two-Boy Weekend. Hopefully you’re not trying to fill in that one hole from your childhood collection. (You may not be able to get Kidnapped by the Cult!, but it appears that Crash Landing!, with its amazingly ridiculous paralysis storyline, is available.)

The Sweet Valley High book-and-pin set is $18, or you can get a three-pack of random '80s books for the same price.

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10 Things You Might Not Know About Love Connection
Telepictures
Telepictures

Between September 19, 1983 and July 1, 1994, Chuck Woolery—who had been the original host of Wheel of Fortune back in 1975—hosted the syndicated, technologically advanced dating show Love Connection. (The show was briefly revived in 1998-1999, with Pat Bullard as host.) The premise featured either a single man or single woman who would watch audition tapes of three potential mates discussing what they look for in a significant other, and then pick one for a date. The producers would foot the bill, shelling out $75 for the blind date, which wasn’t taped. The one rule was that between the end of the date and when the couple appeared on the show together, they were not allowed to communicate—so as not to spoil the next phase.

A couple of weeks after the date, the guest would sit with Woolery in front of a studio audience and tell everybody about the date. The audience would vote on the three contestants, and if the audience agreed with the guest’s choice, Love Connection would offer to pay for a second date.

The show became known for its candor: Couples would sometimes go into explicit detail about their dates or even insult one another’s looks. Sometimes the dates were successful enough to lead to marriage and babies, and the show was so popular that by 1992, the video library had accrued more than 30,000 tapes “of people spilling their guts in five-minutes snippets.”

In 2017, Fox rebooted Love Connection with Andy Cohen at the helm; the second season started airing in May. But here are a few things you might not have known about the dating series that started it all.

1. AN AD FOR A VIDEO DATING SERVICE INSPIRED THE SHOW.

According to a 1986 People Magazine article, the idea for Love Connection came about when creator Eric Lieber spied an ad for a video dating service and wanted to cash in on the “countless desperate singles out there,” as the article states. “Everyone thinks of himself as a great judge of character and likes to put in two cents,” Lieber said. “There’s a little yenta in all of us.”

2. CONTESTANTS WERE GIVEN SOMETHING CALLED A PALIO SCORE.

Staff members would interview potential contestants and rate them on a PALIO score, which stands for personality, appearance, lifestyle, intelligence, and occupation. Depending on the results, the staff would rank the potential guests as either selectors or selectees.

3. IN 1987, THE FIRST OF MANY LOVE CONNECTION BABIES WAS BORN.

John Schultz and Kathleen Van Diggelen met on a Love Connection date, which didn’t end up airing. “They said, ‘John, she’s so flat, if you can’t rip her up on the set, we can’t use you,’” he told People in 1988. “I said, ‘I can’t do that.’” However, they got married on an episode of Hollywood Squares. As the article stated, “Their son, Zachary, became the first baby born to a Love Connection-mated couple.”

4. IT LED TO OTHER DATING SHOWS, LIKE THE BACHELOR.

Mike Fleiss not only created The Bachelor and The Bachelorette, but he’s also responsible for reviving Love Connection. “I always had a soft spot for that show,” Fleiss told the Los Angeles Times in 2017. He said he was friends with Lieber and that the show inspired him to “venture into the romance TV space.” “I remember it being simple and effective,” he said about the original Love Connection. “And I remember wanting to find out what happened on those dates, the he said-she said of it all. It was intriguing.”

5. A FUTURE ACTOR FROM THE SOPRANOS WAS A CONTESTANT.

Lou Martini Jr., then known as Louis Azzara, became a contestant on the show during the late 1980s. He and his date, Angela, hit it off so well that they couldn’t keep their hands off one another during the show. Martini famously talked about her “private parts,” and she referred to him as “the man of my dreams.” The relationship didn’t last long, though. “I had just moved to LA and was not ready to commit to anything long-term," Martini commented under the YouTube clip. "The show was pushing me to ask her to marry me on the show!" If Martini looks familiar it’s because he went on to play Anthony Infante, Johnny Sack’s brother-in-law, on four episodes of season six of The Sopranos.

6. BEFORE THE SHOW WENT OFF THE AIR, A LOT OF CONTESTANTS GOT MARRIED.

During the same Entertainment Weekly interview, the magazine asked Woolery what the show’s “love stats” were, and he responded with 29 marriages, eight engagements, and 15 children, which wasn’t bad considering 2120 episodes had aired during its entire run. “When you think that it’s someone in our office putting people together through questionnaires and tapes, it’s incredible that one couple got married, much less 29,” he said.

7. CHUCK WOOLERY WAS AGAINST FEATURING SAME SEX COUPLES.

In a 1993 interview with Entertainment Weekly, the interviewer asked him “Would you ever have gay couples on Love Connection?” Woolery said no. “You think it would work if a guy sat down and I said, ‘Well, so where did you meet and so and so?’ then I get to the end of the date and say, ‘Did you kiss?’ Give me a break,” he said. “Do you think America by and large is gonna identify with that? I don’t think that works at all.” What a difference a quarter-century makes. Andy Cohen, who is openly gay, asked Fox if it would be okay to feature gay singles on the new edition of Love Connection. Fox immediately agreed.

8. ERIC LIEBER LIKED THE SHOW’S “HONEST EMOTIONS.”

When asked about the show's winning formula, Lieber once said: “The show succeeds because we believe in honest emotions. And, admit it—we’re all a little voyeuristic and enjoy peeking into someone else’s life.”

9. IN LIVING COLOR DID A HILARIOUS PARODY OF THE SHOW.

In the first sketch during In Living Color's pilot—which aired April 15, 1990—Jim Carrey played Woolery in a Love Connection parody. Robin Givens (played by Kim Coles) went on a date with Mike Tyson (Keenan Ivory Wayans) and ended up marrying him during the date. (As we know from history, the real-life marriage didn’t go so well.) The audience had to vote for three men: Tyson, John Kennedy Jr., and, um, Donald Trump. Tyson won with 41 percent of the vote and Trump came in second with 34 percent.

10. A PSYCHOLOGIST THOUGHT THE SHOW HAD A “MAGICAL HOPEFULNESS” QUALITY.

In 1986, People Magazine interviewed psychologist and teacher Dr. Richard Buck about why people were attracted to Love Connection. “Combine the fantasy of finding the perfect person with the instant gratification of being on TV, and the two are a powerful lure,” he said. “There’s a magical hopefulness to the show.”

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