Ever notice how TV characters seem to love coffee, yet their cups are often (quite) conspicuously empty? If so, you’re not alone. Media professor and critic Myles McNutt is obsessed with the blatantly empty coffee cups shown on television shows from Gilmore Girls (2000) to Seinfeld (1989). Since 2014, he has documented the phenomenon on social media using #EmptyCupAwards, and now he has produced a short video for Slate, explaining exactly why the empty coffee cup is such an egregious televisual sin.

In the video, McNutt shows example after example of coffee cups that defy the laws of physics, then discusses the hows and whys of the phenomenon. He explains that, in the fast paced world of television production, a realistically full coffee cup is often viewed more as liability than priority: Since coffee has a tendency to spill and stain, it just makes more sense for the actors to hold empty cups. But, according to McNutt, the empty coffee cup may be doing more harm than TV directors realize.

“They’re not even trying to pretend it’s real, and it shows tremendous disrespect for both the viewer and, well, science,” he says. “When actors carry around empty cups, it means something included in scenes to make them seem more realistic is instead doing the exact opposite. These empty cups are not just failing to immerse us in this fake world, they’re actively reminding us that this world is fake.” Check out McNutt’s video essay above, and follow the #EmptyCupAwards hashtag to stay up to date on Hollywood’s most frightful empty cup crimes.

[h/t Slate]

Banner Image Credit: Slate Magazine, YouTube