Television and movie executives have millions of dollars to play with. They have access to the best special effects studios, some of which have computers more powerful than your local university. You would think that, with all of this at their disposal, the worlds they create on the big and small screen would be interesting, original, and creative.
But no, for the most part they rely on the same tired old clichés and formulae, all of which are totally unconnected to real life. Indeed, sometimes it seems like they have a rulebook which gives strict instructions on how things must be shown. Here are some of the rules I've noted: In Advertising Land, people who attend parties are always young, sexy, and well dressed. They are drinking heavily and having tons of fun, but amazingly, they never get drunk and barf all over the place.
Before being given the Wonder Product, people who clean things the hard way on TV always do so while making strange faces. Also: finishing a tough job requires that you draw your hand theatrically across your brow.
Mums on TV only ever become gently exasperated with family members, even when they do something utterly stupid, like allow the muddy dog to roll on the just-washed floor. They never, ever go on the “I HAVE HAD IT!” rampage through the house like your Mum did. Highways in car ads are always empty, winding and beautifully scenic. Clearly, if your morning commute involves a stressful, bumper-to-bumper crawl through graffiti-covered concrete canyons, you're simply driving the wrong car.
Banking staff are always friendly, helpful, and eminently reasonable. Further, they are highly attractive and never say things like, “It's policy.” Women who shave their legs on TV always do so while seated in an old-fashioned clawfoot tub, which is located in a huge, white, and spotless bathroom. The pile of bath bubbles carefully arranges itself so as not to reveal too much. Shaving, meanwhile, requires the woman to lift her leg straight up in the air while pointing her toes.
Towels and sweaters come out of the dryer without a single wrinkle. They never come out covered in exploded tissues, or charged with enough static electricity to give a person a perm job.
In TV and Movie Land, women spring out of bed with absolutely perfect hair and makeup. The best way to tell if you're about to be attacked from behind is to check the camera angle. If you find you're at the far edge of the screen, something is about to leap out at you from the other side.
Apparently people routinely pour themselves a shot of expensive whiskey or brandy, take one sip, put the glass down, and walk away. Likewise, families regularly go to the trouble of preparing full bacon, egg, and pancake breakfasts only to gulp down juice before darting out the door.
Bombs always have handy countdown timers. They also only ever have two wires, a blue one and a red one, and cutting one of them is the only way to stop the bomb.
Security guards are always paunchy men who wander off for a snack at convenient moments or who fall asleep on the job.
Someone on the run from the law will always see the TV news bulletin about his recent “crime” while seated in a public diner.
Finally, cars involved in a chase always explode at the end, but not before giving the heroes just enough time to make that dramatic leap that is supposed to indicate they're being thrown by the blast. Also: even though the explosion ripped the car to smithereens, not a single hair will be out of place.
(To read more of Chandra's work, visit www.ChandraKClarke.com.)