Many common myths can be directly traced back to popular films and TV shows. These particular sorts of myths are different from the general unbelievability of action scenes, unlikely romantic pairings and superheroes. While viewers can be sure that Rambo is fictional and that Transformers are not going to appear on their street, movies and television perpetuate more subtle misconceptions that are widely believed.
Hollywood has always chosen drama over realism. Once a myth has been established, it becomes part of public consciousness and tends to be repeated in future film & TV productions. This, in turn, establishes the myth even stronger.
Here are just a few false beliefs that we owe to Tinsel Town:
Amnesia is a great plot device, and filmmakers have recognized this since its first use in the silent film era! Talk about built-in drama – it is easy to identify with a character who is struggling to remember who they are. The eventual reveal of their actual identify provides even more plot opportunities. Alas, Hollywood’s version of amnesia bears little resemblance to the actual condition. Most sufferers do not forget their past at all and those that do typically improve over time – sometimes regaining full memory in as little as hours – or even minutes.
Quicksand is a near-certain death trap, as Hollywood would like you to believe. In reality, if you fall into a quicksand pit (which is basically just dirt/sand mixed with water), escape is far from impossible. You can loosen quicksand’s grip by moving your legs back and forth, then just float upward, since quicksand is more dense than water.
Two common phone myths are that criminals only get one phone call and that it takes the police a long time to trace a call. Neither is true. Why Hollywood insists you can only make one call when arrested is not entirely known, but generally you are allowed to make the calls you need to post bail, obtain legal representation, etc. As for tracing calls, it is almost instantaneous these days – on both landlines and cellular networks.
“Split personalities” is another wonderful plot device (mild-mannered accountant is also a serial killer). The controversial Multiple Personality Disorder/Dissociative Identity Disorder is actually a completely separate condition from Schizophrenia. Schizophrenics do not have multiple personalities, but experience delusions, hallucinations and paranoid thoughts.
A “flatlined” patient being revived by an electric shock to their heart is a common scene in movies and medical TV shows. Defibrillators are actually used to correct irregular heartbeats but are useless when the heart has completely stopped beating. In that case, the only treatment is CPR and an adrenaline injection.
This is just a sample of common Hollywood myths. Given their dramatic potential versus the “truth,” we can expect these misconceptions (and others) to continue.