Always Happens …

by Zoë Sharp

The irony does not escape me, as the only non-American member of the ‘Rati crew, that the Thanksgiving blog falls to me. So, Happy Thanksgiving, folks!

I must admit, sitting down and having a family celebration has not been high on the priority list over here this last week or so. Cumbria has been struck by torrential rain and dreadful flooding, and yesterday we had our first power-outs, no doubt as a result.

But, at least we haven’t had to be rescued by breaking holes in the roof of our house and being winched to safety, like others elsewhere in my home county. We’ve had flash-flooding at home in the past, though, including sudden mud slides, and all the victims have my absolute sympathy.

I could say a lot more about this, but I won’t. I realise that to many it’s a small disaster in a small corner of a small country. It would appear that my attempts at serious, heartfelt blogs are often not my most successful efforts. I’ve tried it a couple of times now and been met with something close to embarrassed silence, so I’ll change the subject and get back to the writing.

Not that that helps much. I’ve been researching the cheery subject of coma patients this week, with the assistance of the ever-knowledgeable DP Lyle MD. Doug is an award-winning mystery author as well as having practised as a cardiologist for the best part of thirty years, and he’s been brilliantly helpful when it comes to my medical queries, because it bugs me to get things wrong.

In trawling round the Internet looking for answers, though, I came across this article about how TV and movie portrayals of coma patients are not only inaccurate, but can influence relatives of genuine coma patients into incorrect decisions, based on their false perception of the condition. Coma patients on TV and in the movies always seem to look like sleeping beauties, with perfect muscle tone, healthy tans, and no apparent method of receiving long-term nutrition, never mind, erm … getting rid of anything. (See Steven Segal in ‘Hard To Kill’, one of his more incredibly cheesy efforts.)

And that led me, as is so often the case, to what other common misconceptions arise from the movie world, and onward, almost inevitably, to Movie Clichés. Here are some of my favourites.

All cars, when pushed off a cliff, or involved in an accident, will explode in a giant fireball. How the auto manufacturers have been getting round the stringent crash-testing regulations all these years is anybody’s guess.


All police vehicles involved in a car chase will end up crashing into either each other, or civilian vehicles, and at least one will end up on its roof.

All time bombs will have a handy digital countdown readout, prominently displayed for the hero to find in the nick of time. However, the hero will not be able to disarm the device until there is one second remaining on the clock. The exception to this is the nuclear bomb in the James Bond movie, ‘Goldfinger’, which was disarmed with the readout on 007, of course.


All movie heroes will creep around in dangerous situations carrying their guns up by their faces, so the camera can get a nice dramatic close-up of the actor’s face and the gun in the same shot.

Of all twins, at least one will be born evil.

Dogs instinctively know who the bad guys are and will bark at them. Unless the movie hero is trying to creep into the enemy stronghold in the dark and it’s time to make the audience jump. In which case the hero will either a) calm the dog with a hard stare or b) move away, when the dog will stop making noise immediately, and the villain’s guards will not come to see what the fuss was all about. Under NO circumstances will the hero kill the dog.

If a movie has a male character who is blind, at some point he WILL end up driving a car. (‘Sneakers’)  Or, if a female character, she will end up tapping around a bloodstained building while being stalked by the killer. (‘Blade: Trinity’)

All motorcycles ridden by the hero will morph from a race replica during the highway chase scene, to dirt bike, complete with knobbly tyres, for any off-road bit of the sequence. The engine note will remain the same throughout, however, and won’t belong to either bike in any case.

Anybody looking through binoculars will see a a binocular-shaped view, regardless of how the human eye/brain works.

Whenever anybody walks into a bar in a western, there will be a fist-fight, usually involving the piano player.

Aliens in movies will almost always have the anatomy of a man in the rubber suit.

(Erm, the alien is the one on the left – I think.)

The only exception to this is ‘Starship Troopers’, which played on our general phobias of creepy crawlies and was therefore genuinely scary IMHO.

And finally, any alcoholics portrayed in movies will be able to give up the drink when called upon to do something important to the plot, and not show any side-effects, withdrawal symptons, etc.


There are hundreds more, I’m sure. What’s your favourite movie cliché?

This week’s Phrase of the Week is to ride roughshod. It came from the practice of shoeing horses with the nails deliberately left protruding so as to provide better grip in icy or wet conditions. In the 1700s cavalry horses were often roughshod or had sharp objects attached to their hooves to damage the enemy during a charge. However, it was quickly discovered that the poor horses did as much damage to themselves, so this idea soon fell out of favour. It’s interesting, though, that if someone tries to ride roughshod over you, they could be doing themselves more harm than they realise in the process …

If I don’t respond to comments right away, it could be that we’ve lost power again, so please bear with me. It’s just started tipping it down again …

Oh, nearly forgot – if anyone’s going to Collectormania at Olympia in London this weekend, I’ll see you there on the Saturday. Drop by the Mystery Women booth and say “Hi!”

42 thoughts on “Always Happens …

  1. JD Rhoades

    Yikes! I had no idea it was so bad out your way. Stay dry and safe, Zoe.

    Another thing about coma patients in movies: they awaken perfectly able to walk, talk, and yes, even fight. See, Segal, Steven, supra

  2. Zoë Sharp

    Hi Dusty

    Thanks for that. If this carries on, though, we’re going to start building an ark …

    Yup, you’re quite right – no mental deterioration whatsoever. And even if they can’t actually walk, they can – as you point out – still fight. (See ‘Kill Bill: Vol I’)

  3. Alafair Burke

    The man and the woman who hate each other will fall in love and live happily ever after.

    Great post! Stay dry and have a happy Thanksgiving!

  4. Zoë Sharp

    Hi Jude

    Yup – the only time the bad guys can shoot straight is when aiming at the hero’s trusty sidekick/best girl/partner who’s three days from retirement, etc

  5. JT Ellison

    If there was ever a woman who could build an ark, it would be you. With twine and a shoestring, and a fallen palm frond, probably.

    Funny, I’ve been doing some coma research this week too. Brilliant minds…

    Movie cliches – these are great. I like the horror tableau – girl in house, killer in house, so run outside and take off your shirt. That will solve everything.

    Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!


  6. Zoë Sharp

    Hi JT

    If it carries on raining like this, the ark will be needed, I can tell you.

    Love the horror cliché. Movie victims also often go to investigate strange noises in the cellar, alone, holding nothing more than a candle, or a torch with a faulty battery …

    Or they take a shower.

  7. Gayle Carline

    Thanks for the Thanksgiving post! We’re going to have turkey at our friends’ house – she’s from London. She also hosts the Independence Day party. I tell her she’s a better Yank than I am.

    Ah, yes, the delightful movie cliche. If you see workmen carrying a large pane of glass, you know what’s going to happen. In horror movies, the noise someone investigates turns out to be a cat or an open window or a leaky faucet, and THEN THE KILLER GETS THEM.

    And if I was in a horror movie, it would last 3 minutes, because I would NOT wander around outside, in the dark, in my negligee, carrying a candle, to see where that noise was coming from. I’d call 911, turn on all the lights, find a weapon and barricade myself in a room. Police come, killer is caught, credits roll. Too bad there’s no time to finish your popcorn.

    Stay safe and dry!

  8. pari noskin taichert

    First of all, Zoe, please stay dry and safe. I hope the torrential rains subside and that those people whose homes are still intact can return to them soon. They all have my prayers.

    As to cliches? Hmmm. The one that came straight to mind is our hero spring three-four feet into the air, sideways, while shooting AND hitting his mark. That one always gets to me.

    AND BTW: Don’t stop the contemplative, serious posts. Just because people don’t respond in the comments here doesn’t mean they’re not reading. I know some of my least-commented posts have had real impact.

    Write what you want, what you need to write here on the ‘Rati; that’s why people read us.

  9. David

    New fave movie cliche. Every camera sounds like a 1970s Nikon F with motordrive shooting reams and reams of film. Even brand new, very expensive Canon digitals. The pictures (in freeze-frame) come out with little film sprocket edges too.


  10. Louise Ure

    The digital read out on the bomb is my favorite.

    And I love the derivation of "riding rough shod!"

    Marcia Muller’s new book "Locked In" is one of those that deals realistically with the syndrome. I don’t imagine that will hold true if they make it into a movie.

  11. Mike Dennis

    Zoe, the cliche to end all cliches is the one where the girl is being chased, sometimes through a forest, but often over perfectly smooth terrain, and ALWAYS ALWAYS falls down. Then, of course, after falling, she takes another moment before getting up to LOOK BACK to see where her pursuer is.

    It wasn’t till I was about twenty-five when I realized that women are not genetically unsteady on their feet.

  12. Zoë Sharp

    Hi Gayle

    Independence Day party? Is that where you all sit round and watch that sci-fi movie with Will Smith which is a haven for movie cliché addicts? Gems include the old Microsoft-compatible alien technology, which allows our heroes to upload a virus into the alien mothership computer, and the equally delightful ‘slightly batty ex-fighter pilot sobers up long enough to destroy alien spaceship with last missile…’

    The workmen with the glass is great. I can still remember that in ‘Wayne’s World’ where the two guys carrying the glass that gets smashed turn to each other and say, "Our work here is done."

    I’m with you on the call the police and let them sort it out front, although at some point in that scene there is usually the heroine standing in front of the mirrored bathroom cabinet. Nothing behind her. She opens the cabinet to put something away, shuts the door again and, hey presto, bad guy breathing down her neck in the reflection.

  13. Zoë Sharp

    Hi Pari

    Thanks for the kind words. I was feeling a little along the lines of ‘the beatings will continue until morale improves …’

    Ah, yes, the John Woo slo-mo sideways leap! Always a great movie cliché. Because today’s yoof, it seems, can only hold a handgun at 90deg to the ground. Where they expect the dead brass to go, I have no idea. But, of course, movie heroes can hit any target, moving or not, while performing acrobatics, or facing backwards on a horse, whereas I’ve been to gun ranges and watched people shooting who couldn’t hit a person-sized target at 7ft with an entire magazine …

  14. Zoë Sharp

    Hi David

    Yup, you’re quite right on the camera sound effects, although, to be fair, my Canon digital SLR does make a certain amount of noise because it still has to flip the mirror up and down between shots. Apparently the mobile phone manufacturers had to add the shutter noise in when camera phones are operating because otherwise people were taking candid pictures in places … they really shouldn’t have been ;-]

    In the CSI programmes, I’ve noticed they tend to take multiple shots without adjusting focus or exposure to bracket the end result, and will somebody PLEASE switch a light on!

  15. Zoë Sharp

    Hi Louise

    The nicest debunk of that bomb timer was in ‘Galaxy Quest’ where the self-destruct sequence for the ship didn’t stop when they disconnected it until there was 1sec to go, and they realised that the timer NEVER stops until it’s got 1sec to go…

    I haven’t read the Marcia Muller, but I’ll look out for it. And there’s a poor guy in Belgium who’s been paralysed but conscious for 23 years, who they thought was in a coma, but he was aware throughout. I can’t begin to imagine what that’s like.

  16. Zoë Sharp

    Hi Mike

    But us girlies ARE genetically unsteady on our feet!

    Love that one. It goes alongside the cliché that states whenever a man and woman are running away from anything, he will grab hold of her arm and drag her along, thus making much slower progress than either of them could have managed alone.

  17. Catherine Shipton

    Zoë I’m very glad you’re ok. As I’d see worsening images of your part of the world I kept hoping you were at the very least, on a high ground.

    Years ago I came across a list compiled to assist better evil overlord decision making…to avoid the sort of cliched villian mistakes that so often plague an evil overlord from being all he/she could be. This list plays homage to a host of cliches.

    Some of my favourites are:

    "The deformed mutants and odd-ball psychotics will have their place in my Legions of Terror. However before I send them out on important covert missions that require tact and subtlety, I will first see if there is anyone else equally qualified who would attract less attention."

    "I will not grow a goatee. In the old days they made you look diabolic. Now they just make you look like a disaffected member of Generation X."

    "When I’ve captured my adversary and he says, "Look, before you kill me, will you at least tell me what this is all about?" I’ll say, "No." and shoot him. No, on second thought I’ll shoot him then say "No."

  18. Tom

    Zoe, I’m with Pari; write what you feel. This is not a grog in which you need to worry about response. It’s there.

    Favorite movie cliche; good guy or bad guy, doesn’t matter, dramatic sound as s/he thumb-cocks the hammer . . . of a Glock.

    Worst cliche/display of ignorance ever: a production of ‘Carmen’ at a major opera house, with the smugglers firing fast successive shots from The Same Damn Flintlock. Tried to explain the issue to the Famous Director, who looked at me ‘blankly.’

  19. Alexandra Sokoloff

    Z, didn’t you get Thanksgiving last year, too? Maybe we should plan this better next time…

    My pet peeve movie cliche, as I’ve ranted about before, is the romantic comedy staple of racing to the airport to catch the loved one before s/he boards the plane. And getting stuck in traffic and having to run through Manhattan rush hour. Worst cliche ever.

    Other planes do depart fairly regularly, in my experience.

    Stay dry!!!!

  20. Zoë Sharp

    Hi Catherine

    Mike Myers did that brilliantly with Dr Evil and his son, Scott, where Scott begs his father to just let him go and get a gun so they could shoot Austin Powers, and Dr Evil says, "You just don’t get this at all, do you?"

    Evil geniuses are a whole world unto themselves. These days, I’ve found, either the chief villain is a Brit, or he at least drives a Brit car, namely a Range Rover.

  21. Zoë Sharp

    Hi Tom

    Thank you, also for the kind words ;-]

    Yup, saw the Glock thing only recently, watching an old episode of ‘Without A Trace’. The Jack Malone character decides to put the frighteners on a bad guy, so he lures him to an empty house, shoves him against a wall, sticks his Glock in the guy’s mouth (no sniggering at the back, there) and there’s a distinct sound-effect of the nonexistant hammer being pulled back. Argh!

    Love the flintlock thing. You might get 4 or 5 rounds a minute out of one of those things, if you were an expert. Almost as funny as ‘Die Hard II’ when the bad guys swap between firing blanks and live rounds from automatic rifles simply by switching magazines …

  22. Zoë Sharp

    Thanks, Alex

    But hey, it’s only right that I should be working on what is, to me, a normal working day, while you all celebrate a national holiday! Besides, if it’s always the fourth Thursday in November, I’m always going to end up with it, aren’t I?

    Yes, now you mention it, I’ve forgotten the number of times I’ve seen that ‘running through traffic’ bit in movies. It’s along the same lines as the fact that in movies the hero can always instantly hail a cab and either doesn’t pay, or never has to wait for change or a receipt.

    And if driving he never has to circle the block looking for a parking space – there’s always one miraculously free right outside where he wants to be.

  23. Fran

    I always wonder why, in a fist fight, no one’s hands swell up. I inadvertantly hit something and my hand puffed up. I can’t imagine what it would look like if I hit someone in the skull, which is fairly hard, I’m told. And why don’t those same hands ever bruise?

    Or am I just hitting things wrong?

    Zoe, I do hope the floods let up soon. It’s astonishing how dangerous floods are and no one really appreciates that until you’re in one.

    Thank you for a provocative and entertaining post!

  24. Zoë Sharp

    Hi Fran

    Don’t you just love movie fight scenes? Everybody lamps each other over the head with chairs and nobody ever throws up from concussion. The hero gets shot in the shoulder and still manages to climb halfway up a building and beat up the bad guys, but then winces when the heroine tenderly dabs his wounds.

    And yes, there are very scientific ways of hitting things, but much better not to use your fist if you can help it. There are an awful lot of bones in the hand that are relatively easily damaged and then you can’t do all kinds of things easily. Forearms and elbows are usually a much better bet.

    Flooding can be terrifying. We have a tiny beck at the bottom of the garden that’s become suitable for white water rafting over the past week or so. During the last floods, the sound of half-ton boulders crashing together as they were swept down stream was like rolling gunfire. Quite a remarkable experience.

  25. toni mcgee causey

    Very late to the party — ended up traveling and no internet all day.

    And yikes on the extreme weather there, Zoë. Hope it calms down soon and that everyone stays safe and dry. We can definitely empathize.

    Another hated cliché is that any woman with a strong personality must therefore be a klutz in order for her to be likable. Any woman with a serious background in the sciences cannot possibly be happy romantically. And any male who has scientific knowledge is automatically a geek (which translates into the other cliché that he must therefore be either ugly, goofy, inexperienced, socially inept, or all of the above.)

  26. Zoë Sharp

    Hi Toni

    Hadn’t spotted the scientific cliché, but you’re quite right. There’s also this amazing idea that simply putting on a pair of glasses makes a woman a) brainy and b) less attractive …

  27. Cornelia Read

    Zoe, hope things have gotten a little drier in your neck of the woods.

    I can’t think of a single movie cliche this morning… must be all that tryptophan from the turkey yesterday.

    I think one of the things that annoys me most in cute movies is when the hero/heroine does something goofy, and the camera cuts to a dog or some forest creature with its head tilted sideways in confusion, preferably with one ear held aloft.

  28. Melanie

    I wanted to let you know that I love your serious posts, and the one about depression especially helped me. I tried to email you about it but couldn’t get the email link to work (I only use online email so I couldn’t access the link). So please don’t stop writing those, too.

  29. Catherine Shipton

    Zoë I’m noticing lately that Australians are being used more as a default villian too. At least for the most part even if we’re the new evil, we’re not strangled with ancient strine dialects of the 1920s. In the 80s there were some hideously bad examples of dialogue from supposed Australian characters sounding like we’d escaped from a bush poem.

    Paul Hogan has a lot to answer for.

    I guess being the new evil is perhaps attributing some level of intelligence, even if morally skewed intelligence…the old mold Aussie bumbler was wearing a bit thin.

  30. crimeficreader

    Zoë, I hope things are improving in Cumbria now. Been thinking about you. Dreadful weather and such devastation up north. And loss of life: that poor policeman and his family.

    Things no where near as bad down here, although I did manage to slip in mud on Friday and sprain my ankle! (That’ll teach me to avoid taking short cuts across grass…)

    Someone was on twitter earlier tonight saying they’d met you and a few others at the Collectormania event! Hope it went well.

  31. Sarah

    ooh don’t forget that if you get shot in a movie, the force of the bullet hitting you will either knock you off your feet and/or send you flying

  32. Sue Millard

    Favourite cliche? Horses whinnying when something terrifying occurs in a fantasy or western or historical battle (these are probably all the same thing). The real sound effect would be a grunt, a thud of falling rider, and rapid departing hoofs.

    Also, that dying people never actually have death throes like other dying animals.

    Worst screen boo-boo – in The Tudors on TV, Cardinal Wolsey riding in a nineteenth century carriage complete with glass windows, fine springs and rubber tyres. They could at least have given him a Lamborghini.

    Flood aftermath here includes my family from Cockermouth all moving back home… and into the holiday cottage next door.

  33. mens watches replica swiss watches replica watches mens watches breitling navitimer rolex datejust rolex watches bell ross watches ferrari watches bvlgari watches Rolex DateJust Burberry watches Breguet watches chopard watches hublot watches U boat watches rolex daytona iwc watches panerai luminor burberry watches

  34. Coach Spotlight Bags

  35. Coach Tote Bags

  36. coach-bags

  37. white-cufflinks


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *