by Bill Holmes
We are greatly influenced by our life and experiences in how we view, perceive, consume and enjoy (or not) media. Depending on where we grew up, age, family, education, career/profession, marital status and a myriad of other factors all influence our perception. It is extremely difficult to suspend all reality and knowledge when watching a movie or TV program. My lawyer friend pointed out how inept the Crawley's of Downton Abbey were in their legal dealings, civil, criminal and fiduciary. I hardly ever notice the legal ramifications of a TV show I'm watching but sometimes the legal stuff is so ludicrous even I know it is wrong. I bet lawyers cringe about a lot of our TV shows and movies. Downton Abbey is not a show about the law or lawyers and yet a real life lawyer saw that aspect in the program. I'm sure cops and firefighters have trouble with many of the procedural shows about their professions. I have problems with our crime shows too but not so much the legal or law enforcement stuff. Those in the medical fields must be particularly troubled. It seems wonderful, caring, brilliant doctors and nurses regularly make stupid decisions and lose patients all while having sex in the janitor's closet. Of course next week Dr. Stupid will perform the first ever successful left earlobe transplant. Nurse Lovey will power the patient through the earlobe therapy to a full recovery.
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If you're a sports fan and/or ex-athlete you will notice the actors who can't pull off the jock parts. A girly baseball throw, a terrible swing, a 150 pound football star linebacker and so on. Very few pull it off. I'm always amazed how many nonathletic actors have portrayed hall of fame athletes. A couple of klutzy actors can ruin an otherwise good sports movie.
Age and upbringing figure into the equation too. Catholics found mistakes in the recent papal election reporting. Jews and Muslims have heartburn with how their beliefs are reported. Those of us brought up with the Beach Boys and Beatles find fault with retrospectives about those groups and times. That 30 year old who produces a show about the Vietnam war will probably get a lot of stuff wrong or interpret things inaccurately or at least differently than those who lived through it. If it's a show about stuff you know you'll notice what is depicted incorrectly and what is left out. It will probably bother you.
I guess if you have little or no knowledge about what's on screen you're OK. If I were to watch a show about rap culture in New York City I'd probably accept most of what I saw. You got a show about architecture and engineering? I'll go along with that. That documentary about the sex life of honey bees may be 99% crap but I'll never notice. Set your show in Wyoming and odds are I won't notice any geographical mistakes unless maybe there are palm trees and beaches.
Unless it is a compelling, well written, well produced, brilliantly acted presentation it is impossible to suspend all our history and accept everything we see on screen. In my personal experience it becomes harder and harder. I find myself watching much less prime time TV fiction. There are only one or two TV shows each season that I begin to watch. Even those fade from my viewing schedule after a few episodes. I don't have much interest in most movies either.
My problem is that I am now old enough to have seen stupid, inaccurate, distorted and slanted depictions of so many things that I have at least a passing knowledge about that I hardly believe anything I see from the entertainment industry. The news folks fall short too. Intellectually I realize that TV entertainment shows and most movies are not documentaries but I often wish that the writers and producers would do at least a few minutes of research.
No one but a lawyer would consider the legal aspects of Downton Abbey. No one but a geek would notice the depiction of computers on Dragnet or actually read and critique the database SQL queries on Criminal Minds. Only an electrician would worry about the wiring in a DIY or HGTV remodeled kitchen. What drives you a little crazy when you're watching TV or a movie?