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Things Are More Effective in Hollywood

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And to think he didn't even kill the guy!

In television, they'd have you believe that many things are extremely effective at their purpose, when in reality, they can only do it some of the time or only partially. Partly, this is because the name of the product portrays its usefulness much more than it actually is. For example, "bulletproof" objects which are usually simply bullet resistant. The other part is because if they were portrayed realistically it would likely ruin the story. If "bulletproof" things weren't actually bulletproof and the protagonist got shot, either that's the end of your movie or the next 40 minutes would be spent at the hospital watching them recover. Some of the most notable ones are:

  • Antibiotics: In fiction, humans have apparently managed to create a pill that can cure any disease save from the really big ones, like cancer. Real life antibiotics though are much less effective: a certain type is only good for some, but never all, bacteria. Oh yeah, it's also limited to bacteria only — they're completely useless against any other type of microorganism.
  • Bulletproof Vests: Zig-zagged, strangely enough. Fully clad soldiers will die to a pistol round in the chest, while someone wearing a lightweight covert vest will get up after even magnum sniper rifle hits, sometimes in the same movie! Also of note is in most TV shows, despite a single pistol round dropping someone, apparently life is a video game, because body armor limits damage, so whether its one round or ten, you always get up with broken ribs, even through a short burst of bullets should have punctured your lungs since a single one broke ribs. It's somewhat worth noting that hard armor turns you into iron man against pistol rounds and more or less leaves bruises at most with rifle ammunition, while soft armor will put you down and out. Sometimes. Humans are strange.
  • Chloroform: In fiction, this substance can be used to knock out anyone almost immediately. In reality, they would need to breathe it in for a good minute or two before it kicks in. It is also far from harmless, since inhaled anaesthetics take careful dosing to be effective without overdosing, which is not possible with the method usually seen in fiction. There is a reason anaesthetist is a full-time job.
  • Cool Guns (including all trope sub-types like the Hand Cannon): If a fictional character, be it hero or villain, expect it to be a million times more practical (and reliable) in a gunfight that it would actually be in Real Life. The weapons will inevitably (unless it's a plot point Played for Drama/"realism" or Played for Laughs) have Bottomless Magazines, never jam, have very manageable recoils, and can be purchased over the counter even by people who can barely feed themselves or wouldn't pass a firearms exam ever (and some who can Hand Wave part of this, like military or cops, just wouldn't have access to them still because of standardization).
  • CPR: In fiction, CPR (or mouth-to-mouth) is portrayed as 100% effective and can revive anyone. In reality though, the success rate for a typical bystander doing it is only 8%, and even with proper equipment chances only increase to 37%. And CPR is just keeping the brain oxygenated until the medics arrive, or until a defibrillator unit can get a malfunctioning heart back into proper rhythm; CPR doesn't typically revive someone by itself.
  • Defibrillators: Like above, defibrillators are treated as magical devices that can revive anyone, regardless of circumstances. In reality, they are only useful for a heart that is beating irregularly and completely useless for one that has stopped.
  • Gasoline: In fiction, as long as it's established that gasoline is lying around and it's not explicitly said that it's gone bad, years or even decades can pass and its effectiveness will have not degraded a bit (same for lubricants). In reality, gasoline only lasts a few months even with the best preservatives and lubricants only last a few years, tops, both depending on factors like temperature.
  • Gun silencers: In fiction, gun silencers can make any gun more or less completely silent. In reality though, suppressors can only reduce the sound a little and are for reducing hearing damage rather than being discreet.
    Nominally speaking, you'd need subsonic ammunition for removing the bullet crack, and even then, people tend to notice the rather distinct suppressed shot, especially when it happens multiple times.
  • Hypnosis: In fiction, hypnosis can put someone into a trance almost immediately (even if they're resisting) and can make them do anything the hypnotist wants, including post-hypnotic suggestion. In fact, it takes considerable time to put a subject under even if they're cooperating, doesn't work on everyone and can't make someone do something they don't want to do.
  • Infrared Cameras: Walls are very good at stopping heat. So is glass. Infrared cameras thus don't work very well through walls in reality. Fictional infrared cameras though can see through them just fine.
  • Katanas: This sword is often portrayed as the ultimate versatile weapon, capable of slicing through just about anything. In reality, the various designs of katana have advantages and drawbacks that make them no more or less effective overall than virtually any other sword design of the same era.
  • Swords In General are portrayed as much more effective than firearms in many pieces of work. For the purpose of taking out enemies, guns are objectively better in almost every aspect. However, in fiction, they're often nerfed to allow those fighting with swords a chance. Rule of Cool demands it.
  • Firearms in general: Humans are surprisingly durable. Small-caliber gunfire can fail to incapacitate most humans, with most bullets not in fact spreading demonically-charged instant death energies into the body, but rather putting people down through sheer pain of OH GOD THERE'S A HOLE IN MY CHEST! and other such things related to being... y'know, shot. With a gun. There's enough blood in the human body, however, that even after being shot in the heart, one can remain up under adrenaline for over 10 seconds, plenty of time in a gunfight. The FBI found, in fact, that it takes 10-15 seconds for someone to die after their heart is completely destroyed, so imagine how long someone might stay up after anything less?
  • Noise-Cancelling Headphones: Fictional headphones can cancel all noise, creating complete silence. In reality, while a quality set of noise-cancelling headphones can dampen external noise, they cannot remove it entirelynote .
  • Poisons: Real-life poisons are slow to act and effective only when the victim is given enough (which is hard to achieve, since most poisons taste horrible and they'll likely spit it out). In fiction, though, one drop is enough to make anyone drop dead immediately, or have very visible and dramatic veins spreading slowly across the body.
  • Water: Water can be useful at reducing fall damage both in real life and in fiction, but only up to a certain point. Due to water tension, if you jump into a body of water from many stories above, you might as well be landing on concrete; of course it also depends on HOW you land in the water, doing a belly flop has the highest risk for bodily harm while doing a pencil dive feet first tends to be the safest. But in fiction there is no limit to how high you can fall from — the water will still stop you from going ker-splat even with the worst form possible.

Compare As Lethal as It Needs to Be. See also Muggles Do It Better, which is when ordinary weapons are portrayed as far more effective than the Phlebotinum used in the show.