Follow TV Tropes


Things Are More Effective in Hollywood

Go To

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.
  • Advertisement:
  • Bulletproof Vests: Likely the most (in)famous one, bulletproof vests are effective at stopping any bullet (and any amount of bullets) in fiction though in reality most of them are only good for stopping one or two handgun rounds. They also completely negate all injury in fiction, whereas in reality they tend to still leave large bruises or even break ribs, since you're still getting hit with the same amount of force, it's just distributed across a larger area.
  • 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 these substances take careful dosing to be effective without overdosing on them, which is not possible with the method usually seen in fiction. There is a reason anaesthetist is a full time job.
  • Advertisement:
  • 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, be totally unable to 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%.
  • 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, it can be years or even decades and its effectiveness would 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.
  • 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 most pieces of work. 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.
  • Noise Cancelling Headphones: Fictional headphones can cancel all noise, creating complete silence. In reality they can only cancel continuous emitting sounds such as buzzing or humming and is ineffective at almost any other sound such as people talking, music playing and so on.
  • Poisons: Real-life poisons are slow to act and effective only when the victim is given enough of it (which is hard, 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.
  • 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 you might as well be landing on concrete if you jump into a body of water from many stories above, but in fiction there is no limit to how high you can fall from - the water will still stop you from going ker-splat.
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.