This edition of Things That Annoy Me In TV & Film is going to concentrate on Death.
Basically, death is often handled in a ridiculously unrealistic way for the sake of writing a ‘good script’. Here are some of the things that annoy me…
The Way Some People Die So Easily
Death happens very quickly in some TV shows & Films. Now I’m not suggesting that they should be instructional tools on how best to murder people, but it still bugs me to see people dying after having a pillow over their face for about 10 seconds, getting a mild tap on the head with a saucepan or having been exposed to oven gas for a brief moment.
One of the poorer Alfred Hitchcock films – Torn Curtain I believe – showed a rare example of how killing people isn’t actually all that easy. The main character tried all the usual ways that people easily murder others in the movies and still came up short. It’s an interesting scene, but really it’s the only thing going for the film so I wouldn’t necessarily recommend watching it.
The fact is, it’s not THAT easy to kill someone (not that I’ve tried), especially with your bare hands, and yet if all you had to go on was TV & Film, you’d think humans were made of sugar glass and blutak,
On a related note you have people dying of natural causes in ridiculous ways. I did an article about the way Pat Butcher unrealistically died on Eastenders around Christmas time (which you can read here) and another good example of that would be Mike Baldwin dying in agony in
the middle of a street…of Alzheimers Disease. Seriously…
The Way Some People Just Don’t Die
On the other side of the coin you have the people who just won’t die. You’ll usually see this sort of thing in Horror films like Scream, but also in stuff like 24 (Jack Bauer should have died many times), Doctor Who (Ladies and Gentlemen, I present The Master) and soaps like Eastenders (Dirty Den)
If TV & Film tells us anything, it’s that while most people only need a sharp gust of wind to finish them off, really bad people are incredibly resilient. You can shoot them, stab them, smack them over the head with bronze busts of English monarchs, throw them off great heights, hit them with cars, trap them in burning buildings and every which way that you could possibly think of, but they’ll come back. Nice people die very easily though, and so do unimportant hired goons.
Why is that though? How are the angry kids in Scream who dress up as the bloke with the mask suddenly more resilient now that they are exposed as being insane or bloodthirsty?
Like so many of the other issues I bring up, the reasoning is ‘Just Because’.
Dying for the Sake of Dying
It happens too often that people seemingly decide to just give up on living either in the last episode of a TV series or towards the end of a film. It doesn’t matter that their lives should go on after the film or TV series ends in their own fictional world, they just want to die now and get it over with.
And it happens for such stupid reasons., ranging from “I have a sore foot and can’t be bothered running out of this building that’s about to explode, so I’ll just stay here and die, but please, don’t let me hold you up” to “I can’t believe they’ve shut down my pirate radio station”.
As I say above, it’s like when a TV show or film ends, the bloodthirsty writers decide that certain characters have to die in order to fill some sort of quota. It happens all the time in Doctor Who (A great example would be the Horror of Fang Rock where a character decided to put himself in the way of certain death because he wanted to pick up some diamonds off the floor despite the alien advancing on him) and it has also happened in shows like Alias (Highlight for Spoiler: Jack Bristow did not need to blow himself up to trap Arvin Sloane), Buffy the Vampire Slayer (the character that died in the last episode didn’t need to die) and of course 24.
Fearless Death and How Quick People Get Over It
On a similar note, I would say about 90-95% of death on TV that isn’t as stupid as some of the examples above are still dealt with badly. Most people face death with a sort of noble acceptance. They are away to die, but it’s ok. Very few people either die without much dignity (which is sadly how most of us will go in the end) or while not looking their best.
Sometimes death is dealt with really well…scarily well in fact. While most of us would like to go having decided that it’s our time and we’ve said our farewells – like Mr. Chipping in Goodbye My Chips – the chances are we’ll go out either slowly and unconscious or in a harrowingly sad fashion. As much as people criticise soaps and as much as they get death wrong most of the time, sometimes – just sometimes – they get it right. Remember Madge Bishop’s death? That was quite good.
But then when people do die, the thing that also bugs me about TV – and it might well be a necessarily evil – is how quickly people get over it. Going back to Dr Who again and the death of Adric. The Doctor, Teagan and Nyssa have been travelling with Adric for a while; he is supposed to be their friend. And he’s just died in massive explosion when a spaceship he was on crashed into Earth. Do they mourn him? Yes, for about two minutes, before going about their business like nothing has happened in the next episode.
And I know Doctor Who is an odd example because death happens in it so often, but it happens in other shows as well. Young people die, and yet their friends, family and significant others only seem to care for about a week in real time.
The Way The Main Baddy Always Dies Last
No matter the film, no matter the TV show, whenever there is a hierarchy of villainy, the lead baddy always dies last. It doesn’t matter that he’s a weedy bloke surrounded by trained ninjas; he will last longer than them before his ultimate showdown with the hero of the hour, and just like I say above, he’ll also be far harder to kill than his goons.
And on the flipside the main hero will have been put in many situations where he’s about to be killed only for the bad guys to change their minds and then tell him or her all their evil plans and exactly how it would be that they could stop them. Or alternatively, everyone around the hero will have been killed by someone, but the bad guys only decided to use a stun gun on him.
I’m About To Die And Have Something To Say, But I’ll Skirt Round The Issue For a While Before Finally Telling You That…
So a character is dying. He’s lying there and he knows he’s not got much time, and he has information that is vital to saving the day. Does he just come out and say it? Of course not. He lies there and makes glib conversation like “Well Ace, it looks like I’ve got myself into one scrap too far this time, ahahahahahaha”
At this point he should probably realise as he loses his sense of smell and taste that he’s not long for this world and yet he still skates round the issue until eventually he decides to get to the point. And then, just as he’s about to give the hero the information that he’s been saying he’s going to tell him for the past five minutes…he dies.
This has happened in so many Films and TV shows that I don’t even need to give you a specific example. You’ll know exactly what I mean.
But what I want to know is what film or even what book came up with the idea first. Whoever was responsible for writing that needed a good kicking.
And One About Life
To balance it up, here’s one about life rather than death.
How come babies are always born completely clean? They don’t come out that way in real life.