(Un)willing Suspensions of Disbelief

Entertainment. The opium of the masses, if you wanna get realistic about it. Movies. TV. Even Al Gore’s InterWeb. They’re all filled with moving pictures that allow us to escape from our very own realities for a few precious minutes, and wallow about in someone else’s idea of a good time. Like most of the rest of humanity, I enjoy some escapist fare from time to time. And like a lot of other guys, I’m partial to action movies, thrillers, cop shows and detective stories. But something happened a couple of years ago, and it changed the way I watch – and the way I appreciate (or don’t appreciate) what I see. I learned something about guns. And in the process, my suspension of disbelief is no longer so willing.

By trade, I’m a creative type: musician, graphic artist, animator, etc. Until I hit my mid-forties, the only things I knew about guns were the things I’d learned on TV and at the movies. As a kid, when I listened to music, I was able to enjoy just about anything I heard, on one level or another. As I grew older and learned more about music, I found it increasingly harder to put aside what I knew when listening. Call it a terminal case of “consciousness raising.” Once you learn what “in tune” sounds like, you can’t appreciate a symphony orchestra if the French horns are a little flat. Or a LOT flat, as was the case in my Youth Symphony Orchestra days. I digress . . .

It’s the same way with guns. The more I learn, the more I notice. The more I notice, the less I can overlook.

Case in point – I was watching part two of the season finale of the ABC hit detective show Castle. The show follows the exploits of RIchard Castle, a famed detective novelist and Kate Beckett, an NYPD detective, as they solve crimes.

Now, I realize that these shows aren’t exactly married to accurate portrayals of police procedures, gun handling, and the like. In the real world, nobody with any brains would expose a celebrity novelist to the dangers of stakeouts, takedowns, and shootouts. Not gonna happen. But let’s give them that.

In a recent episode, Detective Beckett was practicing her handgun skills at the range. No worries. from the looks of it, she was a good shot. Castle, always the smart-aleck, claimed he could shoot better. He proceeded to get off a couple of shots that made him look like a complete tool, prompting Beckett to bet Castle that he couldn’t put at least one round in the ten spot. Castle immediately assumes a proper two-handed grip, and double-taps the target a couple of times, with all shots neatly inside the ten.

Um . . . right. I’ve spent a good bit of time at the range. Maybe a member of the U.S. Army Marksmanship team. Or a Rob Leatham. But most mere mortals are gonna find that kind of skill to be completely beyond the scope of their abilities. It was cool, mind you. But unrealistic.

Then there was the footwear.

Not Castle’s. Beckett. I’ve shot with a number of women, and I can tell you that every last one of them has shot wearing either some kind of sneaker, or some kind of hiking boot. Nobody, and I mean NOBODY would be shooting at the range in some kind of shoe with close to a 4″ chunky heel. Hell, most women can’t walk in shoes like that. Run? Fuggetaboutit.

Yet, the costumers dress the comely Ms. Stana Katic in just such shoes when she is out on a stakeout. (It reminds me of the old saw about Ginger Rogers – she did everything that Fred Astaire did, but did it backwards, wearing heels.) Granted, Detective Beckett is a babe. But I think that if she’s the kind of cop that demands respect from the squad room, she wouldn’t be caught dead in any kind of gear that would prevent her from taking out the bad guys.

Then there’s ammo-fests like the one I DVR’d last night. The flick’s title must have come from the marketing geniuses at Microsoft: Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever. Watching it makes me wonder if it might be underwritten by Car-Bon or Winchester ammo (just as I’ve always suspected that Halloween is secretly sponsored by the American Dental Association). Firing everything from a .50 cal machine gun down to a 9mm pop gun, the action scenes in the first reel alone had to equal the sum total of the rounds expended in WWII by the Allies.

Obeying the laws of physics are not high on the list of priorities of scriptwriters in Hollywood, either. How often have you seen some movie cop take aim (usually one-handed) with a handgun and take out a bad guy the length of a football field away? With one shot. Yeah. THAT’S realistic.

And it’s not just the amount of guns on display, or the impractical attire of the participants. The sounds aren’t even honest.

I used to work with a movie sound guy out in La-La-Land. This guy had a huge library of nothing but “sweetened” gun sounds. He was regularly employed by the studios to take action scenes and re-dub not the dialog but the gunfire.

Seems that, over the years, Hollywood, in their thirst for ever-more-exciting gun battles, keeps ratcheting up the ol’ sound meter. By now, the sounds you hear bear little to no resemblance to reality. In reality, a handgun doesn’t sound that impressive outside. Within the context of an enclosed space, you’ll hear a lot bigger boom. Forget all that. In the movies, every shot is an opportunity to overdub the sound of a small cannon.

All this adds up to a whole lotta nonsense—-once you know what’s what, gun-wise. Trouble is, once you start learning about guns, you can’t un-ring that bell. You’ll find that every time a handgun shoots 30 or 40 rounds with nary a reload, every time some supposedly serious cop wears heels to a gunfight, and every time a shootout sounds like the 1812 Overture, you’ll realize that you’re being had.

So take my advice. If you wanna enjoy a good cop flick or a shoot-em-up, forget whatever you know about guns. That is, if you wanna enjoy the show.

[Note: Robert Fure—Twitter RejectRobert—will be reviewing movies from a firearms POV for TTAG, starting Friday.]

comments

  1. avatar Donal says:

    Love Stana. Love Molly, too. I saw that episode, and loved the part where he disarmed the bad guy with his car door.

    Our running joke is Walker, Texas Ranger using martial arts and a handgun to defeat twenty thugs with automatic weapons.

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