Watching movies is a wonderful escape from the real world, especially those films with a happy ending. However, when taking a deeper look at specific films, there are shocking themes that viewers seem to overlook. Some of these elements are so surprising that you’ll never look at those films the same way again.
1. Unfaithful Women Are Sympathetic
Movies such as The Bridges of Madison County (1995) and Sleepless in Seattle (1993) have female protagonists who are already married or engaged but become involved with another man. The women are not criticized for their lack of loyalty to their respective partners and are painted sympathetically for pursuing what is supposedly a once-in-a-lifetime love.
2. Unfaithful Men Are Unsympathetic
On the other hand, when a man on the silver screen is unfaithful to their spouse, he becomes the target for revenge. In The First Wives Club (1996), a trio of women collaborate to get back at the husbands who left them for younger women, and the viewers cheer them on. The women are the story’s heroines with a noble purpose, and the men are thoroughly unlikeable.
3. It’s Okay to Scare Bad Kids
In the original Toy Story (1996), Andy is the good little boy who owns sentient toys like Woody and Buzz Lightyear. His next-door neighbor, Sid, is an angry boy who takes out his aggression by maiming and destroying his and everyone else’s toys. When Sid gets ahold of Buzz Lightyear, Woody joins forces with the toys Sid has mutilated to terrify him in return. Audiences may not like Sid for good reason, but he’s still a child.
4. Hero or Mass Murderer?
Action films like the John Wick series (2014 – 2023), Die Hard series (1988 – 2013), Rambo films (1982 – 2019), and The Expendables series (2010 – 2023) franchises feature the hero of the films wounding or killing scores of their enemies. Then, they walk away as if nothing happened. If this occurred in real life, it would outrage people. But because it’s on film and the good guys are winning, it doesn’t faze viewers.
5. Lies Are Romantic
More than a few rom-coms revolve around a relationship that begins with a lie. The complications and predicaments that result from the lie drive the film’s comedy. In The Truth About Cats & Dogs (1996), a woman deceives her love interest by having her fashion model friend impersonate her. The relationship briefly ends once the deception is exposed but resumes happily. How often would this work in real life?
6. Inappropriate Relationships
When Marty McFly travels back in time in Back to the Future (1985) and meets his future parents as teenagers, his future mother develops a creepy and wildly inappropriate infatuation with Marty. The creepy vibes can also apply to Woody Allen’s Manhattan (1979), where he plays a 42-year-old man with a 17-year-old girlfriend. It’s disturbing how that isn’t discussed more often.
7. Domestic Terrorism Is Justifiable
Tyler Durden, the lead character in the 1999 movie Fight Club, is disillusioned with society and lives in an imaginary world. Still, his fantasies come at a human cost. He considers himself a disrupter of social norms and a rebel with a cause by blowing up office buildings, but in reality, he’s murdering the innocent people who work in those dwellings. Yet this fact is hardly mentioned when discussing the movie.
8. Natural Disasters Are Entertaining
The films Twister (1996) and The Day After Tomorrow (2004) are two examples of the Hollywood theme that natural disasters are a form of entertainment. Twister follows a group of meteorologists as they try to advance their knowledge of tornadoes. The disastrous effects of climate change that usher in a new Ice Age on most of the planet is the premise of The Day After Tomorrow. The loss of life, especially in the latter film, almost seems incidental.
9. Science Run Amok
Scientific research offers countless benefits to humanity. However, when scientists perform experiments without giving enough attention to those actions’ ethical, legal, and moral implications, you get the events of the Jurassic Park franchise (1993 – 2022). Scientists genetically engineer multiple dinosaur species with disastrous results for ecosystems and humans alike.
10. Neglectful Parents
A frequent trope used for comic effect is the concept of the forgetful, neglectful parents who are so preoccupied with their own lives they forget their children. The Home Alone series of films (1990 – 1997) revolves around careless caretakers. Understandably, parents are juggling many responsibilities, but to misplace one of their kids like car keys? This wouldn’t be a comical scenario in real life.
11. The Other
In each Indiana Jones film, the hero encounters an enemy he must outwit to defeat. In the second film, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984), Indy had to defeat an Indian cult that kidnapped children and practiced human sacrifice. This theme relies on the Hollywood formula of people with brown skin as the savage, uncivilized, brown-skinned Others.
12. Manipulative Parents
Another scenario viewers wouldn’t consider funny if it happened in real life is this: a divorced dad goes undercover as an older woman and works for his ex-wife as the nanny so he can spend more time with his children. But this is the plot of the 1993 movie Mrs. Doubtfire. It may be a beloved Robin Williams comedy, but the plot is more than a little odd.
13. The White Savior
Socioeconomically disadvantaged people of color who don’t have the means or knowledge to elevate themselves from their difficult circumstances are uplifted or saved by a White authority figure. Dangerous Minds (1995) fits this bill, telling the story of a White teacher working in a high school with a majority Black and Latino population and her efforts to educate and improve them.
14. The Inept Dad
The idea that moms are the only competent parents within families is used for comic effect in movies like Mr. Mom (1983). When a married dad loses his job, his wife, who left her professional career to be a stay-at-home mom, re-enters the workforce while he becomes a stay-at-home dad. Of course, the dad has difficulty wrangling kids, changing diapers, and has a losing battle with a vacuum cleaner. Films like this make men look like goofballs who can’t handle child-rearing and common household duties.
15. Good Girls Survive
Some horror movies send the message that virginal women are more likely to survive than women who are more worldly. John Carpenter’s Halloween (1978) illustrates this as the two teen girls with boyfriends are murdered by Michael Myers, and the chaste single girl who’s never had a boyfriend manages to outwit the determined killer and survive.
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