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Why Don’t Movie and TV Fights Look Real?


I’m gonna fuck you up

I’ve always wondered what makes fights in movies and TV look unreal and lacking. I understand that action movies aren’t exactly the ideal indicator of real, but I’ve always thought that even in drama movies where there is supposed to be a sense of “real”, it is always off in some way. Sure, we’ve made a bit of progress since Captain Kirk fought the Gorn, but most Hollywood directors just straight up get it wrong when they’re trying to get it right, so I compiled lists of what makes fight scenes look unreal and what elements they’re missing from real life fights.

What Makes Fight Scenes Look Unreal:
-Stupid ass bad guys. Why is it that when a group of guys fight the hero, none of them know how to attack at the same time instead of sequentially?
-Laughable power differentials
-Unbelievable dialogue
-Perfect settings
-The fact that this is a movie and that everything is choreographed

What’s Missing:
-A lack of control
-Punches that are missed not because the super cool guy can dodge that fast but because in real life, people sometimes punch air
-The word “bitch” being uttered every 10 seconds

You know what’s producing the fight scenes people actually like? WorldStarHipHop. Specifically those WorldStarHipHop fight compilation videos. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, that’s okay; it just means you don’t squander your time on facebook pages watching vine videos and are a more functional human being than everyone else.

Tweets, vines, snapchats, etc. are basically the freebased derivatives of internet media; when you freebase anything viral, they usually end up on these channels that spread like crack. And these fight compilations, these real fights, these are crack. They spread through the inter-tubes faster than fire because people love it. Watching two kids fight behind the dumpster at school used to be a reason to ditch first period. The best part of football games is the tailgate party where you get to watch some douche fuck up some chode. You can enjoy these adrenaline pumping moments from the comfort of your computer screen but I mean, if you were in one of those fights, those motherfuckers wouldn’t be running their mouths after getting dropped like a sack of bricks, am I right? The next time you’re on one of those videos, take a look at the comments. Half the dudes think they were there. (Seriously, don’t read the comments. You may as well take a bat to the head.)

Of course enjoying a good ol’ fistfight is nothing new. There has always been a primal obsession with watching a dude getting rocked, but film and TV always get it wrong. People like watching real fights more than watching Jack Reacher karate chop a couple of retards because that shit’s fake, son. The element of genuine aggression — that primal feeling — it seems to always be lacking. That’s what makes us drawn to fights in the first place. They are unwritten litmus tests to see who is a man and who isn’t, whether or not we will admit it.

As far as a realistic fight scene goes, here is a scene from The Wire. It’s pretty cliche to say it’s a real fight from a real TV show, but I supposed it’s accurate enough.

This is a real fight in the sense that it is genuine. Some people will say this is just a child getting assaulted and that this isn’t a real fight because it’s not fair, but real fights aren’t fair. I didn’t look for a scene that displays what inner city life is like on purpose, but that’s what people view as genuine; whatever is happening outside of your reality is more genuine than your own. The fact that Kenard is like 10 is what makes it real. A bit too real, as if it’s supposed to belong on WorldStarHipHop or Vine instead of TV.

This post is dedicated to co-editor Fabius who is a large fan of The Wire, which he states as being “the most realest show on TV, along with Breaking Bad.”

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10 Responses

  1. I’m a little busy (and been writing on this site way too much for it to be healthy), so I’ll just propose this, the reason why fights don’t seem or feel real is because nobody actually wants it, in the same way nobody wants real sex in their romances/dramas.

    In stories, fights are choreographed set pieces that visually communicate resistance, intended to serve the story. They exist to provide further explication of characters’ motivations, personality traits, etc. or to introduce new plot points and release dramatic tension. The kind of fight you get and how ‘real’ they feel is usually related to the kind of story that’s being told, how well the fight has been set up, and whether you actually care about the characters. The actual fighting will still be well-choreographed, with maybe a cut here and a broken bone there for ‘realism’.

    World Star Hip Hop fights rarely last a minute. If they do, 90% of it will be posturing, 1% will be actual ‘fighting’ and the rest will be a mob stomping on the poor loser who’s curled up in the fetal position/out cold. If that kind of fight serves the story, sure. But you don’t want that kind of fight EVERY TIME. Even the Wire example you provided, served the kind of story the Wire was trying to tell.

    What about master combatants? If they aren’t being paid by the UFC, they rarely enter into conflicts unless they’re 100% sure they’ll win. Which is why the most realistic depiction of a ‘fight’ in the entire James Bond series happens here:

    You don’t have to read Sun Tzu to know the best way to win a conflict is to put your enemy in a position where you can destroy him but he can’t hurt you. Hence, drones. And hence, NOT GI Joe.

  2. The sex and violence scenes, in other words, are uncomfortable for viewing with the family ( because they disrupt the ooze of blissfull anti-communication. The comforting silence becomes uncomfortable, they force you to respond yet keep you from doing so.

  3. Hmm, I’ve read your (GuyFox) comment at least five times now and I’m not entirely sure how we differ. It seems like you’re saying we need a distance for both sex and fighting scenes in order for them to be represented as mere scenes as such, and not real, which allows for the plot to go on, am I reading you wrongly? That seems to be what I suggested in my own comment above. The closer you get, the more revolting it is, which is the same for both sex and violence, and I’m not sure where we differ on this.

    I think neoteny’s comment is incredibly interesting and en point, but it seems also that the issue with language is thoroughly complicated. Many people have disagreed about the functionalities of language, etc.In any case, it seems occasionallyclever’s point is that we don’t want what is real – and all of us are essentially agreeing in some way or another, I think Nojustice’s inclusion of tempo choreography makes this point certain. That there requires a symbolic fiction to sustain our existence.

    Problem is… I’m not too sure that’s true. It’s complicated and I’m too lazy to write all of it our here, but this segregation of reality and falsity is increasingly dubious to me.

    Let’s put it this way – it’s not reality against falsity since we’ve already established that it’s family vs non-family. Btw, I’ve heard that european families are more open to sex scenes and cringe w.r.t violent scenes, would a european verify that for me? In any case, it seems to be more of the issue of social repression via the nuclear family w.r.t what determines the relationship or reality and falsity. As individuals, we are more prone to see the real, whereas familial shit requires a mediation. The problem here however, is that it also does seem to me that television attempts to constantly posit a non-reality that is increasingly more real. Okay my point is this, have you guys watched Madea’s like family TV shows? Tyler Perry has these shows about African-American families where I’ve watched one episode or two and it is exactly like a pure simulacra of the cosby show, prince of bel-air and the 70′s show, where there is this tomfoolery that characterizes a form of non-reality within the show itself. On the other hand, there is this surge of breaking bad, the wire, sopranos where (I haven’t watched any TV shows in the past 10 years so it’s all based on hearsay) there is an increasing demand to say it is insanely real. The familial trend requires a form of falsity, the individual watvhing TV on computer trend pushes it the other way into reality.

    Yet, this is my suspicion. It seems to be like that breaking bad, the wire, are recreating a new form of experience, an experience of family without family. In the sense that there is clearly this odd singular aspect to watching these shows, but there is also a form of familiality that exists despite this. This fiction, if you will, sustains what the family will have, while trespassing familial lines into showing real violence real sex, etc.

    I don’t know, these are all hunches and I’m out of the TV loop. I hope this is of some help to anyone who’s interested.

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