Kill Shot: How Hollywood Misses the Mark
At the risk of sounding like Jerry Seinfeld, I have to ask: what's the deal with marksmanship in film and television? After years of in-depth research and scouring the planet for the greatest minds in shooting (or, you know, just taking a few days to ask some collegiate shooters what they think) I have found that overall, shooting is not always well represented in the media. Some say get over it, it's "just a movie" or "just a TV show." But it seems this explanation for poor firearm portrayal really does nothing to alleviate the agita it causes within the shooting community. So this week, I have decided to provide a place to commiserate. Here's a list of some of the most common misrepresentations of shooting in fictional film and television.
HIT OR MISS
It seems hitting a target in film and television has less to do with the laws of physics and more to do with Hollywood magic. The instance of this phenomenon most commonly discussed by my peers was the inability of the Stormtroopers from Star Wars to hit the broad side of a barn, or the people standing five feet in front of them. Hannah Black, a collegiate shooter from TCU and fellow camp counselor says, "It's always frustrating when I watch Star Wars because the Stormtroopers can't hit anything and they take twice as many shots as the main characters. Are the main characters just dodging them? Are they ninjas?" Most Star Wars fans still enjoy mocking the Stormtroopers for their unreasonably poor marksmanship and incompetence. I mean, after all, they are the bad guys and they deserve it.
UNREALISTIC AND IDEAL SITUATIONS
On the other side, many characters (usually the protagonists) seem to be able to hit any target regardless of their circumstances. The shooters I interviewed mainly focused in on five things:
- Characters rarely, if ever, run out of ammo. They have these magical, limitless Mary Poppins-style clips that shoot for days. Ariana Grabowski, a teammate and fellow counselor of mine from TCU provided an example, "In the movie Tarzan the name 'Clayton' is synonymous with gunshots. Yet this character, in spite of how often he shoots his double barrel shotgun, only reloads once throughout the entire movie! We all know that's not possible."
- What's up with the sideways handgun thing? How is that accurate?
- Sighting in/checking for windage is just not a thing in movies and TV. A character is about to shoot someone from at least 300 yards—if not more— outdoors, and he or she is just going to pick up a rifle and it will be perfectly sighted in and there is zero wind present to alter the path of the bullet? I don't think so. Usually it happens more like this, as referenced by Haylea Broughton, counselor from the University of Memphis.
- Depending on the genre, the recoil from a gun is either nonexistent (action) or over the top and sends a character flying backwards (comedy). Lead Counselor from the Univeristy of Kentucky, Elijah Ellis says, "In Wedding Crashers, Owen Wilson's character shoots a shotgun and is literally thrown back ten feet and lands on his butt. Like, are you serious?" Interestingly, it seems this lack of recoil leads us to number five.
- Shooting from the hip. What is that all about? Soren Butler, counselor from the Univeristy of Alaska at Fairbanks says, "If anyone knows anything about duels, it's all about the quickest draw and shooting from the hip. I've dedicated the past 13 years of my life to hitting the same damn bull and I can't even do that every time. And you're telling me that these guys can shoot from the hip faster than the blink of an eye and hit someone square in the face? And I thought oatmeal raisin cookies were a lie."
OTHER FUN THINGS
A few other fun topics came up including not wearing hearing protection and not suffering any hearing loss (temporary or long term), everything that gets shot explodes‒regardless of the object and/or the caliber of the rifle and the fact that bullets never seem to go through anything. Generally they hit an object and then magically disappear.
Ultimately, shooting is not accurately portrayed in film and television much to the dismay of the shooting community. Although some exceptions exist, such as a few scenes in Django, Quigley Down Under, American Sniper and some more, the overwhelming conclusion is that Hollywood doesn't get shooting. Just remember kids, a BB gun is so strong that “You'll shoot your eye out!”
Kelly Bogart is a Film, Television and Digital Media and Political Science double major at Texas Christian University. Bogart has seven years of shooting under her belt and currently competes on TCU’s Women’s Rifle Team. Bogart is traveling the country this summer as a coach teaching high school students across the country how to improve their shooting skills. In addition to coaching and competing, Bogart is a freelance blog writer working with The Mako Group.