A few weeks ago, I came across a video of a surgical resident reviewing medical scenes from TV shows and movies. I devoured all twenty minutes of the doctor critiquing everything from Grey’s Anatomy to the adrenaline scene from Pulp Fiction, because even though I hadn’t seen a lot of the media she was reviewing, it was fascinating to watch her react to and analyze each scene. She didn’t just point out what was wrong in the scene but why it was wrong, the consequences of doing it incorrectly, and what the correct medical procedure would look like.
As it turns out, this type of video is quickly gaining popularity on YouTube, and lots of people are taking to the internet to critique the way that media represents their jobs. The channel Legal Eagle has reviewed Law & Order, How to Get Away With Murder, The Good Wife, and many other shows and movies that represent the law. Famously hot Doctor Mike has a “Real Doctor Reacts” series in which he watches medical shows like Scrubs, The Good Doctor, and Grey's Anatomy, and discusses how accurately they portray being a doctor. Wired has a series called "Technique Critique" for which they've brought on accent experts, forensic scientists, and doctors to discuss shows and movies' representation of accents and fictional languages, crime scenes, and surgery. There’s even a video of a Muay Thai champion critiquing famous movie fight scenes. All of these videos consistently get anywhere between a few hundred thousand to tens of millions of views. Many commenters note how interesting it is to see their favourite shows and movies picked apart for their authenticity.
When it comes to jargon and quick-fire mentions of procedures and techniques, we don’t stop to question the accuracy of what we’re seeing. For the average viewer without much knowledge of the field that is being represented, most details about characters’ jobs in TV or movies go over our heads. These critique videos are satisfying to watch for their ability to break down what likely went over your head the first time. While most media critics can dissect direction, acting, writing, and cinematography very well, hearing from experts about their take on the reliability of the way their jobs are represented often gives me a newfound appreciation (or dislike) for the thing I’m watching.
It’s not the audience’s responsibility to know everything about the law before we watch Suits, and most of us watching Scrubs have no idea what it’s like to actually be a doctor. Most showrunners aren’t experts on other fields either, so they hire consultants and analysts who help them preserve accuracy and make sure that the way they are representing jobs, historical issues, and real people’s lives is up to par.
However, a lot of shows misrepresent the realities of day-to-day jobs and situations, and they know they can get away with cutting corners since most of us are just here for the drama. Many shows finish their stories in episodes or arcs by rewriting the rules of some professions, and they don’t do this to be productive and criticize the shortcomings and discrimination in the field, but just to wrap things up.
Misrepresenting real jobs has consequences—bad representation gives people the wrong idea about how things actually work, especially when it’s presented in the form of a serious drama, where the representation becomes more legitimized than if in a comedy. This results in things like the CSI effect, the well-documented phenomenon of people thinking they’re forensics experts because they’ve seen CSI.
Some of Wired’s Technique Critique videos focus on how authentic the portrayals of real people are as well, whether that means real accents or historical figures and celebrities. In these videos, a dialect coach breaks down how well an actor expresses other languages or depicts real people, and he takes time to teach us linguistic terms for why certain accents sound the way they do. I appreciate this genre expanding beyond reviewing jobs to reviewing the representation of real life people and situations, because letting bad representation slide is not only giving an OK to lazy writing, but can also perpetuate harmful myths about people and cultures.
Similar to the videos of the dialect coach reviewing actors playing real people, Buzzfeed recently had a psychologist review the way mental illness is portrayed in movies. He was quick to point out that even though people don’t take all media representations completely seriously, they still get their ideas about mental illness from these poor representations.
But fear not—these critique videos are tackling TV and movies’ representation one at a time. It’s important to remember that these critics are not complete experts either, and the more opinions we get, the better. We don’t expect people to get every little detail right when they make a movie, but we should hold the TV shows and movies we watch to a higher standard when it comes to how they represent real-life jobs, conditions, and cultures.
With such an appetite for these sorts of videos, I’m sure we’d love to watch journalists and writers review everything from Spotlight to 13 Going On 30; politicians and government employees review West Wing, House of Cards, Parks and Recreation, etc.; athletes and coaches react to sports movies; dancers critique Step Up and Dirty Dancing; and teachers and professors review Dead Poet’s Society, Community, and others. The possibilities are endless! Is there a rat out there who wants to review Ratatouille? We want to hear from you, rat.
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