A blog for odd things and odd thoughts.

Treating cliches like the plague

I retain a little vestige of hope for the American movie and TV industry. A little bit of wide-eyed innocence in an otherwise cynical world.

My naive little hope is that, if we, the audience, identify some of the formulae and cliches under which Hollywood labours, if we bring them to the open, and expose people to their folly, we will begin to innoculate the audiences into rejecting them. Then the Hollywood writers will see their folly. They will be penitent, and they will do better in the future for us, and our children and our children’s children.

Roger Ebert probably had a similar thought when he wrote his glossary of movie terms.

I recently heard a piece by a movie-goer complaining that all Southern accents in Hollywood films were more influenced by Mel Blanc’s Foghorn Leghorn parody of the Southern gentleman than actual real people. He even managed to track down and out one of the key Hollywood voice-coaches responsible! Perhaps this movie-goer hoped to dissuade Hollywood from continuing the cliche.

I have done my bit, by complaining to all who will listen about my most hated movie cliche: the Abandoned Factory Rule.

According to the Abandoned Factory Rule, in any action movie, the more guns and armaments used by the bad guy at the beginning and middle of the film to shoot at the good guys, the more likely that the final scene will end up in a abandoned factory, where the good guy and the bad guy end up fighting in unarmed man-on-man combat. [If it turns out the bad guys uses a trick to overcome the hero, there is a special provision for the reintroduction of a weapon, such as lead piping or a pistol or a re-activated piece of factory machinery, by the otherwise-helpless-love-interest or previously-wounded-presumed-dead-supporting-actor.]

Identifying these formulae and cliches might help a little in reducing the problem. The problem with disused factories seems to have abated since the 80s, but maybe I am just more successful at avoiding those movies.

I recently couldn’t avoid seeing the rather forgettable movie Sahara, released only this year. It still suffers from Ebert’s “Dirt Equals Virtue” and “Fifty-five Gallon Drum Rule” definitions. I won’t comment on the quality of the southern accents. I am afraid to say it also has a fight on the roof of an abandoned factory. In its defence, it introduced a novel twist by putting the scene only two-thirds through the movie, leaving another more explosive climax for the end.

Reject the cliched plots we are presented! Laugh at the writing of the movies that fall prey to these diseases. My hope remains that one day, Hollywood studio backlots will dismantle the last of the disused factory sets, and some of these cliches will go the way of smallpox.


  1. Could have sworn that I saw this on the Movie Cliches List, but I can’t find it now.

    Maybe the Office of Film Classification should require that all films containing abandoned factory scenes be labelled as such?

  2. Thanks for the link. It is clear to me that the web-master, Giancarlo Cairella, is doing God’s work.

  3. “…some of these cliches will go the way of smallpox.”

    You mean they will be worked on in laboratories to make them as lethal as possible, and then used as a pretext for invading oil-rich middle-eastern countries?

    “We have evidence that Saddam is preparing the world’s largest abandoned factory, containing over eight miles of plumbing cut to 2-foot lengths, with machinery that can be started in under fifteen minutes!”

  4. I recently couldn’t avoid seeing the rather forgettable movie Sahara

    I note, with some pleasure, that six years later I have absolutely no recollection of this film. I couldn’t tell you who is in it or any part of the plot. (Is it set in the Sahara?)

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