Title text: If the breaking news is about an event at a hospital or a lab, move it all the way over to the right.
This chart is a visual representation of how worried people should be by various events in real life compared to the same events in movies, based on the the likelihood of the event causing serious harm. In effect it's poking fun at various cliches and the emphasis on dramatic flair, regardless of realism. The chart's Y-axis indicates how worrying an event is in real life (from "not very worried" to "very worried"), while its X-axis shows how worrying the event is in movies. Nine events are shown in the chart, all of them cliches in the medium of film:
- Spilling a drink on your shirt: In both real life and in movies, this just causes a stain and maybe a little embarrassment.
- Nosebleed: Nosebleeds are common in real life and almost never are serious... almost. Nosebleeds in movies are almost always a sign that something is seriously wrong -- the common, mundane nosebleeds never come up. (Note: this applies to random nosebleeds with no specific cause. Characters may walk out of fistfights with completely inconsequential nosebleeds, for instance.)
- Breaking news: People in real life commonly don't pay much attention to the news at all, so many breaking stories go unnoticed until much later. Most breaking news stories are also about non-threatening events (eg. presidential addresses) or events that are far removed from the viewer. However, in movies, seeing the news station switch to a "breaking news" broadcast is universally a means to introduce a significant plot element that the characters find worrying, and large numbers of people are often shown watching and being emotionally affected by the news while it's breaking. XKCD has referenced news reports as foreshadowing before.
- Parking ticket: Tickets in movies are almost always ignored, but in real life they are moderately worrying because they cost money and can tarnish your driving record.
- Persistent cough: In real life, coughing fits can be a sign of serious illness, but usually aren't. (If you have a persistent cough, you should check with a doctor.) In movies, just like with nosebleeds, a person with a persistent cough is almost always extremely ill or infectious.
- "We need to talk": This phrase is a common, stereotypical lead-in to a serious conversation, usually about a couple's relationship status, that often causes a high level of worry in the recipient. According to this chart, this phrase is equally worrisome both in movies and in real life.
- Getting knocked out by a punch: In movies, a character who is knocked out by a punch always wakes up sometime later with no lasting effects. In real life, however, a person knocked out by a punch can suffer serious brain injuries or even die from the punch itself, or can sustain further injuries from their head hitting the ground.
- Chest wounds: The chart mentions wounds on both your right and left sides. In real life, a chest wound to either side is extremely worrying. But in movies, getting wounded on the right side of the chest will rarely deal lasting damage to the hero or primary villain, to show how badass they are. Wounds on the left side of the chest signify swift death. This can be explained by the common misconception that the heart is on the left side of the chest. (It is actually in the centre, with a slight tendency to the left.) However, even left-side chest wounds are apparently still less worrisome than nosebleeds. It must also be noted that the term "chest wound" is more broad than what the author of the comic appears to mean. A more narrow terms of "thoracic gunshot wound", "gunshot chest wound", "thoracic ballistic trauma" or "penetrating chest wound" (the latter is slightly broader and includes the damage inflicted by blades and other impaled objects) would be more appropriate, because just a "chest wound" includes such insignificant events as minor skin cuts in the chest area.
The title text refers to "breaking news" reports in movies - whenever the news story covers an event at a hospital (usually an outbreak of some major disease) or a laboratory (a monster escaping, a toxic gas released, an explosion, etc.), these events are universally much more worrisome than any other type of news story since they are guaranteed to be important for the protagonists in short order.
[A chart is presented with the title "How Worried Should You Be When Various Things Happen To You:". The vertical axis is titled "...In Real Life", and the horizontal axis is titled "...In Movies". Both axes start at "Not very worried" and move outward toward "Very worried".]
[Events, moving from bottom to top of the "In Real Life" scale:]
|In real life||In movies||Event description|
|Not very worried||Not very worried||Spilling a drink on your shirt|
|Not very worried||Extremely worried||Nosebleed|
|Slightly worried||Mostly worried||Breaking news|
|Slightly more worried||Not at all worried||Parking ticket|
|Moderately worried||Very worried||Persistent cough|
|Mostly worried||Mostly worried||"We need to talk"|
|Mostly worried (slightly more)||Not at all worried||Getting knocked out by a punch|
|Very worried||Slightly worried||(Chest wound) ...on your right side|
|Very worried||Very worried||(Chest wound) ...on your left side|
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