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In honour of the upcoming movie Lucy and the fact that I am a science teacher, I want to talk about myths that appear in film, in particular the myth that is used in the trailers for Lucy.
Humans only use 10% of their brain.
If you really think about it, this can’t possibly be true. Why would humans have the other 90% if it wasn’t used? The reason, of course, is that the other 90% contains all our superhuman telepathy powers! Or that is what movies like the aforementioned Lucy would have you believe.
The reality is that humans use their entire brain, although some areas are less active at certain times. And although humans have the potential to increase the abilities of their brain through education and training, it is not to the extent that the 10% myth would have you believe.
Think about it. If humans only used 10% of their brain then large portions of the brain could be removed without any harm.
Now you may think that science takes all the fun out of movies because it says things like, “The X-Men’s Angel would have to have horrific looking musculature in order to have wings that could support his weight.”
But did you know lawyers can also ruin movies? They sure can because Batman is guilty of embezzling corporate funds for personal gains (which probably also leads to falsifying corporate documents).
The point is not that science and lawyers ruin movies, the point is that movies are not the same as the real world. Films exist in their own world with their own rules. But when your entire movie is based on a myth, such as Lucy, it is not the fault of science for saying it’s wrong, it’s the fault of the movie for lying.
The lesson in all of this, is that stories have to be based on the workings of the real world in order for them to be believable. Many times movies create their own version of the real world and therefore are not a reflection of reality yet they are perfectly believable (for example, swords make loud metallic sounds when drawn, guns make cocking sounds when drawn, cars explode whenever they crash, a stab wound always kills people).
So when you are writing a story recognize that you can push the boundaries of believability to an extent, but do not base the man plot of your story on lies or a myth. Batman works because it is about a man seeking justice for his parent’s death, the embezzling funds is a small potion most people ignore, X-men works because the audience recognizes that these are mutants, not humans so the rules that govern their bodies are different. If I wrote a script about a man being murdered by a gun that shoots around corners I’d be told that my story is not believable because the rules that govern guns say they fire in a straight line (or an arc if you get technical).
Remember that the audience comes in with certain expectations of how the world operates and you must respect that. If you want to change the rules, make sure it is a detail they will overlook, or explain why the rules are of your film are different from the real world.
I will have to wait till Lucy comes out to see how the audience reacts, but I suspect many will find it “unbelievable”.