“Expert reacts” videos and accuracy in TV and movies

I’ve recently stumbled on a new trend in YouTube videos: experts taking popular movies and TV shows and reviewing scenes from them for accuracy. Wired and Vulture have done several of them, and some educational YouTube channels have found that they’re very popular with viewers.

I’ve watched dozens of them over the past few weeks, and many of them are fascinating, not only for people who like to nitpick about fiction as presented on screen, but because they demonstrate how hard it can be to get things right, and how great it is to see when they do.

If this kind of thing interests you as well, I’ve compiled the ones I’ve found below, grouped by topic. Enjoy.

Accents

Wired’s Technique Critique: Accents

I think this is the video that kind of started the genre, it has more than 6 million views, and it’s among the best: Erik Singer, a dialect coach, goes through various performances in movies and not only says whether the accents are correct or not, but explains in a detailed but accessible way how the accents are supposed to work. Or in the case of Mickey Rooney’s ridiculous Japanese accent in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, a disgusted dismissal that you can’t help laughing at.

Common error: Though the critiques are about individual actors’ performances, Singer doesn’t blame the actors, chalking up errors to a lack of preparation time, and clarifying that it’s the responsibility of the actors, directors and coaches to ensure they’re done properly.

See also:

Fighting

Vulture’s Expert Witness: Hollywood sword fights

Fight coordinator and fencing expert Jared Kirby finds the scenes he critiques surprisingly accurate (with one notable exception). But he doesn’t go into much detail about technique, which is unfortunate.

Common error: It’s very easy to defend yourself against a bunch of enemies when most of them are standing around and waiting for their turn to attack you.

BuzzFeed: How Realistic Are Movie Sword Fights?

Raab Rashi, a sword class instructor, looks at sword fights specifically, and you can tell he enjoys these kinds of scenes in movies. He does a decent job of explaining swordfighting strategy, though the video could better illustrate how they’re doing it wrong.

Common error: Swords used as clubs or bats. They’re sharp things to stab or cut with.

BuzzFeed: MMA Coach Reviews Fight Scenes In Movies

Rene Dreifuss, MMA coach, takes a look at various fight scenes (hand-to-hand combat) and notes that moves that appear very spectacular on film are actually bad fight moves because they do little against your opponent. Dreifuss gets into a bit of detail when critiquing a scene in Casino Royale, but otherwise doesn’t explain much of why some scenes are realistic and others aren’t.

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SELF: Fighting Expert Breaks Down Movie & TV Fight Moves

This one is much better. Competitive fighter and Muay Thai champion Raquel Harris reviews movie scenes that feature boxing and martial arts techniques and explains why certain moves work and others don’t, like a trainer in a gym. She explains momentum and training techniques and even the kinds of things you shouldn’t do because they might cause injuries. Though the scenes are more about fighting as a sport than fighting for your life in an action movie.

Common error: Moves that pointlessly reduce momentum. Kicking someone while airborne may look cool, but you lose the force that you can get by pushing off the ground.

Medicine

Wired’s Technique Critique: Emergency/operating room

This spring, Wired decided to bring back this series and expand into other areas of expert critique. In this episode, Annie Onishi, a general surgery resident at Columbia University, looks specifically at how surgeons behave in an operating room and some aspects of emergency care. Like the other Wired videos, it focuses on being educational but using short out-of-context clips from the works they’re critiquing to add some humour.

Common error: Doctors never actually say “we’re losing him” in an emergency or operating room. Even in emergency situations, things aren’t nearly as panicky as depicted in movies and TV.

Dr. Hope’s Sick Notes

Dr. Ed Hope is a junior doctor working in the U.K., which means his experience is slightly different from an American doctor (he uses the term “consultant” to refer to an attending physician, for example). He also has less experience than other experts, having been a web developer until three years ago, so he’ll often confess to not knowing if a particular action or procedure is accurate or if an ailment is possible. But his knowledge of medicine is strong and he communicates it well, with a folksy charm. Hope’s interjections are more about the diagnostic side of medicine, and explaining how diseases work. He also talks a lot about the personal side of being a doctor — how it feels, how they don’t usually have sex in on-call rooms, etc.

Common error: Doctors have specialties, and you won’t see a surgeon doing X-rays or an emergency room doctor running a blood test.

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Dr. Mike’s Doctor Reacts series

Dr. Mike (Dr. Mikhail “Mike” Varshavski D.O.) is a family doctor based in New York. He’s really popular, with his reaction to Grey’s Anatomy’s pilot racking up 11 million views in four months. His videos, which cover dozens of different medical and lifestyle topics, are very educational and he gets a bit intense in following these medical dramas, especially when they get things wrong.

Common error: When a code is called, there’s a procedure to follow and everyone is given a responsibility. And during a heart attack, someone is always doing chest compressions.

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Side note: the similarity between Dr. Hope and Dr. Mike’s videos (both are doctors who publish a wide range of videos and decided to do reaction videos to medical dramas because those are very popular) led to Dr. Hope kind of (diplomatically) accusing Dr. Mike of stealing his idea. Dr. Mike took exception to this and noted that his YouTube channel is older and this idea is hardly that original. Both sides could have handled this better, frankly.

Vanity Fair: Dr. Ken Jeong Reviews House, Dr. Oz & Other TV Doctors

Though it’s actually older than most of the videos I list here, this 2016 video of Ken Jeong (a real doctor turned actor) is more like a parody of the rest. He jokingly critiques House and ER but then also comments on Dr. J, Dr. Dre and Dr. Pepper.

Mental health

Film Herald

Just one video so far, but it looks at the movie Shame, about sex addiction, not so much to criticize the acting or writing in the film itself, but as a springboard to ask questions about how mental illness works.

Animals

Vulture’s Expert Witness: Dinosaur Movies

This is apparently a new series by Vulture, inviting experts to comment on movies. In this video, Columbia University professor Paul Olsen comments on dinosaur movies, and the Jurassic Park series in particular (but also some silly things like the TV series Dinosaurs and the Flintstones movie). Our understanding of dinosaurs has evolved over time, though most of what he reviews is recent enough that any scientists their producers discovered should have known better.

Vulture’s Expert Witness: Shark attacks

Shark researcher George Burgess criticizes Jaws and other shark attack scenes, which are mostly the same general structure: person swimming in the water or even on a boat is surprised when a shark suddenly appears and bites or swallows them. Spoiler: They’re all unrealistic, because sharks rarely attack humans.

BuzzFeed: A Shark Expert Reviews Shark Movies

Jill McAndrew of the Long Island Aquarium (whose first name is misspelled in the video) is having none of this nonsense. Sharks, she points out, are just too lazy to stalk human prey that aren’t immediately accessible when there’s plenty of other fish in the sea.

Crime investigations

Wired’s Technique Critique: Crime scene investigations

The latest episode of Wired’s series features Matthew Steiner, a crime scene analyst and investigator, looking at crime scene investigations. It’s generally the same types of errors — contamination of a crime scene, mishandling of evidence (no, pens are not sterile tools), jumping to conclusions — which just underlines how badly this work is depicted and how much of those depictions are based on what creators themselves see in TV and movies.

Common error: Crime scenes never have dozens of cops in street clothes walking around them, for obvious reasons. They’re sterile, with a small number of specialized technicians in head-to-toe protection and multiple layers of gloves.

Law

LegalEagle

This lawyer, whose channel is more straight in its educational content, tackles how TV and movies depict legal activities, in particular courtroom scenes in a trial. It’s a bit more dry than other channels of this type, but without being uninteresting.

Common error: Courtroom scenes often depict lawyers stepping into the well between the judge and the lawyers’ tables, or even cozying up to the witness stand. In reality this is unusual and not allowed without explicit permission from the judge.

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Espionage

BuzzFeed: A Real Spy Reviews A Spy TV Show

Former KGB spy Jack Barsky reviews The Americans. This is an interesting idea, but Barsky’s review is pretty general and doesn’t get into any specifics about technique.

Technology

Vulture’s Expert Witness: Hollywood Hacking Scenes

Security experts Chris Fisco and Jim Krantz discuss some iconic hacking scenes and point out that the more spectacular effects are the most unrealistic and the weakest link in any security system is usually a user with access to it.

WIRED Brand Lab: Hacker Breaks Down ‘Ocean’s 8’ Hacking Scenes

Here, security researcher Samy Kamkar explains some of the basic concepts of digital security using scenes from this movie. He doesn’t critique the movie directly and find faults in its plot or acting, but rather describes what types of vulnerabilities are being exploited in the various scenes.

UPDATE: Video has been pulled for some reason.

Physics

Domain of Science: Movie Night with a Physicist

Dominic Walliman is a science writer and physicist, and critiques a series of movies in this one-off video. Movie physics are often comically bad (and physics and science in general make for bad drama), so Walliman has a lot of material to work with.

Restaurants

Vulture’s Expert Witness: Hollywood food scenes

Chef Dale Talde has some fun with this critique of how people act in restaurants, though it’s hard to tell what parts of it are serious. He makes a good point at the end though about how in the movies, most of the people in a kitchen are white. That’s not how it looks like in real life.

Summer camp

Vulture’s Expert Witness: Hollywood camp scenes

Long-time camp counsellors Ali Hare and Tom Bloch talk about scenes at summer camps. And though they seem like fun people, it’s not nearly as interesting to criticize fictional camps as it is fictional medicine or science.

Other similar series:

  • History Buffs reviews historical movies with a focus on accuracy, though not in the expert-reacts style.

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