Popular culture is the lens through which we can experience places and situations we never come across in everyday life.  Thanks to modern media consumption, every teenager that’s never left Wisconsin still has what many could justifiably consider a passable understanding of the cultures and lifestyles of people all over the world.  Not everything we see on TV is fantasy; I’ve never been to Antarctica, but thanks to my interest in programs involving it, I feel like I have a reasonable sense of what the landscape looks like, how treacherous the journey there can be, and just how difficult it would be to get my hands on a cup of Dunkin’ Donuts coffee once I arrived.

But that’s the problem.  As I’ve mentioned in the past, the incredible landmarks we grow up seeing on TV are rarely as we imagine them, no matter how many hours we spend watching NatGeo.  I’ve been to Pyramids ranging from Mayan to Egyptian, to arenas ranging from the New England Patriot’s turf at Gillette to the Gladiator’s sand in the Roman Coliseum, and I’ve walked down the impoverished streets of villages depicted in “Save The Children” commercials – and time and time again, I was faced with perspective shifting realities due to the omissions or complete fabrications I’d grown up with in order to make these locations more marketable or plot-friendly in TV shows, movies, and video games.

These kinds of misconceptions aren’t relegated specifically to geography.  As we covered in part one of this series, there are a lot of things about combat, tactical situations, and even regular old fist fights that many of us get wrong thanks to a steady supply of misinformation being delivered via action movie tropes.  In part one, we covered flesh wounds, being knocked unconscious, and the power of explosive blasts.  Now, in part two, we’ll venture further into the world of excusable misconceptions many of us harbor about violence because, much like the Pyramids of Giza, we’re only ever shown what producers want us to see.

Myth #1: Tranquilizers are effective enough to be used as weapons

Tranquilizers in movies and TV shows are often delivered via dart, and used by either heroes or villains to dispatch someone without actually having to kill them.  The scene always plays out pretty simply: a security guard passes by on patrol when someone shoots him in the neck with a tranquilizer dart.

Immediately, the security guard grabs his neck, with the dart standing perfectly between his split fingers (no one would ever to think to pull a dart they found in their neck out, I guess) before he slinks down to the floor, unconscious and no worse for wear.

“I’ll just hold this in with my fingers until I get sleepy.”

Obviously, this isn’t the case.  If we could load our magazines full of the kind of tranquilizer darts that immediately knock a person out and allow them to wake up a few hours later with no ill effects, we’d arm every police department in the country with a Costco box full of them.  In reality, tranquilizer darts are a means of delivery for powerful sedatives.  Sedatives, being a kind of drug, can come with all sorts of complications – and rarely work as effectively as movies would have you believe.

First of all, the dosage of whatever sedative one chooses to put in their dart need to be carefully determined for each target.  Loading enough sedative into a dart that would put me down (at two hundred and forty pounds) would almost certainly kill an adult woman who walks around at half my size.  And even when wildlife experts do use a specifically calculated amount of sedative to subdue a large animal, it can take anywhere from minutes to hours for the drugs to set in enough to make it safe to approach them.  There’s a reason surgeons rely on an anesthetist to administer and monitor the drugs used to put you under for surgery: it’s an exact science that could easily kill you if you’re given too much, and may leave you waking up early if given too little.