Author J.A. Carter-Winward, Author/Poet J.A. Carter-Winward, Cliches, Tropes, and Just...No., Life, New or Upcoming releases by JACW, New Publication-Poetry, Socio-cultural, Work in Progress: Dialogues & Poems


Or what we learn from television and movies

Image courtesy Wikimedia

I’d like to take a moment and skim, or rather run my fingers through the many valuable lessons I’ve learned via the big screen as well as the tiny flat, rounded, or flickering screens in our homes. These lessons are things that, when taken to heart, must surely inform how to live our lives—and live them well!

Are you ready? Let us begin.

Image courtesy


  • Never, ever get in your car without first looking in the back seat.
  • Never walk down a hall while lights flicker.
  • Never open a door without looking over your shoulder—not that one, the other one.
  • For goodness sake, never, ever continue doing something if you hear the sound of low, menacing bass, or bass + cello strings.
  • Same for high, squeaky, manic strings.
  • If you hear the sound of a music box or children singing, for the love of all that’s holy people, run. Run like the wind.
  • If you’re having a party in your home and some of your guests are armed (with either guns or laser blasters), never, ever introduce new guests into the room by shouting, “We’ve got company!” Shots will be fired; wounds, cauterized. Pew-pew.
  • So, look. It’s best to let the dead stay dead. Let ’em be. No good comes from playing Doctor.
  • I know a gold bikini seems right. So right. It isn’t right on you or on her no matter what the photo on the costume package may imply.
  • Look behind you. Seriously, now. So, do that always. Especially if someone’s already at your 11 o’clock lookin’ atcha.
  • Never say “I love you” to a guy who’s about to be frozen in carbonite or something. He’s got nothing to gain by lying to you.
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  • Never kiss a guy who doesn’t know who his real parents are, especially if you hear banjo-music playing. Or a fiddle. Or both. Or, if you feel a weird, icky sensation that you’re positive isn’t an indication you’re gay.
  • Don’t double-cross a double crosser. Only cross a single-crosser unless it’s doubled. Then don’t.
  • Do not, I repeat, do NOT take the red pill.
  • I don’t care how innocent and perfect she is, don’t kiss her while she’s sleeping. That means you, cartoon man-child prince.
  • Never trust the wormy guy.
  • Always distrust the girl way out of your league.
Image discourteously torn from the jaws of mind-numbly obnoxious ads and HuffPost and also, she’s a solid 11 and he’s about a 7, so my point is made visually, here.
  • If you drive off a building, pier, cliff, or other elevation, the radio in your car will not stop playing. Not until you land, kersplatt. Unless you have the presence of mind to turn the radio down or off as you’re free-falling to your death. Ignore the drop bass, that isn’t your main concern right now.
  • Make sure the music has already stopped playing before barging into a cowboy bar.
  • Three words, true in movies AND life: Ugly, frigid, nanny. I don’t think I need to say anything more about that.
  • Never, ever, ever trust Kevin Spacey’s character—like, ever. This one just feels gratuitous, but it has to be spelled out for some people.
  • Never wake a person who’s floating or levitating while sleeping. Kersplatt +.
  • You should definitely wake a person who’s flying while asleep. Obviously.
  • No, do not split up, geniuses.
  • No, DO NOT stick together and NO, you may NOT ‘go take a pi**’ Mister “I’m Not Afraid.” You will be… you will be.
Werner Herzog, Rolling Stone
  • Werner Herzog can and will hypnotize you with his voice, eyes, hands, feet, and his wily, spooky ways. Never look directly at Werner Herzog. Are you looking at him? Do you feel the strange, yet soothing force of him coiling around your tiny little amygdala?
  • Don’t leave your slutty (or sweet and innocent) teenage daughters home alone unless you plan on coming home minutes before you’re supposed to. She can at least get some medical attention for her… throat area.
  • Always place fresh baked pies to cool out of sight, smell, touch. Teach your children about the do’s and don’ts of masturbation. The things you do do, and things you do not do. So remember: do do a do, and don’t do a don’t. See? Simple.
  • Time travel is just another way to f*ck up your life. So, maybe just stay put. Work with what you have.
  • Don’t go ‘park’ when a serial killer’s on the loose, dummy.
  • Abandoned insane asylums, schools, hotels, mansions? Never a good idea under any circumstances.
My subconscious’ torture chamber
  • That guy or girl you hate at school, work, whatever, is absolutely the person who would be closest to you if you have one of those “swipe right” apps, so just do it and be done already. Seriously, rom-coms. Do we really need you to play Cupid for all the beautiful people in Hollywood? They can meet for coffee like the rest of us mortals.
  • Do NOT touch glowing, otherworldly-looking objects. It’s just not a good idea. I’m talking to you, Mister “I am a Nobel-prize winning scientist.” Don’t you think they KNOW that already? They do. They absolutely do know.
  • Never trust the old college roomie or bunk mate or cell mate or shipmate or…the guy from your platoon or whatever, to stay in your home.
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  • Don’t taunt evil. It’s just common sense. This also goes for summoning evil. I can’t believe I even have to say it.
  • That tension you can cut with a knife will likely get cut with an actual knife because you’re married to a psychopath or trained assassin/killer. Hey, you do you, all right? It could be super-sexy adventure time for your marriage at last, or… possibly a permanent relocation in a shallow grave. Read between the lines if you can and try not to get caught snooping by your spouse.
Michelle Pfeiffer should spend less time snooping in What Lies Beneath
  • Christian Bale is not your friend. Run away from him, but also, allow yourself to be drawn to him in weirdly conflicting ways.
  • Yeah, sure. Courage and chutzpah can absolutely be ‘superpowers.’
  • If your kid goes to Ridgemont High, I’ve got two words for you: drug test. Wait, also: pregnancy test. And also… definitely spring for the house with a swimming pool.
  • If your home has a secret door, then your home has a secret door. If you don’t know it has a secret door, so be it. If you do but don’t know what’s behind it, you should probably let it be. If you do know what’s behind it? Well then… carry on and cheers.
  • Always, always have a bigger boat, maybe tow it behind the rickety wing-and-a-prayer thing you’re bobbing around in.
  • Don’t do drugs. Do not do drugs. I know Quentin Tarantino says it’s cool to smoke, drink, and do drugs but it is not. Those are stunt druggies, and you are not trained.
  • If your spouse is boring but you secretly know they could be more? They are. They are way more.
  • If you son brings home Molly Ringwald, you need to move out of Illinois. Please. For Molly.
Image courtesy CosmoUK
  • You’re not a wizard or sorcerer, so enough. You’re grown people. What the hell is wrong with you?
  • If your daughter can afford that dress, she’s a spoiled b*tch. Kill her. No, don’t kill her, but send her off to a nunnery or boot camp or Ross Dress-for-Less. Make her get a job at Ross and teach her respect for life.
  • If you’re out for revenge and refuse to live your life in the usual-linear way, say ‘hi’ to Jason Statham (big fan), and sorry, you’re living a Guy Ritchie screenplay.
  • Remember when glitter was a thing in the 90s? Well, now it’s a thing re: vampires. Look, you can always remodel the house, you can’t… unimpregnated your daughter with his vampiric-spawn-child growing in her human womb, so… you know. Check out the schools AND the area is all I’m saying, here.
Image courtesy Gage Skidmore and wiki
  • Whatever you do, do not let Tom Cruise into your life—even if he says he’s your brother, or a secret agent—especially if he doesn’t say he’s a secret agent (because he absolutely is.)
  • Aliens do not want to be our friends.
  • Aliens are everywhere, just stay inside.
  • If you’re a Catholic priest, it’s probably time to… veer in a different direction, away from exorcising demons and such.
  • If your kid says he sees dead people, find a priest. Don’t wear red.
  • If someone dies, and then they get all twitchy and slimy… and they stand up and walk toward you, teeth bared, they are not asking you to see if something is caught in their teeth. It’s not a grooming gesture. It is a trick so they can bite off your fleshy-face bits.  How do you miss this? Seriously. Also, it’s very likely if there is something in their teeth, it was a beloved pet or friend from way back or just in the next room.
  • If you see twins in a hallway, walk, don’t run, to your nearest snowcat and get the heck outta Dodge.
  • Always check your spouse’s work if they’re writers. Don’t be all snoopy about it, just make sure there’s no repeated sentences over and over and over and over and over and over and over… sorry.
  • If a mythical creature/person pretends to be nice, don’t. They are not nice, they are gods of mischief or other unhappy, chaotic things.
Image courtesy of
  • Be careful around nuns. Cheeky nuns.
  • Defiant nuns make great nannies. Flying nuns make defiant nuns into singing nannies. Try to keep up.
  • Fly more kites.
  • If you feel as though you’re in an absurdist’s striped nightmare or a Salvador Dali painting, do not go to the nearest payphone, it will eat you as Tim Burton and Helena Bonham Carter point at you whilst guffawing.
  • Drive DeLoreans with great care.
  • If you’re going to time travel, don’t be a putz about it. And don’t kiss your mom, jeez. Unless you have to in order to guarantee your own existence which could be thwarted by your dad but is he really your dad if you have to kiss your own mom maybe you’re your own dad and then… just a sec. I need a Pepsi.
  • If somebody asks you if you’re a god, you say YES.
  • Nobody is that sweet, that wise, that rich and sweet and wise, that good, that good and hot, that sweet, good, hot, and sexy and rich. There’s a catch, my friend, trust me. Walk away.
  • If you don’t know and you don’t wanna know, that’s fine, but your nephew, partner, son, daughter, fiancé, boyfriend, girlfriend, mom, dad, etc. IS likely a superhero, so stay the heck out of their stuff.
Image courtesy the
  • If you don’t know what it is, why would you lick it? Why would you do that?
  • Don’t mess around if you happen to live in the DC Universe. Seriously. Just stay home and build a concrete safe room under the shed and try to get Wi-Fi, which I doubt your universe has. So, concrete safe shelter or be prepared to be a victim of a mass killing spree by an escapee from the local “place of healing” or being a victim, er, collateral damage of the unconventional local antihero’s morally questionable antics.  
  • If your spouse has ninja-like skills and prowess, don’t assume they got them in the Scouts. They did not. They are a former super-spy special-ops person, and your family is in danger.
  • Talking animals of any kind must be treated like non-talking animals. Stop singing songs with them and stop encouraging them. You’re disrupting the natural order of stuff with your nonsense.
  • If your buddy asks you if you want to see something ‘really scary’ on a long road trip—say NO.
  • It’s okay to be fast, but not fast AND furious. It’s not okay to be furious, ever. Unless your name is Mr. Furious. Legally.
  • Never judge a book by its cover. The crazy-looking hillbilly might just be your last hope and your first real boyfriend.
Image courtesy commons wiki and Zack, flaring us so hard
  • If you don’t like lens flares, stop retweeting Zack Snyder’s tweets. It’s just hypocritical.
  • Don’t fight it. You are a witch, and you are ‘dead yet.’
  • If you move to a small town and all the characters are void of humanity other than quirky traits, Type-A personalities, and they all have southern accents and copious amounts of secret-keeping skills, you’ve stumbled into a Coen brothers movie, so just lean into the crazy and EN-joy!

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  • Trust me, no one will keep your secret, so just stuff it inside and tell no one. Not even him, no.
  • If your mom is a strong and capable attorney and your dad’s a gynecologist, distance yourself. Quickly.
  • If your lie becomes bigger than two people, stop it. Now.
THREE’S COMPANY, Suzanne Somers, John Ritter, Norman Fell, Joyce DeWitt, 1977-84
  • While walking down the streets of New York, if you hear an orchestral “hit” that sounds like DUMP DUMP, run faster and faster, run in a serpentine pattern, even if you’re alone. Jump into the nearest manhole. Await the sweet sounds of the city come morning.
Image courtesy wiki
  • If a camera crew inexplicably starts following you around, try to be witty before you break the 4th wall.
  • If your life comes with a laugh track, just roll with it, and try not to let laughter get contagious, because it can, and will, and then, bloopers? That is no way to live or end your life. Bloopers.
  • If your wife is incredibly smart and hot, chances are, you’re tubby and stupid. Sorry.
  • If your husband is tubby and stupid, sorry. Also, get some homeowners insurance.
  • “” “” “” is just stupid, “”. “” “” “” “” “”.
  • Make sure to use your 7 minutes of commercial time wisely. Like… play against type for a change, see what happens!
  • If you’re a real-life judge, stop the sensationalized court dramas. We want to see the un-sensationalized bullsh*t, too.
  • Always assume someone’s home, ready to catch you doing that thing you’re going to do, thinking no one is home, or coming home. Use your heads, people.
Image courtesy nothing, ever
  • If you hear an overly dramatic British gentleman’s voice narrating your life and you have natural night vision capabilities, don’t worry. Nothing, literally nothing bad will happen.
  • If your wife is chubby and snarky, stop arguing with her. She’s right in her own twisted, weird, home-grown sort of way. Seriously, it’s not worth it, man.
  • If your wife is a chubby, domineering ‘itch’ with a ‘b,’ just prostrate yourself in front of the front door, save us all some time.
Image courtesy of
  • Look. It’s an apocalypse, okay? So… stop trying to make like it’s all fine and normal, staying at home, shot gun on the lap while watching the telly. It’s not fine and they can smell your brains. So gas up the ‘Burb and drive someplace where others who are not hungry for brains live. Become the founder of Vegetarian Land, a safe space for non-people-eating things. Someday, you might even be King.
  • If your kids get dumber, less, um… look-at-able…and worse at acting than when they were young (sure, still crap actors, but somewhat endurable because they were children), just stop it. Finale that sh*t right up and out.
Sorry kiddos. Time to fall back on the fall back plan
Images courtesy of
  • If you find yourself living in New York and whining about things that warrant your immediate removal from the human race, do not run for president, do not become the VP, don’t drive around and drink coffee, and don’t go eat soup on the street. NO soup for you, a**hole.
  • Please don’t swap identities with your friends. We all know. Everyone will know. So pathetically know.
  • If you have advanced degrees in every science-y field there is and you’re surrounded by palms, sand, and coconuts, then build a boat, man. Build yourselves a boat.
  • If you love her, don’t set her free. Bring her to Minsk or California or New York or the other place you’re going that she won’t be in.
  • If you love him, don’t check his voicemail or pockets or email. You will absolutely assume the wrong thing, and while hilarity can and often does ensue, it takes a toll. A real toll.
Image courtesy of Sporcle (whatever that means)
  • If friends or people in your family can suddenly sing, dance, juggle, do backflips, play the piano like a boss, or something else ridiculously talented, or if they are beautiful beyond words or make your weirdly loud inner-audience cheer even LOUDER, you may just be living/hanging out with a movie star sshhhhhhhh….!!
  • Don’t leave your children with men who have no experience with children. It’s just not funny anymore.
  • Gossip isn’t just for girls. Let’s stop the misogynistic stereotyping, shall we? Guys, grab yourselves some metaphorical knives and get to stabbing those who trust you implicitly in the back. Remember, although he wore a dress, Caesar was a man’s man.
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(I’m back, sorry… I thought I heard an orchestral “hit” and I peed a little, but I’m okay. It was just the TV. Turn that thing down, kids, amIright? Looking behind me now, annnd we’re set!)

  • Bridezillas are real. Don’t mess with them or they’ll f*ck you sideways without breaking a sweat.
  • If you move to Beverly Hills, class it up a bit. We weren’t born in a barn, were we? Oh, well, okay. Um, look, social cues, okay? Take them. Read the room. Never mind.
  • Don’t dye your hair dark brown. You’ll be the dumpy one or the funny friend. The upside is that you’re clever and will likely have a future outside the set.
  • OCD is no laughing matter, murder or no. Two words: therapy.
  • The Food Network is always a great way to work up an appetite, er, learn new and exciting ways to prepare food. Just remember to cross over from ordering Pizza Hut to actually writing down a recipe or two you can try in your very own kitchen.
  • If you’re a brilliant doctor and you treat your patients like sh*t, someone needs to send you into an abandoned insane asylum, school, hotel, or mansion.
  • If you’re blonde and you’re dumb, knock it off. Blondes already have it tough enough with their beauty, grace, and perfect t*ts.
  • I know more about grammar, US history, and conjunctions from TV than from school.


  • Finally, if someone wants you to be on a reality TV show, I’m sorry. I’m so very sorry.
Image courtesy and…bless their hearts

Happy viewing and enjoy those tropes and clichés! Ahh, where would we be without them?

That’s right.

On the IFC.

Peace out, peeps and hope you had fun…


P.S.: my newest work and wonder is now available. work in progress. dialogues & poems, available on Kindle!. Coming soon in hard copy. Coming hard in a copy near you.

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