This question was closed as non-constructive, and was heavily criticized in the comments.

These were not

(I could go on)


This has been asked before, the result was a tentative acceptance that reoccurring tropes, or claims depicted as being 'realist' are on topic.

Unless there is a subtly that I don't see, this one question appears to be being treated differently.

  • I think your edit is too radical, but im holding off on rejecting it to see what others think. A mexican standoff generally refers to 3 (or more) people pointing a gun at each other and is actually an interesting mathematics problem to discover the only winning outcome (spoiler: shoot in the opposite direction of both opposition - yes maths can be weird)
    – Jamiec Mod
    Commented Jun 13, 2013 at 9:34
  • For the sake of transparency I should point out that after asking this meta question I went and edited the target question. I completely rephrased it but I believe I have preserved the meaning and spirit of the original. I did this because I believe that the question is valid based on precedence and hence should be as clear as possible. But please do read all of the original edits made by the asker to check up on me. Edit Hah, @Jamiec too quick for me :) If you read all of his original forms it seems clear to me that he's asking about scenes like (see next common because of limit)....
    – Ian
    Commented Jun 13, 2013 at 9:35
  • Scenes like this. This is a very common scene in movies and we all know how it goes. Look at the very first version of the question that he asked, my edit matches that very closely. He only changed it because of criticism in the comments. I believe that this criticism is incorrect and therefore his original question is valid and should be rolled back to (and then be improved to something similar to what I wrote)
    – Ian
    Commented Jun 13, 2013 at 9:37
  • 1
    You've just proved my point - that is not a Mexican Standoff which is defined as "...a confrontation among three opponents armed with guns"
    – Jamiec Mod
    Commented Jun 13, 2013 at 9:41
  • @Jamiec We very often see this type of standoff with only two people, it even mentioned on wikipedia
    – Ian
    Commented Jun 13, 2013 at 9:42
  • I'm not trying to change his meaning, look at what I wrote. I explicitly state with 2 people. That's what he asked. I used the term mexican standoff to help communicate the scene to people. I could use a picture instead but I expected most people to understand a simple modifier like: It's like a dog but with 6 legs. We all know that dogs don't really have 6 legs but we can imagine what I'm talking about.... This is also completely off topic. Reject my edit if you really can't imagine a Mexican standoff with 2 people. But what about his question being closed?
    – Ian
    Commented Jun 13, 2013 at 9:44
  • @Holowitz sometimes the rules get in the way of finding interesting answers, but without them the site would be a shambles.
    – Ian
    Commented Jun 13, 2013 at 13:57

3 Answers 3


There are three separate issues I see with this meta-question.

  • The title of this meta-questions asks one question: can we derive claims from movies (or more generally, fiction)?

This is a duplicate question.

The consensus seems to be along the lines of 'only if writer expected a reasonable person to still believe it to be true, once the movie was over or the book finished.'

  • The next issue is whether the hostage stand-off trope (arguably called a mexican standoff, arguably not) is actually such a claim. I haven't been convinced of this, which is why I haven't voted to reopen. Others may disagree; they are welcome to argue their case or vote to reopen.

The motivation for not shooting isn't necessarily clear; it may be more complex than has been suggested. Primarily are they worried about missing the shot, merely wounding the person or misfiring? Would they rather not kill the person at all? The fact that there is a whole TVTropes page for when they do start shooting suggests writers don't consider the standoff to be a pure one, and the claim is therefore weak.

  • The final issue is that this question may or may not have been treated differently to others. This is the "Officer, why did you stop me for speeding, when you didn't stop everyone else?" gambit. The correct answer may be "The other questions should also be closed. Please flag them."
  • "The correct answer may be "The other questions should also be closed. Please flag them."" this is something I have noticed when old questions come up from like 2 years ago. The rules was MUCH more relaxed back then, many question lack referenced claims and are heavily up-voted. Often things like "I heard", "in movies" and similar references is used, which by today's standards is unacceptable.
    – Wertilq
    Commented Jun 13, 2013 at 13:01
  • Point 1: I chose this title because I saw a clear disparity between the treatment of different questions, if this was the case then no single policy was being followed and thus the question needs answering. It is now changed. Point 3: I am skeptical that the many many previous questions like this will get closed if I flag them. The "Officer" gambit is valid if speeding is not against the law. My question is whether this question is against the rules, not begging an exception.
    – Ian
    Commented Jun 13, 2013 at 13:49
  • 1
    point 2: is the point in question. I would disagree that that tropes page you linked to is evidence against this face-off type stand-off. If it's worth noting that someone breaks the stand-off then by definition it's also notable that there are stand-offs to begin with. The question is Why? The possible motivations you suggest for why they don't shoot would be potential answers to the question, I don't see them as grounds for closing. Given the frequency that we see this situation I would argue that there is an implied significance to not shooting, above and beyond other situations.
    – Ian
    Commented Jun 13, 2013 at 13:52

Your edit:

It is a common trope in movies to see two guys pointing their gun at each other with their fingers on the triggers, yet neither takes the shot. It seems generally accepted that neither one is able to act because the other has a gun on him.

This seems non-nonsensical since human reactions are not good enough to react to a bullet before it arrives, therefore either party could shoot the other in the head before the other could react.

Is a non-sequitur. There is no claim that "human reactions are good enough to react". Movies just show people pointing guns at each other. Sometimes they shoot, sometimes they don't.

How is that a notable claim that "human reactions are good enough to react to a bullet"?

  • 2
    That's not what the question is asking. The question is very simple. Two people who were previously trying to kill each other suddenly stop when/if they arrive in a situation where they've both got their gun trained on the other. This happens in a lot of movies. Why? Is it just for movie suspense or is their a real world reason to not fire in that situation? I fail to see why you are getting hung up on what is nothing more than observation that if they did fire the other couldn't react in time. It's an assumption of reality, do you question it?
    – Ian
    Commented Jun 13, 2013 at 15:01
  • ((I feel compelled to note that this is my interpretation of the question)) I wish I'd asked it myself first, or that the original asker would jump in here and confirm of renounce the position I've put forward. Since without that authority I feel very uncertain of the edit I made. However until he comes back I will stick to this interpretation, and if he does reject what I've said then I can ask my version of it myself without fear of duplication :)
    – Ian
    Commented Jun 13, 2013 at 15:09
  • I'm inclined to agree with @Ian, I see the question not as being if you could react in time to shoot the other person once you see them start to react, but if both parties are more likely to freeze-up when this situation occurs. Firefly actually took the opposite approach in Serenity and instead of the expected stand off occurring the hostage taker was just shot outright.
    – rjzii
    Commented Jun 13, 2013 at 16:13
  • why? is not on topic :-)
    – Sklivvz
    Commented Jun 13, 2013 at 16:57
  • @Sklivvz I think the concept could be on-topic but the question itself as it stands right now is just barely in the off-topic side of things. I think if someone came through and edited it the right way there would be an interesting question.
    – rjzii
    Commented Jun 13, 2013 at 17:01

IMO a reason why this question is off-topic is because it asks about motive: the question is, "why don't they take the shot?" ... and it's asking about the motives of generic fictional characters, at that.

Another reason against this question is that it is not a sincere claim, that's being made. For example it would be one thing (i.e. OK) to ask whether something you see in a costume drama is accurate: because we may assume that the costume people are sincerely trying to portray the historical costumes accurately. It's another thing (i.e. not OK) to question the motives and actions of heroes in action movies: because we can't assume they're trying to say anything about real life.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .