Chick 1 says:
Welcome back to Trope of the Week or as it shall henceforth be called, Troperiffic Tuesday!
Ever seen a movie where the cap is knocked off a pipe joint with very little effort and blinding hot steam comes spraying out? Or someone has to cross a narrow walkway high above some flesh-grinding machinery with no guardrails? Or a character falls into an easily accessible vat of acid? Then you, my friend, are familiar with this week’s trope, No OSHA Compliance. As always, SPOILERS FOLLOW.
OSHA, in case you don’t know, stands for Occupational Safety and Health Administration. It’s run by the US Department of Labor and handles all regulations and enforcement concerning workplace safety. Most first world countries have some form of this organization looking out for workers. But in movies, they sometimes seem rather…incompetent or even nonexistent.
In dramas, this trope can be played straight; like a story dealing with unsafe working conditions in coal mines or maybe an evil corporation that doesn’t care about the lives of its lowly workers. The most frequent use of this trope is to up the tension in a story by making the setting more dangerous. It’s common in action movies with settings like a “steam and flame factory”. (Thank you, Roger Ebert) But the mother of all regulation violaters is the scifi genre.
In a movie like the most recent Star Trek, there is at least some sort of logic. It makes sense that the Federation which probably evolved from today’s nations still has safety standards. So the Enterprise has guardrails on engineering walkways and even a handy emergency release switch on the clear water pipes that opens a hatch before the water gets to the big sharp whirring fan. Ya know, just in case, your future engineer gets beamed aboard the ship while it’s moving at warp speed using the formula that future engineer hasn’t developed yet but you got from Spock who came back from the future and accidentally beamed him inside the pipe. (Those OSHA guys really plan ahead.) In contrast, the Romulan ship has these massively high walkways with no railings which also makes sense because the Romulan culture is much more brutal and they probably think workplace safety is for pussy earthlings.
Star Wars, however, leaves logic in a galaxy far, far away. Take the Death Star. They have narrow walkways over death-inducing plummets and not a guardrail in sight. Heck, the entire planet of Corusant is almost nothing but floating platforms. They dress their stormtroopers in armor that limits their vision and in no way protects them from laser fire. If, for some reason, you need to turn off the tractor beam, you have to scoot out on this little ledge; not a very practical way to deal with tractor beam emergencies. And why are there bottomless chasms everywhere, even in the emperor’s throne room? At least the emperor gets a guardrail but it didn’t really help him in the end, did it?
Galaxy Quest, the movie that calls out pretty much every scifi trope in existence, conveniently demonstrates this concept with the “choppy crushy things” that serve no other purpose but to make the scene more dangerous.
So for your viewing pleasure, I present the choppy crushy things: (Sorry for the video quality; twas the best I could find.)
And now, the Star Wars safety issues from a janitor’s perspective: