Oscar Wilde once said that life imitates art more than art imitates life. While it’s true there are often examples of people taking what they see in the newspapers and writing a television show about it – we’re looking at you, Law and Order – it’s amazing to consider just how often life truly does imitate movies, television shows, music, and comic books, among other mediums. Here are some fascinating examples of life imitating pop culture.
10. Ankle Bracelets were Invented in a Spider-Man Comic
Electronic ankle bracelets have been used by law enforcement for a few decades now, helping the authorities keep track of parolees and limiting them to certain areas to try to keep them in check. Sure, it’s a pretty cool technology (unless you’re wearing one) but certainly not something that would have to be dreamed up in science fiction, right? Well, no, because it was actually from a much more fantastical source: a freaking Spider-Man comic book.
These bracelets were first used in 1983 when a judge in New Mexico, who apparently spent his time between sentencing criminals to hard time reading comic books, was flipping through an issue of Spidey and saw a plot involving a criminal avoiding jail by agreeing to wear electronic monitoring. Of course, this whole thing just makes us upset that of all the cool technology in comic books, that’s the one they actually make a reality. C’mon, web shooters would look awfully good on us, Your Honor.
9. Zager and Evans Sang about Test Tube Babies Before They Existed
Chances are you’ve heard the famous song by “In the Year 2525” by the musical duo Zager and Evans, even if you have never heard their actual names. The rockers from Nebraska penned this fable to warn us all how over-reliance on technology would lead to the destruction of man, and references the creation of life in devices like test tubes.
The song was written in 1964, and released in 1968. What’s so special about that, you ask? Well, how about the fact that the world’s first test tube baby was not born until 1978? That’s right, a couple of hippie rockers from Nebraska accurately predicted that test tube babies would be an actual thing more than a decade before it actually happened. Granted, they didn’t think it would happen until the year 6565 but still, close enough. Zager and Evans never really did much else musically, so we can only hope they took their ability to see the future to Vegas and made a fortune at the craps tables.
8. A Chinese Man Imitated a Johnny Cash Song
There’s a Johnny Cash song called “One Piece at a Time” that tells the story of a man who worked in a car factory, laboring day after day to produce cars he could never actually afford himself. So he concocts a plan to sneak his own car out of the factory, once piece at a time, and construct it on his own at home. Seems like a pretty far-fetched story, doesn’t it?
Well, beginning in 2003 something almost identical happened in China. That’s when a man named Zhang, who worked on a motorcycle assembly line, spent five years doing exactly what the hero of Cash’s song attempted. Zhang couldn’t afford one of the motorcycles he was building, so over half a decade he stole the pieces and built one at home. He actually might have gotten away with it except for the fact that he was pulled over by police shortly after finishing the bike, and was cited for not having a license.
7. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle Became Sherlock Holmes
These days, you can’t turn on the television or go to the movies without encountering the most famous fictional sleuth of all time — Sherlock Holmes. Holmes, of course, was created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and has endured over the centuries thanks to some unique traits and quirks, as well as the fact that when it comes to deduction, there’s simply never been anyone better than Sherlock Holmes.
Well, except for Sir Arthur Conan Doyle himself. You see, after creating Holmes, the author actually played a pivotal role in proving the innocence of two men. The first was a man named George Edalji, and the second was Oscar Slater. Doyle, acting as a sort of off-the-books detective much like his creation, deduced that Edalji’s crime had been committed by the son of a local butcher, while his role in Slater’s case literally saved the man’s life. Slater had been sentenced to death, and it was Doyle who picked apart the case against Slater; these new pieces of evidence led to the conviction being overturned.
6. The Movie Be Cool Was a Bad Sequel About a Bad Sequel
The movie Get Shorty, based on an Elmore Leonard novel, was a smash success starring John Travolta, Gene Hackman, Danny DeVito, and several other big names. It told the story of a loan shark named Chili Palmer, who goes to Hollywood to collect a vig from Gene Hackman’s movie producer character. Along the way, he somehow manages to sell his own story as a movie and becomes a producer himself.
The movie was popular enough to generate a sequel, which was called Be Cool and centered on Palmer, now a Hollywood big shot watching as a sequel was made to his own film. The film within the film in Be Cool was a crappy cash grab that tried to capitalize on the success of the first, which should sound familiar since that’s exactly what Be Cool ended up being. So not only was this a case of life imitating art, it was also a case of the people doing the imitating being oblivious to the fact that they were carrying out the exact plotline of their movie in real time.
5. The British Show House of Cards Predicted the Fall of Margaret Thatcher
You’ve probably heard of the show House of Cards, a Netflix exclusive starring Kevin Spacey set in the world of American politics. But unless you’re from the United Kingdom, you may not be aware of the fact that it’s based on a British show of the same name, which was based on a novel that was released in 1989. The original show and novel follow politics in England after the fall from power of Margaret Thatcher.
And yes, Margaret Thatcher really did resign from office in real life. However, that was not until a year after the novel was released, and shortly after the BBC miniseries was first broadcast. So the good folks behind both the novel and the miniseries can either see the future, or Margaret Thatcher took being a superfan of the story to a frightening new level. Of course, when you think about the fact that the author of the novel was a political insider, maybe he just saw the warning signs coming before Thatcher.
4. The Ending to the Movie K-9 Happened Two Years Later
You may not remember this, but 1989 was apparently the year when Hollywood decided that the buddy cop movie needed to be reinvented, and one of the buddies had to be a dog. That’s the year that both Turner and Hooch and K-9 hit theaters, the latter of which stars Jim Belushi as a cop investigating a murder plot. Shockingly, a movie about Jim Belushi and a drug sniffing German Shepherd came in at just 22% positive on Rotten Tomatoes.
At the end of the film (sorry, 25-year-old films don’t get spoiler alerts,) the dog is shot and killed during the course of the investigation. Somehow, this downer of an ending actually spawned two sequels. Much more tragic than those sequels existing was the fate of K-9’s inspiration, a real life Kansas City police dog named Koton. Two years after the film debuted, Koton met his end in the exact same manner as his on screen alter-ego, being shot and killed during the investigation of an attempted murder.
3. Russell Crowe was Targeted for Kidnapping While Promoting Proof of Life
In the year 2000, Russell Crowe starred alongside Meg Ryan in the film Proof of Life, about a high-profile kidnapping case with Crowe at the center of it all. He’s an expert in the world of kidnapping and kidnappers, so naturally he gets the job done in the end because the Gladiator always saves the day.
Of course, Crowe is more of an expert in kidnapping than he’d probably like to be in real life, too. That’s because at the same time he was promoting Proof of Life, it was revealed that Crowe himself was the target of a kidnapping plot. Now, we know that celebrities often receive threats from crazy fans and stalkers. However, this kidnapping scheme was so serious that the FBI and Scotland Yard actually got involved and provided protection for the actor. Knowing Crowe, of course, he’d probably have preferred getting drunk and challenging the kidnappers to a fight.
2. RoboCop 2 Predicted the Bankruptcy of Detroit
RoboCop is one of the great action films of all-time, in large part because it’s also a tremendous satire. RoboCop 2, well, it’s not nearly as good. Still, its plot involves a not-so-distant future version of Detroit in which the city declares bankruptcy, and has contracted out many of the city services to private firms. Basically, Detroit is full on screwed, and it’s up to RoboCop to save the day. As usual.
Skip ahead to just this year, and the movie suddenly looks a lot more prescient. After falling billions of dollars into debt, the city of Detroit was actually forced to declare bankruptcy, mirroring the events of the film. And, like in the film, some of the city services have in fact been contracted out to private businesses. Now, we don’t think that there are any cyborgs walking around Detroit shooting bad guys in the head, but there was a recent successful Kickstarter campaign to build a statue of RoboCop in Motown. That’s close enough for us.
1. There’s Really a Meth Kingpin Named Walter White
In case you’ve been living under a rock since 2008, the television show Breaking Bad is about a mild-mannered man named Walter White who becomes a meth cook and ultimately drug kingpin after being diagnosed with cancer. The show recently ended, but you probably know that since chances are you watched it, or at the very least had your Facebook and Twitter feeds flooded with friends, family, and celebrities going on and on and on and on and on about it.
Well, as it turns out, in 2008 there was another Walter White who was getting into similar hijinks. Only in this case, it was real life. That’s right, in 2008, right around the same time Breaking Bad premiered, a real-life meth cook named Walter White was convicted in Alabama. In 2012, he actually made the Tuscaloosa Sheriff’s Office Most Wanted List after skipping out on a court date, and was recently arrested. There’s been no word on whether there’s a real life Gus Fring, however, though if there is, we can only hope he makes some delicious fried chicken.