In last night’s brand new episode of “Yellowstone,” head writer Taylor Sheridan weaves the title drop (the episode is called “Tall Drink of Water”) in at the end when a beautiful woman from out of town compliments Rip (Cole Hauser) and tries to seduce him — within fighting distance of his now-wife, Yellowstone’s own Beth Dutton, played by Kelly Reilly. Beth refuses to let the interloper succeed and — in a dramatic attempt to discourage her — uses the woman’s head to open a glass beer bottle in the most inefficient way possible.
All joking aside, the trope of breaking a glass bottle over someone’s head is a popular one on both TV shows and in movies. It’s so pervasive that even TVTropes.org has a cutesy nickname for it: “Grievous Bottley Harm.” Audiences usually eat it up when their favorite protagonist cracks one open on an unsuspecting antagonist (which many fans did last night). And while we don’t want to be a wet blanket and ruin anyone’s fun, we feel it’s important to point out that the difference between doing this in real life and doing it on a TV show or movie is a big — and potentially deadly — one.
Fake bottles and special effects make the assault look less dangerous than it is in real life
According to the Nevada Film Office, “Whenever you see a dramatic scene in a movie where an actor is flying through a glass window or breaking a glass bottle over someone’s head, breakaway glass is what you see being shattered, not real glass.” This breakaway glass is also known as sugar glass because it is made out of sugar. It’s brittle enough to shatter easily without causing serious physical harm to the actors or anyone else on set. And it’s so cheap and easy to make that you can find dozens of YouTube tutorials that teach you how to make your own. Then the movie or television studio will add dramatic sound effects and speed up the footage to make things feel way more violent and intense.
The glass bottle that the average person drinks beer out of (or any other beverage of their choosing), according to Interesting Engineering, is “comprised of silica sand, soda ash, and limestone … [which] helps with durability.” Yes, limestone, a rock that is somewhere between a 3 and 4 on the Mohs scale of hardness, making it comparable to marble (per MarvaMarble.com). Glass is made of melted rocks, and they’re designed that way to make the bottles stronger and more durable. Think about it: why would Coca-Cola or Budweiser want to sell their product in glass bottles that break easily? They’d probably lose massive amounts of revenue that way. So in order to protect their bottom line, the bottles have to be as hard as they can afford to make them — which is much harder than what you see in the movies and on TV.
Getting hit in the head with a real beer bottle can cause serious brain trauma and death
To drive the “don’t do this at home” point — well — home, let’s take a look at what happens when a human skull and a beer bottle make an unfortunate collision in the real world. According to this article from the International Journal of Legal Medicine, smashing a beer bottle over a person’s head can create up to 1255 newtons of force. Furthermore, some investigative reporting from NBC News shows that the minimum force you need to cause a skull fracture is a mere 73 newtons. In the entertainment industry, actors seem to effortlessly walk away unscathed from such assaults. However, according to the Mayo Clinic, taking that much blunt force trauma to the noggin can result in serious injury, including dizziness, loss of consciousness, seizures, slurred speech, and more. They also recommend getting immediate medical attention if you suspect you or someone you are with has sustained a traumatic brain injury (TBI).
Another unfortunate and possible result of such a strong blow to the head is death. According to the official Queensland Health government website, hitting someone in the wrong spot can cause irreparable damage to the brain stem, skull fractures (which cause further trauma to the soft brain tissue), massive bleeding into the brain, or severe blood clots. If someone survives such injuries, there are long-term consequences, too. According to Synapse, people who sustain even one TBI can suffer life-long behavioral, cognitive, physical, and psychological damage.
To make a long story short, don’t try to smash a beer bottle over someone’s head in real life, even if they’re from Sacramento and making a pass at your long-term partner. It won’t end well for anybody.