Each week, we analyze a movie that illustrates a logical fallacy you’ll find on the LSAT. Who said Netflix can’t help you study? 🎥📖
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You know what they say: Life is like a 1994 American epic romantic-comedy-drama based on the 1986 novel by Winston Groom. Who says that? Why, Wikipedia, when talking about Forrest Gump.
Forrest Gump tells the tale of an earnest-yet-dumb man as he stumbles through life, like a feather on the wind. During the course of the film he:
- Sits alone on a bench in a park
- Tells JFK he really has to pee
- Eats some chocolates
- Befriends Bubba, opening a shrimp business with him
- Befriends Lieutenant Dan, who loses his legs
- Shows LBJ his butt
And that’s just the list that made it into the “Weird Al” Yankovic song!
The film won all the awards at the 67th Academy Awards, and it shows up on tons of “Best of…” lists, including the AFI 100 Years…100 Movies list of the best movies of all time.
However, like our dimwitted friend from the film, the movie itself commits some logical fallacies. However, we’re going to focus on the one committed by both Forrest and his momma.
“Life is like a box of chocolates: You never know what you’re gonna get.”
First off, let’s ignore the fact that not only does Russell Stover now include a guide in most boxes (though not the Gift Box, in honor of this film), there’s also a pattern to the shape of the chocolate and the filling inside. And the fact that it’s pretty much all some mixture of cream, sugar, and chocolate, so does it really matter?
But let’s look at the bigger issue – such facile similarities don’t really make for a good comparison. Despite spawning thousands of ill-timed repetitions throughout the decades since its release, like most comparisons, this one doesn’t really tell us anything.
Almost any two things are similar in some way. You can almost make a Family Guy joke out of it, or a Mad Lib. Heck, the entire Cards Against Humanity game is based around an “adult” version of it. Fill in the blanks in the sentence: “__________ is like ______________:” and I guarantee you can come up with something to go after the colon.
Let’s test this
I’m going to click “Random article” on Wikipedia twice and make it work:
The Royal New Zealand Air Force is like for Pennsylvania Congressman Robert Gray Allen: They were both funded by the national government.
On the LSAT, two things will often be compared. However, there’s no guarantee that the comparison is meaningful, or anything more than delicious-chocolate-coating deep. If you see a comparison on a question, you should definitely call it into question, as there’s a good chance there’s something wrong with it.
And if you fall for this Bad Comparison fallacy, you might end up like Forrest Gump…which actually might not be all that bad! 📝
Want to learn more about Logical Reasoning on the LSAT? Don’t forget that you can attend the first session of any of our online or in-person LSAT courses absolutely free. We’re not kidding! Check out our upcoming courses here.
Matt Shinners is a Manhattan Prep instructor based in New York City. After receiving a degree in Biochemistry from Boston College, Matt scored a 180 on his LSAT and enrolled in Harvard Law School. There’s nothing that makes him happier than seeing his students receive the scores they want to get into the schools of their choice. Check out Matt’s upcoming LSAT courses here!