Whenever I hear the film industry being blamed for creating negativity in life my mind goes back to the Arnold Schwarzenegger film “Last Action Hero”. For those who may not have seen it, Arnie plays a screen character who is accidentally transported into real life, only to find that getting shot, punched, kicked and generally thrown around actually hurts. His character interacts with a young boy, and the moral of the story is that what you see on the silver screen is acting not real life.
Then I think about “Yes Man” with Jim Carrey, a film that broadly looked at the issues of positive thinking and saying “yes” to life. There were a great many interesting points wrapped up in a superbly funny storyline.
What about “The Matrix”, the first film in the series really resonated with a lot of people on the Spiritual path and you couldn’t help feeling as you watched it that Hollywood is tuned into more than big bucks and fame. Behind this and many other films you have the feeling of a number of thoughtful minds using the vehicle of film to explore popular life issues and offer a few conclusions.
That’s the positive side, let’s now look at the negative. Whenever I come to the negative the Charlie Sheen sequel “Hot Shots Part Deux” leaps immediately to mind. In that film there is a wonderful scene where he is shooting a machine gun and in one corner of the screen you have a written running commentary saying “more bullets than (name any famous action film) fired”, and the numbers keep going up. It’s a beautiful tongue-in-cheek poke at an industry that fires off more rounds of dummy ammunition in a year than teenagers have zits.
There is a great deal of casual violence in films, and no doubt there are minds out there only too willing to absorb the violence like a sponge and emulate it. Yet realistically how many times does that happen?
If you’re living in any violence besieged city in the world you will tell me “a lot”, but the truth is that if an individual doesn’t have the anger and sense of dislocation required they will not emulate anything they see in a film. At the very most violent films can provide the general public with ideas in the same way that prisons take a young person who’s made a mistake and provide exactly the training you don’t want any child to receive, thereby turning out a degree level criminal when they leave.
Everything in life is about personal choice and most well balanced people will view extremely violent films as disgusting at worst and a bit of a giggle at best. At no point will an ordinary human being feel tempted to risk their freedom and future by trying to be an Arnie, a Sly Stallone, or even a Charlie Sheen. To name a very few people who’ve been in violent films.
You’re probably more likely to find more people thinking they’re Jesus or Napoleon than emulating film violence.
However, there is a need to consider the morals behind the film industry. When ‘Natural Born Killers’, the extremely violent film, was released in 1995 the director Oliver Stone said:
- “film is a very powerful medium, film is a drug, film is a potential hallucinogen, it goes into your brain, it stimulates and it’s a dangerous thing – it can be a very subversive thing”. (Panorama BBC TV 27/2/95). (Source Media Watch UK).
Yet in their article “Does Movie VIolence Increase Violent Crime?” for the “Quarterly Journal of Economics”, Gordon Dahl of UC San Diego and NBER and Stefano DellaVigna of UC Berkeley and NBER comment that:
- “We analyze whether media violence affects violent crime in the field. We exploit variation in the violence of blockbuster movies from 1995 to 2004, and study the effect on same-day assaults. We find that violent crime decreases on days with larger theater audiences for violent movies. The effect is partly due to voluntary incapacitation: between 6PM and 12AM, a one million increase in the audience for violent movies reduces violent crime by 1.1 to 1.3 percent. After exposure to the movie, between 12AM and 6AM, violent crime is reduced by an even larger percent. This finding is explained by the self-selection of violent individuals into violent movie attendance, leading to a substitution away from more volatile activities. In particular, movie attendance appears to reduce alcohol consumption.
- The results emphasize that media exposure affects behavior not only via content, but also because it changes time spent in alternative activities. The substitution away from more dangerous activities in the field can explain the differences with the laboratory findings. Our estimates suggest that in the short-run violent movies deter almost 1,000 assaults on an average weekend. While our design does not allow us to estimate long-run effects, we find no evidence of medium-run effects up to three weeks after initial exposure.”
I don’t want to get into quoting more quotes, because any historian knows that we can do this forever. What I find interesting comparing these two quotes is that the Hollywood producer believes that there is an adverse effect and yet is happy to continue, yet some researchers actually question that film increases violence. So perhaps we have a small suggestion here that Hollywood thinks it has a bigger influence on society than it does in reality; maybe the general public are under the same misapprehension.
The thing that I haven’t found easy to quantify in my research travels, and a question I would like to understand is: does the IQ (Intelligence Quotient) and EQ (Emotional Quotient) have a direct effect on an individual’s susceptibility to suggestion, and therefore their tendency to recreate what they see on film; because you can’t blame Hollywood for the state of mind of a small number of viewers.
There is an argument for more responsibility in movie making, and it is a valid argument, but to be fair you could conclude that Hollywood movies show us what is happening out there in other stratas of society, and ensure that those fortunate enough to live happy and financially secure lives aren’t living those lives in cloud cuckoo land. You could also say that parents are being warned of the dangers facing their children in modern society through the medium of film.
At the end of the day you can argue most situations from a variety of directions and alter your conclusions accordingly, however, I’m a Spiritualist and I would have to conclude that we must all take responsibility for our own actions and not seek to blame a third party for creating the person we wish to become.
Again, you can argue against that viewpoint by saying that not everyone is aware of Spirituality and how it can help people to create happier, more positive, less angry lives, and I would reply:
Then let’s find a way to tell as many people that as we possibly can – any Hollywood producer ready to make a nice, fluffy (but very real) film about how changing your thinking can not only change your life but also lead to world peace?
Yes guys, I know you’ve tried, but alongside your violent, sad and depressing movies it would be really nice if you’d keep plugging away with the positive messages as well.
Wishing you happy days, peaceful nights, and many non-violent, hysterically funny, life affirming films