As most of you may or may not know, I am a big movie fan. If not my friends and family, then I am most certainly a child of the media. Humor, personality, likes, dislikes, and many more quirks about me were most likely influenced by cinema at some point. I was not one of those ordinary kids who wanted to be a firefighter or a police officer, whenever I’d leave an action movie, that’s who I’d want to be; the main character, kicking faces in and getting girls. As my passion for movies branched out from a hobby to a potential career, I began to look at movies in a different light. They were not only entertainment to be now, they were an artform worth studying. Slowly I picked up traces of movies that felt very familiar to me, as if I had seen them in real life. Just like a flying Frisbee being thrown, it hit me; Movies and society have long been influencing each other long past my little ignorant mind could remember. I took it upon myself to find out what these influences were and exactly how much our society has been touched by cinema.
Most people do it every weekend; it’s become a staple in our society. Everyone likes to go and attend the movies with the new big releases being released very few weeks or so.
Many people take these simply as something they’ll enjoy once or twice, buy as a DVD, and then it will have no other effect besides being a coaster for drinks. But people need to really analyze themselves to notice the true effects that movies have had.
On a personal scale, people get affected by movies in small but noticeable ways. For example, some people may watch a horror movie so scary that they have a fear of the character or what the character is for ages. I know tons of adults and kids were and are afraid of the Chucky dolls that hang around Spencer’s so eerily. Me personally, films have made me want to become a director simply by how masterfully they are created and the diversity of the films that can be created
. But films go past how they singularly affect people’s fears or rational, films go as far as to affecting an entire society. Small folkways in society have a very apparent movie base if one were to look closely at it. Movies have had direct affect on society by changing the population's perspective on life, including fears, opinions, and popular culture while society has influenced movies shown by movie plots, characters, messages, and settings changed to take advantage of current events to draw in movie goers. Some people may view the tricks that horror movies use on moviegoers, fear, distortion of image, false imagery, as only simple effects or ones that can be avoided by closing ones eyes or such other tactics. But horror movie clichés have been happening for so long and at such a number of times that the fear has transitioned from film to real life. Checking under the bed, dark attics/basements, camping in the woods, traveling back roads, etc; all of these seemingly simple tasks are now feared and cautioned due to their gained notoriety from film. The situations of violence and actual violence affects the population in many different ways, but those who are younger or those who may have experienced similar violence react much more harshly than others, “A child or teenager who has been brought up in an abusive family and has been hit as a child is more likely to lash out at other people especially if they have just seen a very violent film like the &quot;Chainsaw massacre.&quot; (Does the Horror and Violence of film Influence Society?, Para 3), further showing how films can influence a wide array of people in our society.
1903, the very first “narrative” film was released; The Great Train Robbery . As the title implies, it was a 12 minute film depicting the events of a train robbery, traditional cops and robbery type deal with a train and horses. But The Great Train Robbery didn’t quite affect people till the very end; a shot of Barnes, the lead bandit, firing his gun into the crowd. This large image of Barnes shooting his gun into the crowd caused many viewers to actually jump and leave the theatre terribly afraid, the filming technique being the first of its kind. I use this only as an entrance into the effects that movies truly have on an audience, a man shooting a gun at the screen being only the tip of the iceberg.
In the summer of 1974 the beaches were filled with many carefree people and sharks were simply viewed as another sea creature. The summer of 1975 would come to change all of this with the release of Steve Spielberg’s movie based on Peter Benchley’s novel, Jaws . Not only did Jaws change the film industry, it also changed society in a way that still remains today. When Jaws was released, it was the first “summer blockbuster” due to its innovative ad campaign that, although added costs to the budget, allowed Jaws to be as successful as it was. But due to this massive popularity and word of mouth, Jaws went on to be seen by many, with its effects hitting everyone who saw it. Jaws would be the sole reason that ruined the shark’s generally peaceful image, the new image being one of a blood thirsty killer that lasts till this day. “ In the popular media, sharks have traditionally been portrayed as vicious killers. Motion pictures, such as JAWS, news media coverage of shark attacks and many documentaries still perpetuate this image by sensationalizing attacks and disproportionately portraying sharks engaged in feeding or aggressive behaviors.” (Iemanya Oceanica, Para 1) The film had such a strong influence that the beaches and oceans were practically empty in 1975 due to the image Jaws had created of sharks (Iemanya Oceanica). But society’s strong reaction to Jaws would go on to influence movies later in the business. Society was now used to movies with big effects, big advertising, and a lot of action happening throughout. Society’s expectations for such results led to what we now call as the “summer blockbuster” films, movies that gross large sums of money out of the summer audiences. Though it changed the box office for the better, society would never be the same with its regards to sharks.
Jaws would be the sole reason that ruined the shark’s generally peaceful image, the new image being one of a blood thirsty killer that lasts till this day. The film had such a strong influence that the beaches and oceans were practically empty in 1975 due to the image Jaws had created of sharks. Though it changed the box office for the better, society would never be the same with it’s regards to sharks.
Movies are distributed to screens around the world and at a rapid rate, meeting the eyes and minds of many viewers simultaneously. This allows film makers to spread their visions and ideas to their movie goers and whatever facts the creator chooses to put in his movie, those are the facts that people will accept within the film. But when these “facts” begin to continuously appear and begin to create stereotypes, these stereotypes become imprinted onto the populace’s minds. Stereotypes hold no ground unless repeatedly demonstrated, reported, and accepted as fact for a type of people. Cinema offers this opportunity for massive and rapid appeal to people, films being sent far and wide across the world and too many theatres for people to view. The sad part is, rarely do people notice this effect due to how long it has been going on. Due to the consistence of occurrences, it is hardly noticed anymore on how cinema portrays gender and race, but when one closely analyses certain trends and character archetypes, one finds a history of racism and misogyny.
Stereotypes hold no ground unless repeatedly demonstrated, reported, and accepted as fact for a type of people. Cinema offers this opportunity for massive and rapid appeal to people, films being sent far and wide across the world and to many theatres for people to view. The sad part is, rarely do people notice this effect due to how long it’s been going on.
The stereotype imprinting starts at a rather young age too, the first signs appearing in innocent films such as those that Disney makes. Disney films tend to reach out to those most concerned about their image to society as well; young girls. In Disney movies, a princess is shown dominantly as thin, hour glassed, beautiful, nonviolent, and for the most part, white. They are shown that this is how society expects them to act and look: thin, gorgeous, light, and to act very polite and dainty. &quot;The popular media (television, movies, magazines, etc.) have…increasingly held up a thinner and thinner body (and now ever more physically fit) image as the ideal for women.” (Media’s Effect on Girls: Body Image and Gender Identity, Para 2) Except for the likes of Mulan, the women are also the ones who are helpless in fighting and are expected to be taken care for by the lead male. For the most part, on both the sides of girls and boys, the villains are normally portrayed as ugly and out of shape compared to their protagonist counterparts. “Movies/the media focus only on a single sect of society, like with women, showing only skinny women and rarely putting large women in a leading roll.” (Kathy Para 3) Disney is not the only offender of these stereotypes, but it is no unknown fact that Disney movies tend to be what children are exposed to the most. A child is most influenced by these things due to their age, and further down the line, these claims are still supported by mainstream films placing of women as eye candy or the role of the damsel in distress once more.
Boys are less affected by how they look, they take no notice to how prince looks but more in how courageous he is and having to stand up for their love. Boys are more affected by the big, muscular manly characters like the smoking, lead action hero in most movies now days. &quot;War movies usually had big physically fit men as sergeants and they would sometimes if not always be smoking cigarettes when depicted in these movies...” (Felipe, Para 3.) Though this supported a healthy life style and personality of physical fitness, chivalry, and outspoken attitude, to those who would grow up without these traits, they would feel less connected to the male community.
Though film does support these stereotypes, society has tried to influence films to change it otherwise. Their has been a recent spurge of leading roles where a larger woman was the star ( Hairspray , Dream Girls , Precious ) as well as a new acceptance of more ordinary male roles as opposed to buff male roles ( Superbad, District 9 ). Society will always have the influence of stereotypes intertwined within it; it has gone on for simply too long for it to change now, but society does what it can to try and balance it out. But sometimes, society’s intentions to balance stereotypes ends up backfiring and creating more, demonstrated best in its balance of race amongst movies.
Stereotypes and exaggerated characteristics of race starts as early as childhood cartoons. Many races have received the treatment, with characters like Jim Crow from Dumbo and many Fu Man Chu type villains. Throughout cartons though, the treatment of Native Americans in film is most always the most negative. Film maker Chris Eyre even cites movies as the most damaging thing to the Indian image besides religion. In children’s cartoons they are always specifically shown as stereotypical “Indians” with brown-reddish skin, tribal markings, and feathered attire. Children are exposed to the stereotype of Indians and then are corrected in their teenaged years as “politically incorrect” for the image. How can we as a society try to defend Native Americans while still allowing this imagery to go about? But it seems that when films specifically go out of their way to correct such racial blunders, they end up creating more racial issues within the industry.
Films like Diary of a Mad Black Woman and This Christmas are obviously aimed at black audiences while most movies in general have a balance of race in their casts, though some would argue it remains mainly white.
Some sects of society ask for these kinds of movies, claiming unbalance in the “normal” film industry, so in a way it is a blunder created by society to match film influence. But while other races such as the black and Latino culture create movies that center around their race to counter “white-washed” movies, in reality, these “white washed” movies don’t intend to aim for a certain racial demographic and are taken that way. But the sad part is, these specifically racial movies always pertain to what the culture is known for and supports stereotypes. It isn’t a coincidence that most black movies deal with guns and thug culture, as do some Latino films as well. Tyler Perry’s films do a great job of trying to provide more positive black role models, but in an industry filmed with stereotypes and character archetypes, it’s hard for those to shine through. With stereotypical movies like Soul Plane around, it’s hard to try and say the movie is made to add diversity when the movie comes off as ignorantly racist and against its own cause. As it is becoming more acceptable for younger viewers to view a wider array of films, these minds will be influenced early “Because movies are visually arresting and young minds are easily influenced, these images become indelibly imprinted.”(Schmidt, Para 17)
Though films seem to have had a negative effect on society and society goes back to try and correct this effect, movies don’t only spread negative influences. This is not the case, as film has also influenced innocent items like fashion. Risky Business is remembered for its underwear dancing scene, but where do people think the trend of huge sunglasses came from? Tom Cruise singlehandedly started two sunglasses trends with his glasses in Risky Business and also his aviators in Top Gun . Every film market has its own trends: many Chinese teens wearing trench coats that Chow Yun Fat wore in A Better Tomorrow in the late 1980s. Movies can also singlehandedly change a market, movie’s signature cars becoming massively popular once the movie is released. James Bond , Transformers , and old movies like Bullitt and Mad Max are some great examples of this type of consumer influence. Society also influences what products are placed into movies, a recent spurge of Apple products, Sony products, and Coca Cola products popping up in many different movies due to recent popularity. Films and society seem to feed off of each other in marketing, both telling the other one what looks good and is considered “cool” and then marketing it accordingly.
The Bond series is a very good example to look at for both societal influence and for cinema influence throughout. Each Bond film is based off a fear/current event held around the time the film was released. The earlier films obviously pertain to Russian/foreign conflicts, Live and Let Die going off of blaxploitation and media interest in blacks, Moonraker released due to the popularity of Star Wars , a darker tone during the Timothy Dalton era, and the most recent films having to do with terrorism, weapons of mass destruction, corrupt officials, and oil. The Bond films are most certainly affected by society and what viewers are expecting to see.
But society too has had an effect on horror movie trends. There is a reason movies love to have “based on a true story/true events” in the titles of their movies; movie goers love to feel connected to what they’re watching. “Drama movies all play on our fears and scare tactics employed by using real events as a basis. (LaSalle, Para 10) These movies leave its audience uneasy and fearful of the real world that the horror movies claim to be based upon or tell the events of. Horror movies like to do this tactic in order to make the fear seem closer to home, as if a violent/horrific incident could actually happen to anyone. Many of cinema’s most famous killers are based off the deranged like Ed Gein, Ted Bundy, and John Wayne Gacey. This personal reaction to film not only applies to horror movies though, people also love to see autobiographical movies or movies based on real events that are dramatic, not horrific. The feeling as if you’re watching an actual event unfold due to cinematography and an actor’s performance truly shows our desire to see cinema and society/real life mold into one, each movie trying to become more realistic and spot on than the last.
In order to see if movies truly effected people and wasn’t just my own opinion, I decided to interview fellow students of mine to see if they have some how been effected by movies or if they do not realize how they had been. Many people were not aware of quotes and fashions in every day life that were brought upon by movies and were amazed to see how many of their sayings were popularized due to the media. But not many were ignorant to the influences society had, many people were aware of how a movie had effected them to this day, whether it be fear, fashion, or likes, some people were indeed aware of how movies effected them.
There are such tiny examples of influence from society and movies, whether it is movie’s characters, trends, titles, film styles, or society’s slight change in fashion, movie expectations, and fears or even grand examples like stereotypes and plot devices that are quite more common. Movies have been around for a very long time and as time goes by, directors and technology are trying harder and harder to bring movies closer to real life through acting and visuals. The influences have been going on for so long and have grown to be accepted as so, it is nearly impossible to get rid of the influence now. Movies continue to become apart of society, society continues to become apart of movies. Whether we like to realize it or not, cinema and society influence each other very much so and shall continue to as times progress.
Movies and Society: A Bittersweet Romance Evan Cowdery
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