Movies are a curse for the human community.
There’s no doubt they’re a blessing. We love movies. They are a powerful tool, hence we make them. For many of us, it’s hard to imagine life without them.
They’re entertaining. They squeeze out emotions we didn’t know we had and they inspire and encourage us. They’re excellent conversation fillers for awkward silences and transport us into a different world in the space of 2 hours.
BUT, they’re also an excellent advocate of procrastination. They’re our chocolate cake and Kleenex for mood swings and boredom. They can infiltrate our views, expectations and desires – unless we don’t let it get to that point.
They are excellent manipulators. They disguise their message through eccentric characters, catchy songs, comedy, amazing visuals and angles, subconsciously making you proponents for ethics you’d normally not take on as your own.
Even though there are many examples, these are the examples I came up with:
Its songs will not leave your brain for weeks after watching it. The set design and costumes are amazing and you get to fall in love and identify with the individual characters. But, if you think about it, doesn’t it seem a bit skewed seeing Sandy ultimately earn the love of Danny by changing everything about her physical appearance through flaunting leather clothes, a perm and cigarettes?
2. PRETTY WOMAN
Originally, this movie was meant to shed light on the grimness of prostitution. The original screenplay did not have a happy ending and was gritty and dark, but because people supposedly ‘wanted to see a fairy tale’, it got changed.
This in turn, promoted the idea that a life of prostitution was glamorous and romantic. Now, the message of Pretty Woman could be summed up as “When in doubt, buy designer clothes, get more money and a boyfriend and your life will be fulfilled”.
Django Unchained is an excellent example of good story, aesthetics, comedy and dialogue. In the story we follow Django and Dr. King Schulz taking violent revenge on the most wanted criminals in the South.
I am not against violence in movies. If the story is worth telling and it serves the story – great! But, what I disagree with in Django Unchained, is the way in which violent revenge is applauded and seen as the solution to injustice.
It is told in a manner that makes the viewer cheer for the violent retaliation of the protagonists. It seems good people and their allies are allowed to take revenge and punish the ‘baddies’ violently, because… well, they’re the good people, right?
4. THE NOTEBOOK
Speaking of Rom-Com’s, The Notebook is an audience favorite – at least for the majority of young women. At first glance, the story seems harmless. It shows a cute older couple whose relationship stayed strong throughout the years.
But in my humble opinion, it does more damage than good as it romanticises sensual and shallow attraction, the breaking of promises, betrayal of trust and rebellion against parents. I’m not so sure that this combination will lead to a healthy relationship. Instead it would give ground to heartache, bitterness and misery.
I love Tangled. I love the songs, the animation is so excellent it’s almost scary and the relationship between Maximus and Flynn is priceless. I never really had a think about its message or worldview, until I read Brenden Bell’s article Why I won’t let my kids watch Tangled.
And like Brenden rightly explains, Tangled, like many other princess movies, conveys the idea of wish fulfillment. Everyone around the hero has to sacrifice themselves in order to have his/her needs met without having to give in return.
The idea of being able to make an insensitive criminal change his lifestyle and fall in love with you within 2 days can be misinterpreted too.
The Twilight Saga broke box-office records, and there was no doubt it was successful. I would have been happy for the creators if it weren’t for the skewed messages it sends to its audience, primarily young teenage girls. The story glamorizes violent and vengeful behaviour toward the romantic interest, secrets, abandonment (disguised as love) and lying to parents.
Again, similar to the idea of The Notebook, I would definitely not encourage anyone to use this combination in a pursuit of “happily ever after”.
7. FIFTY SHADES OF GREY
I have to confess I haven’t seen this movie, but I would also never choose to watch it, based on the reviews I’ve seen, word of mouth, the sexual explicitness and the storyline.
Fifty Shades of Grey is, in my opinion, an example of misusing the power of film to dull, mislead and harm its audience by disguising domestic violence and emotional abuse as a normality, even romance.
What personally frightens me is how popular it was. The book series was the fastest-selling series yet, even though so many warnings and boycotts have come against it.
The relationship between Christian and Anastasia is clearly violent and abusive on a sexual, physical and emotional level. Even though Anastasia ultimately chooses to leave, the relationship is still portrayed as acceptable because she always had the opportunity to leave.
In her article, Dr. Ludy Green said this film “could only have adverse effects on recovering victims, like brainwashing them into thinking that their previous abusive relationships may have been acceptable or that maybe they were overreacting to the aggression showed by their partner.”
BE ALERT AND RECOGNIZE…
Please don’t get me wrong. My intention is not to bash these movies entirely. I want to remind you, watching movies should go hand in hand with a healthy dose of scepticism and alertness.
Every artist creates his work through specific filters. Be informed, discuss and process the movies you watch and detect the damaging messages creeping into your consciousness which in turn will affect your expectations of what life, love, conflict resolution etc. should look like.
Filmmakers, Actors, and Creatives, be aware of your own filters, because you’re responsible for the work your audience will end up seeing.