Many of the highest-grossing films of recent years have been overly violent and filled with gore. Humans, it seems, have a large appetitie for this stuff. So far this year, however, the highest-grossing film to date is the animated, family-friendly film Zootopia. Parents and critics alike have praised this movie for its positive messages about the harm of stereo-typing and prejudice. I am anxious to take my little brother to see it as soon as it hits theatres in Lily Pad (we're a tad slow in getting human films...)
So how does consuming these different types of films have an impact on humans...as individuals and as a society? As I already mentioned, for a long time now, media researchers have focused primarily on the negative effects of these films, especially how violence impacts agressive behavior as well as how the male/female sterotypes, often portrayed on film, are shaping people's perceptions.
Since the early 1930's and the avent of "talkies" debates, both for and against, have raged about the potential anti-social effects of media. Fortunately, there is current research zeroing in on the positive effects that media plays in shaping our world. I, for one, think this is very exciting!
One researcher from Penn State University. in 2012, identified the power of films to make humans feel uplifted; even filled with gratitude. We've all heard or read the term "uplifting and positive" from film critics. All too often, though, those words are used to describe "chick flicks," while more "manly" films are descibed as "action-packed, a thrill-a-minute." There's a negative connotation to the words "feel good" and "uplifting." Men are taught that those emotions are only for women; that to be a real man, one must like action and violence. Isn't that a sad statement about society?
In that same study, the researcher Mary Beth Oliver, said that the students she studied told her that these uplifting films made them feel "happy and sad at the same time, gave them a lump in their throat, and were teary-eyed; they experienced a rising or opening of the chest and, yes, chills."
Films have a profound way of affecting us, positively and negatively. They can awaken our consciousness. One of my favorite films, of all times, is "Eat, Pray, Love." I've seen it many times and each time I do, I get an even deeper sense of peace and calm, that feeling of being uplifted. "An Inconvenient Truth" a documentary by Al Gore while it may not give you the warm fuzzies, it does serve a greater purpose; it enlights with facts about the consequences of climate change. It's stimulating and though-provoking.
Movies not only make us feel good, they also have the power to make us feel better about the world, as a whole. Research shows that "inspiring media" actually has the the potential to shift our world towards a "kind-world" syndrome." And isn't THAT the direction we should all try to move in?
Hollywood will probably always make movies that are filled with "blood, guts, and gore." But that doesn't mean we have to support them. By not going to see these movies in the theatre, renting them on DVD, or watching them on pay-per-view, we can send a clear message to the movie directors, writers, and producers that the public wants to see more films with actual content; films that give us a reason to feel good, something that will make us think, and something that promotes positivity instead of negativity. Movies are meant to enrich our lives; for the most part, I think they do pretty well. But there's always room for improvement. I don't get out to see many films, but when I do, I certainly won't spend my money on something that doesn't, in one way or another, improve me; either by making me feel great or by educating me. Films like "The Monuments Men" can be both uplifting, as well as eduational. And that's something worth seeing. Now that's entertainment!