Culture: Reflected and Shaped by Movies
Joseph Van Landschoot
The Matrix changed how mainstream audiences thought about reality. Through Star Wars, a fan community formed where people made life-long friendships and even families. Us now holds the record for highest grossing original horror film on opening weekend, (Box Office Mojo,) ushering in new ideas for who we think of as protagonists. Hollywood is not centralized, so it is not exactly an individual entity that holds the credit for being a producer and pusher of ideas that seed into societies, but it is for the most part the vehicle used by artists to reach the largest crowd. Before Marvel’s introduction of their cinematic universe, comic book heroes were a niche in society. Now over ten years later and children, the world over, know about Ironman. Minions are another example that have far reaches into Facebook memes where everyone in the western world knows about them, even if they don’t know where they came from.
Most films from Hollywood go with whatever is trending in society, be it the increasing use of social media or people not being able to find love like the old days. Action films went through phases, from the Vietnam war where violence was seen as chaotic and brutal, to the ninety’s where campy violence slowly rose, and post 9/11 which I feel we still exist in; terrorism brought with it a new sense of heightened fear. Comedy for the most part was and will always be a product of its time, showcasing how we use slang and what current references we use.
The best example of how films are shaped by society can be found in its growing representation. With globalization, Hollywood has come to be internalized in other parts of the world. Growing variety of movies are being made on different topics, and films help the average person become aware of various themes on which certain movies are made. Movies made on foreign cultures and history provide insights into those cultures to the common people and provide an olive branch of compassion for audiences to be more accepting and tolerant towards diversity. In that way, movie stars are very influential. They are looked up to as role models by many, so now that a protagonist is being seen more as any kind of person, the current culture is being better reflected.
Movies have always been a source of entertainment and a means of unwinding and relaxing with friends and family. It also holds people together because they quite frequently bond over movies. A society without entertainment and movies would be difficult to imagine for most. On a similar note, Hollywood has been an important contributor to the US economy. It is valued approximately at $754 billion which makes it one of the largest entertainment industries in the world. It also creates employment for the locals and boosts the American economy. To take things back, Hollywood has also contributed towards uniting the American society with films made after World War II, depicting heroic adventures of Americans which received critical acclaim and helped in collecting the people as one.
Different generations have different ideas of what films made the most impact not just on their life but society. In comedy there were the films of Charlie Chapman, The Three Stooges, Monty Pythons, Bill Murray, Jim Carrey, Will Ferrell, and now Seth Rogen, and so on it will go.
“Bill Murray, hands down,” a Burlington local divulged, “Don’t get me wrong, I love Jim Carrey too, but of those examples you gave me, Bill Murray in Ghost Busters was my jam!”
It usually depends on what you grew up with. In action you had Bruce Lee, Chuck Norris, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Harrison Ford, Bruce Willis, Jackie Chan, Tom Cruise still going strong, along with Keanu Reeves and Iko Uwais. Personalities really make the impression, is another way of saying it. These people and the films they starred in have stapled what audiences expect and how future films will be made.
On the topic of action, to many, movies are increasingly glorifying violence, sex, and other social taboos in a way that the youth are maybe starting to identify themselves with more. Adolescents may see their role models engaging in such behavior on the screen and might therefore tend to justify such acts in real life as morally correct. In this same thought experiment, movies that have tones of racial discrimination in them could/might/may-have-already trickled and imbibed in the psychology of young adults. It is true that in some movies, other countries and societies are depicted as immoral and evil and that may in fact further push a person’s narrative to have the same image of said country depicted without verifying the facts, but it’s a stretch. Today’s world is careful about political correctness. It is true that young minds are ripe for molding, but we humans have basic instincts of empathy that stop us from committing atrocities on the daily. Regardless, children growing up spend the majority of their time in school with peers or at home where they learn from their parents, instead of watching movies.
I asked my mother what she thought about how movies impact kids. “Well, of course. It’s just part of raising your children,” she replied. “There’s nothing wrong with them watching every Disney movie, just not the old racist ones.”
Hollywood is indeed a very powerful medium. That should not be understated in your mind, dear reader. It is worldwide, influencing culture’s psychology. Hence, it is their responsibility as well as each and every one of us, to consider the positive and negative impacts entertainment makes, both in North America and the globe. Both now, and future generations to come.