The Impact of Movies on Society: Why Movies Matter
"Film is incredibly democratic and accessible, it’s probably the best option if you actually want to change the world, not just re-decorate it."
Movies can be many things. They can make us laugh. They can make us cry. They can make us happy. They can make us sad. They can make money. It might be better stated that movies can make many things.
I say without hesitation that movies are the primary means of social, cultural, ethical ideas in modern America—undoubtedly more so than ever before thanks to the ever increasingly media-saturated society in which we live.
One might even argue that movies are the primary spiritual influence on American society. I won't do that here, however.
But the influence of movies on our lives, in myriad ways, is undeniable.
What do The Godfather, Forrest Gump and Harry Potter all have in common? They are all highly successful movies based on books. Before film or movie and television screens, books were, outside of the home, the principal means of propagating values, academic learning, ideas, and so on. This is simply not true anymore. The best way for a book to have the greatest societal impact is for it to be adapted into a movie.
A movie is more than just a movie.
Movies are important because:
- They are accessible. There are so many different ways to watch movies now that this should almost go without saying. You can watch them in the theater, in your home or on the go.
- They are easy to absorb. In anywhere from an hour and a half to three hours, a movie is done. The effort required in movie watching is considerably less than, for example, reading a novel.
- They make money. I know that there are thousands of “smaller” movies that don’t make a lot of dough, but the movies people watch make billions of dollars combined. The movies people watch are in the popular fiction genre. People who have never opened a comic will go see Iron Man. People who have never read a book in their lives will watch The Fault in Our Stars. Movies have that power.
- They both reflect and shape the culture. One movie by itself may not be able to do this, but thousands of movies released over a long period of time definitely can. And they do. I will write more about this in later posts.
- People talk about them. Most people know where “Life is like a box of chocolates” or “I am your father” come from. Movies have the unique ability to be absorbed into the cultural lexicon and stay there—more so than any other medium. People(and I think this is a good way to describe it) “evangelize” for movies constantly. “You mean you’ve never seen The Shawshank Redemption? You have to see that movie!”
- They are often seen by large groups of people at once. A movie is the best way for a modern storyteller to have the greatest and most immediate impact on society. Traditional oral storytelling is a dying art.
In the coming days I will write more about how movies have impacted me personally. Until then…
There is some excellent and applicable material in this lecture from a Christian pastor.