Wednesday, December 13, 2017

The Positive and Negative Effects of Television and Movies on the Viewer

Cody goes way back in the archives to share a school report.

Seventeen years ago today, on December 13, 2000, I was a junior in high school and I filed a report on a subject I felt very passionate about, one which was a huge issue at that time: the question of whether or not TV and movies were responsible for the violent actions of  viewers. To mark the anniversary, I thought I would share the defense of TV and movies that I wrote when I was 17 years old. It's a report that a teacher at the parochial school I was getting my education through (thus the Cain and Abel reference) gave an A+. I wrote this half my life ago, so let's see if it holds up all these years later.

Ever since the television was invented, it has served many purposes. It has been a reason for a family to spend some time together watching their favorite shows, it has been something to relax with, it has taught us some things, and sometimes it's even used as a "babysitter". Lately, the question has come up of how the type of shows a person watches on television affects their lives. Movies and television have even been directly blamed for causing the violent actions of certain people.

Despite what many people believe today, movies cannot control a person's actions, if the person has any sanity at all. Blaming television, movies, video games, etc. for a person's actions is the same thing as a child doing something they know they'll get in trouble for, then when their parents catch them they tell them that their younger brother or sister did it. Blaming a movie, which is just a spool of film, is just a shifting of responsibility. For the most part, the effects of movies and television on the victimizer is only brought up when the victimizer is a minor. People seem to forget that violence has been going on since Cain killed Abel, and Cain certainly wasn't driven to violence by something he'd seen on television. It came natural. Anger is a natural human emotion and disposition, and violence comes out of that, it just needs to be controlled. When an adult does something illegal or violent, the movies they watch are never even brought up, because they are deemed old enough to be responsible for their own actions, while a minor is not. People need to realize that minors can have the same emotions as adults, and they need to take responsibility for their actions just like adults do. The young offenders always seem to escape personal responsibility because society instead likes to blame everything but the person who did the actions. It's more convenient than facing up to the facts that minors can have emotional problems.

The only type of television that deserves to get any kind of blame is the media. The nightly news. The networks that make heroes out of the criminals, that tell viewers that the only people that deserve any kind of recognition are celebrities and victimizers. If you're a minor and you want to be popular, or get your opinions out there, breaking the law seems to be the way to accomplish those goals. You'll get on the news that way, and if you do something really bad, you'll get on the magazine covers as well. The media prefers to wallow in violence and the bad things in the world, creating a false feeling in everyone that the world has gotten more violent, that it's falling apart. Many people feel that the world today is more violent than it has ever been. This is not true. If they would look at the police reports and statistics, they would find out that the crime rates on all kinds of crimes, including murder and drug use, are falling to record lows. Things are getting better, not worse. The world is not getting more violent. It's just getting more televised.

Movies and television are not bad. To quote, "Movies contribute to our common vocabulary, mythology, and culture. It is to movies that we turn for entertainment, connection, solace, and relaxation."

Movies are television are a form of relaxing, of "getting away" from your life for an hour and a half or two, or sometimes even longer, after a hard day. Movies can make you laugh, make you happy, make you sad, make you cry, give you a thrill. Show you things you've never seen before, things that without movies you could only see in your own imagination. Movies bring your imagination to life, and it can be very therapeutic.

There are several different types, or genres, of movies and they all serve different purposes and are helpful to the viewer in different ways. The most popular genres are drama, comedy, romance, action, and horror, which is the "black sheep" of the entertainment industry.

People watch drama because they like stories about the human condition. Movies in the drama genre are usually the most realistic movies, telling stories of normal people getting through situations that really happen, and could happen to just about everybody. Drama movies can be helpful to the viewer by making them feel better about some things that are going on in their lives, either by seeing in the movie that it's something that many people go through, or making the viewer think that no matter what's going on in their lives, at least it's not as bad as what's happening to the people in the movie. It can also help the viewer vent some of their emotions by giving them a good cry.

People watch romance for the same reason they watch drama. They want to watch normal people experiencing a normal human emotion, love. The benefits of romance movies are pretty much the same as dramas as well. Viewers that are in love can see just how great love can be, and viewers that aren't in love can see that there's hope, that maybe someday they'll find a love like the one represented in the movie.

People watch comedy when they just want to relax and see something fun. Comedies aren't usually that hard to follow, they're just something to spend some time watching, laughing at them. Comedies can help people by making them forget about their cares. The viewer is too busy having fun and laughing to worry about what might be going on in their life. Comedies can make a bad day a lot better, or make a good day great. Comedy is probably the most popular genre, since everybody likes to laugh, so most movies in other genres mix in comedy elements.

Action is another very popular genre, usually making the most money at the box office. People watch action movies for many of the same reasons they watch comedies. They watch action movies to "escape" from their lives, to just sit back and watch the excitement. Action movies tend to be extremely easy to follow, with minimal plot. They're not there to make the viewer think, they're just there to entertain. It's the same for the viewer; they're not there to think, they're there to be entertained. Action movies pump the viewer up, get their adrenaline going, and give them a thrill.

Which leads us to the horror genre. The, as I said before, black sheep of the movie industry, the genre that gets the most flak and gets the most blame for violence in society. Which is a shame, since horror movies are basically just a different kind of action movie. They cause the same kind of emotions in the viewer as action movies do, and have the same kind of excitement and suspense. The explosions of action movies are replaced by the scares of the horror movie. The stories are usually very simplistic, as in action movies, and are very easy to follow. The viewer usually isn't there to think, they're there to be entertained, to have their adrenaline pumped up, to be excited. The experience of watching a horror movie is a purging of emotions, as with all other movies.

So there's the list of the most popular genres and how they can benefit the viewer. But viewers don't just follow certain genres, they also follow certain actors. If a viewer likes an actor a lot they will become devoted to the actor, going to every new movie that comes out starring that person. They will even create "fan sites" on the internet, collecting information on and pictures of the actor so they can spread the word of how great they think that actor is. As of right now (December 13, 2000), if you do a search at for "Fan Site" you will get 719 results.

In closing, I'd like to state again that it is my belief that movies have a far more positive effect on the viewer than a negative effect, and cannot cause a person to do something they wouldn't have done at some point anyway. Movies cannot be blamed for the actions of the viewer, and those that do blame the movies for the actions of certain viewers need to stop passing the blame on to something that cannot defend itself, taking the easy way out. They need to stop looking at what happens in the movies the offender watched and start looking at what happened in the life and mind of the offender.

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