The Medium of Movies, Functioning as an Archive

There are so many different forms of entertainment that people turn to these days.  Whether it is video games, television, music, or reading, there are so many ways that people can escape their daily lives to provide themselves some sort of entertainment.  One entertainment medium that all people continually resort to is movies.  Movies have a way of bringing out a wide array of emotions, from making us laugh so hard our stomachs begin to ache to being so moved that tears begin to form.  Movies are a way to bring people together in ways we have never imagined.

Many times, the context of a movie is what draws people in.  Whether it is a sci-fi adventure, a romantic comedy, or a blood-curdling horror, people will see a movie for what they believe the movie will be about.  While the content is very important, one could argue that the medium of film is even more important.  This is something Marshall McLuhan discusses in his book The Medium is the Massage.  He argues that the context, or what happens in the movie) is what we take away consciously, and the medium is what we take away subconsciously.  He gives an example, saying the movies transformed “the world of sequence and connections into the world of creative configuration and structure,” (1) meaning that singular events by themselves can be grouped or arranged together to form a singular narrative.

Movies have transcended their role as entertainment to be able to act as a force for social change.  Take for example the movie American Sniper, starring Bradley Cooper as Chris Kyle, a Navy Seal who is the most lethal sniper in U.S. Military history.  One could simply view this movie as war movie without any social agenda; however, this movie has given me and many people around the country a greater appreciation for everything our troops do for us.  Without giving away any spoilers, this movie has once again brought the issue of PTSD into the forefront of very serious psychological conditions.

Movies have a way of teaching us lessons that classrooms and textbooks never will be able to do.  When something is presented in a way that students perceive as “fun”, they are much more likely to want to learn the material and retain it.  This is why many teachers will accompany a movie or short film clip along with a lesson: it provides students with a different medium through which learning is made possible.  This can also translate to issues outside of the classroom.  Syen Sultan Ahmed writes, “Movies based on issues that students face, help reflect on their own condition. Hearing about life through the lens of movie, gives an opportunity to see their lives more clearly and in some cases differently.” (1)

Movies can also act as an archive, or archives of many different things.  They can act as an archive of feelings in the sense they bring out emotions in us through the context of a film.  For example, there is not one person that does not feel sadness when Marley, the dog, dies is Marley and Me.  When reading this in an article, you would not cry; however through the medium of a film, one can experience greater emotion.  Movies act as a sort of technogenesis, changing us emotionally and socially.  Movies are also an archive of culture.  Films from one country differ greatly from those of another country, highlighting the cultural differences.

In conclusion, movies as a medium affect us in a way quite like nothing else.  We can experience a range of emotions while viewing them.  Additionally, they can teach us many things that classrooms cannot.  The next time you watch a movie, don’t just think of the context of it, think of the medium of film and how it adds or subtracts to the overall experience.

Works Cited

(1) Ahmed, S. S. (2009, December). Cinema: An effective tool to imbibe values in children. Retrieved from

(2) McLuhan, M. (1967). The medium is the massage. New York: Bantam Books.


6 thoughts on “The Medium of Movies, Functioning as an Archive”

  1. I like what you said about movies bringing people together. Since many people see the same movie, it creates a sort of common experience. Even though people can watch the movie at different times or different places, the movie does not change. Despite this, the viewing experience can change depending on the viewer’s surroundings. Also its very true what you said about movies bringing out emotion. When I watch The Lion King, even though I know Mufasa dies, I still get sad every time it happens.


  2. I like how you mentioned movies in the learning environment because I agree that they make a difference in the way students will view a lesson that is being taught. The movie also brings along with it the movie theater, in which a group of people can watch a movie together and share a common emotion, which could allow the message to be portrayed differently than if you were watching the movie alone (if you see everyone else crying around you at a sad part in the movie, you might start crying too).


  3. Your blog was very significant to me because I agree 100%. I feel that movies and short clips really give students a way to put things into perspective, such that watching a clip enhances the meaning and gives them a first hand example of how the content should be perceived. Even in books, or reading in general, I feel that some people lose the connection and feelings involved in the story if they cannot see first hand how it’s affecting the characters; however, film can help give the viewer a real life example of why this is story is important. Watching movies is one of my favorite pass-times, and I can personally say that I remember more of what I see than reading it out of a book or magazine. Great blog!


  4. I definitely agree with everything you talked about in this blog post. I especially liked how you mentioned that teachers use movies or short clips during their lectures to give students a different medium of knowledge. I know that whenever one of my professors plays a short clip or movie I pay attention more because it’s different than the usual lecturing and makes you want to pay attention more. I think everyone enjoys movies, especially to get away from homework and other responsibilities for a while.


  5. This is an excellent post! I agree with it all. I love movies, they enrich our lives as a medium and an archive. Thank you for choosing this topic.


  6. You did an excellent job portraying movies as an archive in many different ways! I agree with all of your examples and love that you directed your post towards all types of interests.


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