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.
(1) Ahmed, S. S. (2009, December). Cinema: An effective tool to imbibe values in children. Retrieved from http://www.academia.edu/413234/Cinema_a_Powerful_Medium
(2) McLuhan, M. (1967). The medium is the massage. New York: Bantam Books.