The entertainment industry is one of the largest revenue generating industries in the modern world. At the forefront of the entertainment industry is the medium of Movies and Television. In an interview with Tom Sherak, the president of the academy of motion picture arts and sciences, he said, “Film is a reflection of society, both present and past. I think the film and its innovations sometimes has to catch up to society but sometimes it leads society too. Movies are stories, movies are people who come out with ideas about something they want to say, something they want to tell someone. Movies are a form of communication and that communication, those stories, come from societies- not just where society is presently and what it’s doing now- but where society has been. It’s been that way for as long as movies have been around!”(1). With the implication of new technologies such as Redbox and Netflix, thousands of titles are ready to be watched instantly wherever the viewer may please. This has made movies and television more accessible now than ever before. From an entertainment point of view this may seem like a rather amazing thing; however, does this constant exposure lead to more serious problems than most realize? Is society truly aware of everything they are watching in these movies and television shows? Does the sociological and psychological impact of the medium of movies and television have a greater impact on society than just mere entertainment? These questions among others will be the topic of discussion in the following paragraphs of this paper.
Most people seek some form of entertainment in their daily lives because they are bored of their own reality and want to venture into something more exciting than their current reality. When someone reads a book they create this alternate reality in their minds; but when someone watches a movie or show the alternate reality is created by someone else and is presented to the viewer. When an image of the character is actually seen and heard in the story it becomes much easier for the viewer to become attached to the character. This is especially true for television shows where the viewer sees and hears the character every week and begins to see the character change over time. Many people even get so immersed in television and movies that they develop a strong relationship with their favorite characters. With many people, this relationship branches outside the movie or show and into their actual lives. The viewer not only feels attached to the character but to the actor or actress behind the character. This attachment to the actor drives viewers to want to know more about the everyday lives of these actors and they begin watching celebrity tabloid shows and talk shows hoping that their favorite actors will be featured. When famous actors and actresses are constantly being pursued by paparazzi and interviewed on talk shows because they have thousands or even millions of fans that want to know everything about them, it affects them majorly and the way they react greatly impacts society. The media portrays these famous actors and actresses in a very exaggerated fashion. They always have on the nicest clothes, drive the nicest cars, and seem like their lives are just perfect in every way. This portrayal by the media leads viewers to believe that happiness is achieved through material means and being rich and famous. In conclusion, the medium of movies and television is partially responsible for the increasingly materialistic American society we live in today.
In addition to instilling materialistic ideals into modern society, movies and television also have a rather large impact on how frequent viewers perceive the world. In several of the most popular television shows and movies in our culture the storyline is made to model real life and sometimes is even based on true events that actually took place. Although the program is made out to be realistic the content is often exaggerated greatly yet the viewer still believes that the content of the program is still realistic. With repeated exposure to these exaggerated “realistic” concepts the viewer’s perception of the real world can be altered. A great example is the way forensic science and the justice system is portrayed in crime dramas on television. Crime dramas are a genre of television shows about crimes, usually extremely violent, that claim to reference real science in an attempt to be as realistic as possible. This authenticity is a large factor in what makes crime dramas as popular as they are; in fact, there are hundreds of different crime shows out there all with their own little twist on the same concept. One of the most popular shows, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, has many scenes in forensic science labs mumbling off all sorts of forensic mumbo jumbo and using the latest and greatest technology. Viewers even though under the impression that the show is fictional still believe that the forensic science would not just be made up and therefore take the science as factual information applied to a fictional situation. The viewer thinks that forensic science is acted out the same way in real life as it is in CSI, this however is not the case at all. A lot of these viewers of CSI and other shows like it are the citizens that are going on jury duty nationwide. Jurors having a false idea of how forensic science works in real life has been the rise of concerns lately and even has its own clever name, The CSI Effect. In an interview about the CSI effect with Mike Murphy, a forensic scientist, Mike says, “It’s also caused some problems. And some of those problems are [that] people expect us to have DNA back in 20 minutes or that we’re supposed to solve a crime in 60 minutes with three commercials. It doesn’t happen that way,” (2) The medium of movies and television may provide a realistic alternate reality for the viewer however the viewer must keep in mind that the ultimate purpose of the medium is to entertain not to be truthful.
Although the medium of movies and television consciously impacts its viewers the medium also has subconscious impacts on the viewer as well. During a commercial advertisement on television it is usually very obvious what the creator of the ad is trying to sell to the consumer. However the vast majority of people don’t realize that there are a number of things being sold to them during the film or show as well as during the commercials. This is because the people behind the advertisement during the show are trying to appeal to the consumer’s subconscious mind. This form of advertisement is known as subliminal advertising and is common in a multitude of movies and television shows. Companies will pay the maker of the show or film to place their product in the background or use their product as a prop without directing too much attention to it. A great example would be in the movie I Am Legend starring Will Smith all of the cars he drives throughout the movie are all brand new Ford vehicles. Although the spectators of the movie may not realize they watched an advertisement for Ford during the movie, one day in the future they may be looking at cars and really like the new Ford because they remember it as the car from I Am Legend.
The medium of movies and television obviously has an influential impact on the society and the way people think. Marshall McLuhan expresses his view of how influential electronic media such as movies and television can be especially on children in his book The Medium Is The Message, “The family circle has widened. The worldpool of information fathered by electric media—movies, Telstar, flightfar surpasses any possible influence mom and dad can now bring to bear. Character no longer is shaped by only two earnest, fumbling experts. Now all the world’s a sage.” (3) With the medium of movies and television being so easily accessible to anyone and the amount money spent in creating the movies and television shows, impacts on society are inevitable. However, it must be remembered that the type of impact and the severity of this impact are determined by the analyzer of the medium. If people make sure to take everything they see in movies and on television for what it is, just mere entertainment, than the impact the medium of movies and television have on society can be generally positive and beneficial.
- Shah, Vikas. “The Role Of Film In Society.” Weblogpost. blogspot.com. N.p., 19 June 2011. Web. 03 Mar. 2015.
- Rath, Arun. “Is The ‘CSI Effect’ Influencing Courtrooms?” NPR. NPR, 05 Feb. 2011. Web. 03 Mar.
- MacLuhan, Marshall. The Medium Is the Message. Corte Madera: Gingko Pr., 2005. PDF.