“Can’t we just watch it?!”
When watching a movie in class, many of my students complain when I stop it in order to engage in a discussion of what the movie is presenting. My response to their “Can’t we just watch it?” is always, sure. “Sure, this Friday night, in your living room.” But to be truthful, I don’t believe that we should ever “just watch” a movie.
We need to be aware of what they are presenting as truth or reality.
I’ve written about movies before: R Rated Movies, Does Movie Violence Affect the Viewer?, Language, Sex and Violence–What will we Watch?, The Demonic and the Stupid, A Negative Times a Negative Equals a Positive. Here are some notes that I don’t think I’ve yet posted:
Movies always show a hero who needs something.
- What they need is often not what they think they need.
- Friends, trials, even enemies help the hero to realize what they need.
- In the end, the hero has an opportunity to take it.
- It’s interesting to analyze movies on the basis of what the storytellers insist the hero needs.
- In Hollywood, it’s almost always romantic love.
Good Guys and Bad Guys
- In many Action/Adventure movies, the good guys kill people and the bad guys kill people.
- Good guys protect women and children–Good guys are pro-family.
- Bad guys threaten and/or exploit women and children–they are anti-family.
Masculinity, Femininity, Love, and Sex
- Male heroes often have a problem with authority–they need freedom?
- Masculinity in the movies is muscles, emotional restraint, dominance, aggression, sexual prowess and the capacity for violence.
- Femininity in movies presents the woman as passive and finding her identity in the man. She is expected to be sexually chaste and resist the advances of the male.
- Sex is a physical expression of romantic love. She was chaste until she realized that she was “in love,” and this is within the rules.
- Love in Hollywood: Romantic love is passionate, irresistible and able to conquer anything, including barriers of social class, age, race and ethnicity, and personal conflicts.
Hopeful and Materialistic
- We like things to wrap up nicely and leave us with a sense of hope for the future.
- Hollywood films must be rational. We need a knowable, physical cause for everything.
Excellent insights, Trent. As you know, I delve a bit into movies myself. One cinematic topic I’ve revisited a few times on my blog (not intentionally, but possibly uncoincidentally) is fatherhood. There are a lot of movies about dads – usually broken ones — either as the main story or a subplot. That’s interesting in itself, but another side is what Hollywood does to moms. Especially broken ones.
Broken dads are usually played as wounded, and either on the path to redemption (usually) or unredeemable, but victims of circumstance. (Generally their upbringing; sometimes war.) Broken moms are played as plain-old evil. They’re less likely to be given an excuse (such as their upbringing, or sacrificing love to support the family materially), and less likely to seek redemption in their old age.
A Hollywood broken dad is usually trying to understand how he got there and/or to make amends; sometimes (if it’s a dark movie) he retreats into a fortress of self-justification and unbreakable habit and becomes a figure of pity.
A Hollywood broken mom (much rarer than broken dads on film; almost nonexistent) has no remorse and no intention of changing, makes no effort to forgive or be forgiven, and goes on self-righteously laying waste to her children’s lives wherever possible. She’s like an electric fence: untouchable and unapproachable.
Somewhere in there is a whole sheaf of deep insights into our culture and how we view… well, almost everything, really. (Given what parents are, psychologically.)
Rusty Ring: Reflections of an Old-Timey Hermit