As someone who thoroughly enjoys analyzing, understanding and appreciating various forms of entertainment media, it is always a trying time whenever I am presented with the phrase “Geesh, it was just a [fill in form of media here].” When I find myself diving into what elements make this song work or how the direction of this film is meant to move people, I generally get the aforementioned response.
This response is one that I view as generally negative for various different reasons.
First of all, the impact that pop culture and entertainment media has had on our society, as a whole, is almost overwhelming.
Whether it be via Cultivation Theory (the more television we watch, the more likely we are to view the way in which things work on television as the way things actually work) or Social Learning Theory (we learn social norms and cues from observation of other people), the media influences us in ways that we hardly could ever think about.
Think of the idea of the ticking time bomb. Ticking time bombs have existed, but, due to their impracticality when compared to remote detonated bombs, these types of explosives are rarely used, if ever. However, shows like “24” and “Arrow” or films like “The Dark Knight Rises” and “Die Hard” all prominently feature this type of bomb as if they are the obvious choice for your run-of-the-mill terrorist attack.
This absurd idea of the ticking time bomb has penetrated our culture’s psyche so significantly that even the U.S. government used a potential ticking time bomb scenario as a means of justifying whether or not they should torture someone for information.
I repeat, the United States government used something that does not happen to justify inhumane acts upon another person.
This simply goes to show how effective and convincing the media can be.
Not only is it important to dissect media due to its influence, but entertainment media is also a means of measuring a nation’s culture at the time that the film, song, book, etc. are released.
Personally, I have a specific adoration for film that transcends all others. In my time of viewing and thinking about dozens of classic films, it is easy to pick up on some trends that reveal a lot about what our country was going through during a specific timeframe.
Whether it was all of the science-experiment-gone-wrong films that sprouted up after the introduction of atomic warfare in the 1940s and 50s or the influx of terrorist-eqsue villains being featured more frequently in films after September 11, film, among other forms of media, can take a snapshot of our country’s demands, insecurities and vulnerabilities in ways that the news and your Facebook feed could never be able to describe.
Not only do these areas of media contain historical significance, but to say “Come on, it was just a movie,” is to completely discredit film as an art form. Film and television are art forms that should be respected as much as anything one would see in an art gallery. Sure, much like pop music, film as a money-making industry tends to stifle a lot of progress and creativity, but it is those films that fall between the cracks that are worth looking at from several different perspectives: what the film means from a filmmaking standpoint, what it means from a narrative standpoint, and also what it means from a personal standpoint.
I could sit here for hours and type up why Richard Linklater’s “Boyhood” is an impressive feat of filmmaking and then turn around and reveal how this same film personally changed a part of me so suddenly that I have never been the same person since viewing it.
It is these types of experiences and reactions that, when discussed with more casual viewers, tend to always be disregarded as “over-thinking” or, even worse, “contrived.” Legitimate filmmakers tend to have a purpose for everything that is shown or heard on screen during a film’s 90–plus minute run time and that should always be respected.
So no, it is never “just a movie.” It is not “just a song,” or it is not “just a television show.” Some people will not see it or understand it, and that is fine, but to say these things implies that entertainment media does not matter when in reality it has more cultural significance than most other hobbies.
What seems like simple entertainment to you may actually mean the world to someone else.