For years, I’ve found it fascinating how movie and TV producers claim that there’s little correlation between glorified violence in their productions and real-life violence, and yet at awards shows every year, they trumpet how their productions are affecting positive change in society.
Either movies have an effect on audiences—positive or negative—or they do not.
The fact that billions of dollars are spent on advertising every year seems to indicate that audiences can be influenced by what they see and hear. No company is going to spend millions of dollars on advertising if it doesn't improve their sales. And despite what some producers, writers, and actors may say, study after study indicates that violence on screens does have an impact on those watching.
From an anecdotal perspective, I think we can all say that we’re touched by what we see and hear. In commenting about the power of stories, journalist Shane Snow writes that “we are hardwired to dramatize, to imagine, and to be pulled into good stories. Think about the last time you watched a movie or read a book and were suddenly snapped back to reality by a noise in the room. You hadn’t realized that you’d lost awareness of your surroundings. You didn’t notice when the line between reality and the story world inside your brain began to fade.”
If stories have the ability to pull us into another reality and make us laugh, cry, and even scream in terror, they certainly have the ability to change how we see the world and our subsequent behaviour.
Rather than continuing to debate about whether there is a connection between the media and societal behaviours, the debate should instead be about what sort of messages we’re sharing. Are they meant to promote forgiveness and grace or violence and revenge? Are they meant to build someone up or tear them down?
When we’re at work, whether we realize it or not, we’re often sharing stories. Those stories could be about what we did on the weekend, or they could be about the people we work with or the things that we don’t like at work. But whatever story we’re sharing, others are subconsciously building and informing their opinions based on it.
We might not like the negativity that we find in the media that surrounds us, but are we just as guilty of sharing negative stories of our own? Whether they’re up on a big screen at the local theatre or just talked about over coffee, we have to be aware of how stories have an impact—for good or bad.