The psyche and the silver screen -Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Paksitan Press Foundtion

The psyche and the silver screen

Pakistan Press Foundation

We all envision our story being narrated, we look out the window during a car ride and pretend we’re in a music video, we certainly do want our lives to be a fairytale, every song makes sense when we fall in love and life ends up feeling like a 90s rom-com.

Since the conception of movies in the late 19th century, the entertainment industry has seen immense growth and prosperity. Who doesn’t love movies? Who doesn’t watch a few music videos on YouTube to procrastinate their life away? We all do it and we all are guilty. But how are these movies affecting us? Have they played a role in shaping our personalities? The matter is still open for debate.

They started out as silent and colourless and became vibrant, realistic and infectious over time. Over the last century the world has seen so much; women won their rights to vote, same sex marriage was legalised, cultures changed, priorities were re-evaluated, marriage became secondary to education… there is a possibility that the very industry that was nothing a 100 years ago had an unignorable important hand in the changing beliefs of the world. Movies have been shaping our mind-sets since their commencement. Most people may disagree, but we have all experienced a level of connection with our favourite characters. We may be exactly like them, in the same circumstances as them or we may even try to be like them. Whichever you choose, it is an inarguable fact that we relate to them on a personal level, and maybe after a while we start to look at the world through their eyes be it consciously or unconsciously.

Most girls grow up watching Disney, believing they can talk to animals, influence the world with goodness, kindness and magic. The fantasy may shatter as reality hits, but the movies did stir the yearning. Psychologically, what you experience during the early years of your childhood sticks with you throughout life. We may forget over time, but it’s because of those experiences we develop unique psyches. In fact, some studies also confirm the high emotional quotient of Disney watchers as compared to non-Disney movie watchers. Boys watch superhero action movies or cartoons and soon life imitates art where they act out their favourite scenes. Numerous cases have been reported of assault, an action stunt, an act of bullying or self-harm copied from the very visual media. Much violence on screen has made us used to the slaughter and bloodshed of innocents; notable works include Game of Thrones and American Horror Story.

Women are now speaking out on how the entertainment industry gently puts them down by setting ridiculous beauty standards. The female population around the world feels as though the business presents women in an unreal and unreachable light that everyday women can’t compete with, leading toward low self-esteem, development of eating disorders, rise in cosmetic procedures and absurd and painful fashion trends. Sex, menstruation, sexuality, gender identity, female nudity and other topics that were considered taboo years ago are now widely discussed and accepted. Yes, the times have changed, it is the 21st century and minds have grown. But how? Have you ever stopped to wonder how these issues were endorsed? The entertainment industry has been a platform for promotion for quite some time.

Before regular people were given a voice to converse upon such trivial topics through social media, the entertainment industry was time and again faintly introducing characters on screen that belonged to these communities. At first it was them existing in a given movie and gradually the controversial topics came to light as the characters were given more depth and personality than before. The audience soon realised that these very people facing such prejudice were ordinary, good people with battles of their own. Numerous philosophies were presented by the very medium all of which the world has acknowledged and consumed today. TV shows that have had a cult following had gently integrated these ideas in their plots in the past, and now full length serials are centered on the lives of folks who were once socially isolated and/or excluded. Feminism, female sexuality, female anatomy and its awareness and revolutionising standards of beauty are currently being focused upon by the entertainment industry, and the effects are visibly noticeable.

As the world is progressing, more and more people are revolting against capital punishment. That said, it could be because of humanistic or social theories, but how has it shown up on our television screens? Many characters that were considered negative or antagonistic in the past are presently getting movies of their own, to show people that there is more than one side to the immoral and a reason for every deed; a broken heart, an abusive relationship. Some might even say that criminal acts are being justified and desensitising the people and moulding their perspectives. People love the cannibal Hannibal Lecter, as he has the brains, looks and a sad story of his own. He is posed as a sexy psychiatrist with impeccable manners and a unique taste (literally). Maleficent took over our theatres as Angeline Jolie breathed in fresh life into the once evil witch. Christian Grey made waves last year by punishing the woman he loves; he may be a protagonist but his actions were a product of celebrated unresolved psychological issues. Like him, Damon Salvatore is also excused from senselessly murdering people because of his undying love for his brother and Elena Gilbert, and well, because he is easy on the eyes. Like it or not, these characters are getting loyal fans of their own.

Over the years this phenomenon has shaped a tremendous amount of minds, which are now ready to take on the world with what they’ve subconsciously learned from it. The mutual consensus has of course reached the conclusion that showbiz has done the world many favours in modernising the century, but the question is, do we really need an industry worth billions to spoon feed us certain ideologies? And more importantly, have we lost our ability to think independently? Has any desire we’ve had in life been truly ours or an unconscious grasp from the media? Let’s leave this subject open to argument.

The Nation