Springingtiger's Blog


More Than Understanding

Today has been another day of cinema and pie and mash; hey, I know what I like! I was reflecting on an example Jamie Smart uses of how his daughter was scared by Buffy The Vampire Slayer until she developed an understanding of what film is, and some of the processes behind it, Jamie extends the metaphor to the mind. However as looked back on Man of Steel and various other films it occurred to me that there is a level of meaning in films that is not countered by an understanding of the film making process.

In nearly every film, the filmmaker sets out to convey a message to their audience often reflecting the filmmakers own values. While watching some films with an understanding of process may provide an antidote to emotions like fear, political and ethical messages still sneak through. Many films provide a metaphorical support to political moods of the moment, so in these times of fighting in Asia, ‘Epic’ carries a message that war is just to protect one’s culture and that the enemy is the antithesis of virtue. Man of Steel is more subtle, but contains a similar message, coupled with the fairly explicit message that one has a duty to kill to protect one’s people, however much one hates to do so, it’s alright as long as you feel a bit of guilt afterwards.

It may well be argued that the message of many films is positive, and it must be admitted that many films, particularly many children’s films, demonstrate laudable virtues. However around these are many less pleasant films depicting cruelty and sadism, some even promoting crime as a positive, especially when the victims are themselves criminals or in some other way odious, bankers or politicians, in ‘Now You See Me’ there are several such victims. Revenge for injustice is a common theme, and the revenge tends to be very much of the ‘eye for an eye’ variety. These films play on a natural human desire to see justice done, but there is a real danger undermining respect for law. Yes the system is riddled with corruption, there are corrupt, police, politicians, bankers — name any profession you like — but the law still provides a degree of protection from anarchy. Sometimes campaigners feel the need to break the law in order to bring about change, but they should then accept the consequences. The legal system does favour the rich, but it does have built into it safeguards to minimise the risk of a miscarriage of justice although some do happen. When people take the law into their own hands there are no safeguards, just because someone resembles — for example — a convicted child molester does not mean they are he. People are too prone to act upon passion rather than cold logic and analysis of evidence, anything that makes a virtue of bypassing the law, and taking the law into one’s own hands is irresponsible; any film that whips up people’s passions as well is positively dangerous to the culture we would protect.

Stories will always be told, but the storytellers and filmmakers need to to spin their stories responsibly. Ideally the listener, or viewer needs to develop a critical faculty that enables them to reverse engineer the metaphors with which they are presented and extract the message without being manipulated. When I was at school we were actually taught how to read critically, even to the extent of picking apart, logically, the grammatical construction of a passage; do schools still tach this? Personally I am opposed, generally, to censorship, but I can understand why society feels a need for it; sadly our censors are so wrapped up in concerns about sexuality, they are missing much more dangerous content. Do I have the solution to the problem? Unfortunately not. Ideally we would all be so aware we could not be manipulated, but how we bring everyone to that awareness, well if I knew that and could tell you, I’d either be very rich or very dead.

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2 Comments so far
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Learning to self-apply what one learns in a basic NLP course would do the trick, wouldn’t it?

Comment by Robert Frost

Yes, but how to persuade everyone to learn NLP?

Comment by springingtiger




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