A thought on movies and the heart

People gravitate toward the objects of their desires. That statement in itself probably isn’t nuanced enough for our immediate adoption though. I’d refine it to say that people gravitate toward the fulfillment of their desires. This holds for art especially – it is the fault where the fields of desire and expression meet. Art also often centers on vicarious experiences, film especially. We watch movies most often because they are stories that we can step into and experience the events through the characters with which we identify. I think that, in light of this fact about people, knowing what genres of film a person gravitates toward can tell you a lot about them. People who love romance stories are those for whom the hope of romantic fulfillment is very important. People who love sci-fi love the mystery of the universe, and desire to find the extraordinary in it. The stories that we long to step into vicariously are most often the stories we wish were our real life stories.

In light of this, what can we say of the growing popularity of two relatively new genres: the end-of-the-world movie, and the gore-centered horror flick? Specifically, what can we say about the people who crave these stories? I’m not going to answer those questions for anyone, but there are some observations that I think are worth making:

-The Hostel an Saw movies, to my knowledge, have had more, and more quickly-produced sequels than any other franchise of film. Ever. Well, maybe excluding porn flicks. But that only serves to strengthen my point – everyone reading would probably agree that sexual stories are the most popular today, as far as being stories that people desire to step into. If movies centering on the torture of humans are a close second, what can we say?

– When the cold war had ended, it became apparent that the ubiquitous fear of an apocalyptic nuclear war would not be realized. Tons of sociologists and social psychologists noted, in puzzlement, that the general response to this was not relief and gladness, but increasing anxiety and depression.

– The explosive popularity of torture-centered horror movies was preceded by an even more explosive obsession with videos of people getting hurt. Jackass, worlds-funniest shows, and youtube are full of videos of people suffering that we have, quite disturbingly, learned to laugh at.

– Kierkegaard noticed that for something to be humorous and tantalizing to a person, it must be abnormal. No one craves the mundane. Have we so exhausted the world of its resources for gratification that everything but the absolutely heinous has become blase?

What do you think?

  1. #1 by Alex Marshall on 4.12.08 - 10.02 pm

    Kind of thinking on a similar line, thought not exactly the point you’re making. I find it interesting that here in the states, while sexual-based art may be the most popular, its usually not the most overt, but violence is thrown around like candy. In Europe, you see the reverse, with violence being something they are less prone to display openly but sexual images are all over the place. Thinking about those trends in terms of what you’re brining up could have several interesting implications.

  2. #2 by Michael Glawson on 4.13.08 - 5.48 am

    Do you know if the violence/promiscuity rates in these countries correspond in any way to their presence in popular entertainment?

  3. #3 by Alex on 4.14.08 - 2.57 am

    Hm… I don’t, but I bet it could be figured out kinda easily. There are plenty of places to get stats on that sort of thing. I’ll see what I can find out and let you know.

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