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Why You Should Watch Whatever You Want

By James Trent
On March 29, 2018

Our minds are able to take what they want and leave the rest. 
Photo Courtesy of Pexels

The argument has been presented time and time again that movies are a waste of time or “rot our brains,” but really, the exact opposite is true. 

 
The internet has remodeled daily life in many significant ways, and one of those is the huge availability of entertainment. Almost anything is available online with enough searching, millions of YouTube videos are available every day, and streaming services like Netflix beg for people’s attention and free time constantly. With so much media available with only a few clicks, it can be easy to find evidence to reignite the old argument that “this stuff rots your brain.”
 
Recently this argument came back to the popular arena when President Trump blamed violent video games for the string of mass shootings over recent years. There are many people who see this claim as ridiculous, and for good reason. It is only the most recent addition to the same argument that was once used against television, movies, comic books, and even at one point novels back when they were a new idea. Any new form of media is immediately met with suspicion, and the opposing side will argue that people will somehow become corrupted by whatever it is they are opposing. 
 
One of the most popular arguments is that any media that showcases, or sometimes even glorifies, violence is going to desensitize the audience against violence, and they will therefore be more likely to commit acts of violence. Like any good lie, there is some truth to this. What kinds of media people consume does have some affect on them, and it is impossible for the human brain to truly passively watch anything. When people watch movies, their brains often perceive more than they are consciously aware of or thinking about. If a movie does a successful job at portraying its events as real, then it is unlikely the viewer will be actively thinking about all the different ways a movie is realistic. When something is unrealistic and does not harmonize with an otherwise realistic setting, the brain notices before the viewer articulates what is off setting into conscious thought. 
 
However, the human mind is not constantly taking every single bit of information on screen and then turning those bits into life lessons. Often our brains process only the gist of what the eyes see, painting reality only in broad strokes. A study at MIT done by Michael A. Cohen, according to Science Daily, indicated that the human mind’s perception is wildly dependent on expectations. Test subjects were told to watch flashing shapes on a screen and then remember what shapes they saw. While most could recall a few correct answers, that number went down after the subjects were told to watch for something specific. Put in other words, the brain is able to filter out information it does not want, and the same goes for consuming media.
 
If a movie has a scene where someone is cut in half by a chainsaw, the brain is not completely idle. It sees the chainsaw and the gruesome consequences, and translates that like it would for any other image. But the brain is also not a simple machine that shoots out what is put into it. Seeing a fictional character killed with a chainsaw does not mean a viewer will now be supernaturally compelled to cut someone in half, even if they laugh and rewind the scene over and over again. The brain is able to filter out the inhumanity of what it is seeing, and place the image into context. As far as our minds are concerned, it really is just a movie, and violence on screen does not translate into violence in reality.
 
And moreover, rejecting a movie just because it might contain gore or violence can often blind someone to the actual content the movie might have. Not every slasher film deserves to win an Oscar, but there are many movies that are just as thoughtful as they are violent, and this same principle can be applied to any other objectionable quality a film might have. People who enjoy old detective movies are not more likely to be misogynists, and romance movies do not turn people into Casanovas. To make a claim like that is ridiculous, and that idea can blind someone to the artistic merit any form of media might have.

 

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