Good evening Mr. & Mrs. Catholic, and all you other Christians at sea. It’s time for another Newsreel, sponsored once again by the fine folks at Acts of the Apostasy, home of the 3 1/2 Time-Outs Tuesday. For obvious reasons, a number of people around the country this week are discussing the possible effects watching certain types of movies might have on on our psyches. It’s hardly a black and white issue, for while we must acknowledge that every person is ultimately responsible for their own actions, it would be naïve to think the stuff we fill our heads with doesn’t affect us on some level. In fact, a number of recent scientific studies suggest movies do indeed have a psychological impact on us as viewers, some good, some bad, and some potentially ugly. And with that tease, we’re off to press.
DATELINE: COLUMBUS – Have recent events gotten you down and you’d like to find something to help you feel better? Well, oddly enough, the solution could actually be to watch something designed to make you feel even worse than you already do. An article in Ohio State University’s Research News reports how “researchers found that watching a tragedy movie caused people to think about their own close relationships, which in turn boosted their life happiness. The result was that what seems like a negative experience – watching a sad story – made people happier by bringing attention to some positive aspects in their own lives.” But wait, if you’re down in the dumps, don’t go reaching for Requiem For A Dream or Sophie’s Choice just yet. “The key is the extent to which viewers thought about their own relationships as a result of watching the movie. The more they thought about their loved ones, the greater the increase in their happiness. Viewers who had self-centered thoughts concerning the movie – such as ‘My life isn’t as bad as the characters in this movie’ – did not see an increase in their happiness.” Or as Associate Professor Silvia Knobloch-Westerwick puts it, “Tragedies don’t boost life happiness by making viewers think more about themselves. They appeal to people because they help them to appreciate their own relationships more.” “Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues” the Roman author Cicero once wrote, “but the parent of all others.”
DATELINE: NEW HAMPSHIRE – Unfortunately, not all movies have such positive effects. A recent article in The Telegraph reports that researchers from Dartmouth College have “concluded that teenagers exposed to more sex on screen in popular films are likely to have sexual relations with more people and without using condoms. The study, based on nearly 700 popular films, found that watching love scenes could ‘fundamentally influence’ a teenager’s personality… [making them] more prone to take risks in their future relationships. They also concluded that for every hour of exposure to sexual content on-screen, participants were more than five times more likely to lose their virginity within six years.” Illustrating that she holds a PhD in understatement, Dr. Ross O’Hara, who led the project, says “This study, and its confluence with other work, strongly suggests that parents need to restrict their children from seeing sexual content in movies at young ages.” Since exclaiming “No @#$% Sherlock” is probably inappropriate for a religious oriented blog, we’ll stick with a simple “Amen!”
DATELINE: ITHACA – Finally, while not an example of directly affecting our personalities, the next item still shows how our reactions to watching movies can have an impact our lives. According to The Cornell Chronicle, “By applying computer analysis to a database of movie scripts, Cornell researchers have found some clues to what makes a line memorable. The study suggests that memorable lines use familiar sentence structure but incorporate distinctive words or phrases, and they make general statements that could apply elsewhere. The latter may explain why lines like “You’re gonna need a bigger boat” or “These aren’t the droids you’re looking for” (accompanied by a hand gesture) have become standing jokes. You can use them in a different context and apply the line to your own situation.” So what, you may be asking? Well, “while the analysis was based on movie quotes, it could have applications in marketing, politics, entertainment and social media, the researchers said… Although teaching a computer how to write memorable dialogue is probably a long way off, applications might be developed to monitor the work of human writers and evaluate it in progress, Kleinberg suggested.” In other words, we’re quickly approaching the day when some bozo stands behind his presidential podium and answers important questions with quips like “You can’t handle the truth!” or “”Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn.” The moment that happens, I suggest we revolt. (At the ballot box, of course, as Pope Leo XIII’s encyclical Diuturnum allows, but still, REVOLT!)
Yes, yes, we know that back in 1985 Ronald Reagan made a speech to the American Business Conference in which he stated, “I have only one thing to say to the tax increasers: Go ahead, make my day.” But he was an actor BEFORE he was president, so he gets a pass.
And with that we sign off this week’s Newsreel, as is our custom, with the immortal words of the great Les Nessman. Good evening, and may the good news be yours.