Why Blame Them Movies?
Have you realized that, many times, we blame our movies for whats wrong with society?
“They promote blood and gore”
“Movies romanticize violence!”
In fact, I came across the following lines in RK Raghavan’s article in Outlook India, A Hey Ram for Ahimsa, on how we’ve got ‘violence in our mindset’,
I was appalled to watch Kamalahaasan on TV the other day, justifying the depiction of violence in his productions. He seemed quite pleased when the NDTV interviewer referred to his movies as among the most realistic in showing violence. He wasn’t apologetic either. He denied he was promoting violence and said he was merely reflecting what was happening in society.
I believe there’s a clash of incentives, lets get that straight.
What drives movies producers / directors / actors to do what they do?
- Money – A movie production is an investment opportunity, and those that do well, really do well. High risk, high reward – that same formula remains. For this to happen, we require a:
- Box Office Hit – If a movie has to do go good, it has to be a box office hit, or a DVD / cable channel hit. Either way, it has to be noticed, and “consumed” (trying to find a generic word for all mediums a movie can come out on!). That requires:
- Masala Films – ie, films that appeal to most movie-goers. Violence, murder, rape? Or beautiful islands, serene landscapes and wonderful cultures? Or surreal worlds, futuristic cities, ancient battles? A film about a normal person’s normal life is just another normal film. Of course, the content of these movies really depends on:
- Movie Watchers – normal folk, like you and me, who’ll eventually go and watch a movie. We don’t have any priority on such things (its not roti, kapda aur makaan), its just entertainment. We get swayed by movie reviews, and fellow friends who’ve watched that movie. The whole entertainment industry is interlinked in all this, promoting movies in product commercials and promoting products in movie commercials. Basically, for a movie to do well, it has to get as many viewers, and has to appeal to as many in its target audience.
Actually in all this, there’s no mention of “upholding society’s values” or “moral policing”.
What would Raghavan, et all, expect movies to do?
I’ll quote again, this time from Raghavan’s ending lines:
What do we do to put some sense into the likes of Kamalahaasan so that future generations are exposed to movies that will teach them to abjure violence and cultivate the nicer sentiments of life?
So, lets summarize, and even generalize his viewpoints:
- Movies Can Influence – Movies reach a large percentage of the population of India and can influence them, but to a limited extent. A lot of research has gone into this (some people even blame video games for violence amongst children, as mentioned in my last blog post!), but its difficult to convert this one correlation to a causal relationship!
- Mass-Influencers have a Moral Responsibility – and thats why the cattle class of politicians “prefer” to “fly” in economy class. But politicians represent one image, that they themselves work hard to build up. Movies, on the other hand, are the work of some 500 people.
Ouch. Thats a big disconnect, my friend. You’re expecting the film industry to chose moral responsibility over possible monetary loss?
Lets get this clear: the entertainment industry is a for-profit industry. They have CSR show-offs (Rani Mukherjee supporting an NGO and shaking hands with kids? I see this every other week in the newspaper!), but that shouldn’t come in the way of profits.
I suggest we stop expecting movies to provide the right path, and look within.