Monday, October 18, 2010

Can our movies influence our morality ?

A blog piece on New York Times discusses Vengeance movies and faintly mentions their ability to raise the questions of morality and violence to the viewers. A blogger friend buzzed it in, which set me thinking on how much our movies can influence us. Who ever took movies seriously anyway ? Or should you ? Whatever, at least it made me come back to my (now) haunted blog on its third anniversary Vijayadasami and see if I can still ruffle some dry leaves that have fallen on the floor.

I wonder if the visual media have that strong an impact when it comes to making our daily decisions that we act upon. It might happen in the case of someone who watches them all day, repeatedly the same kind, confined in a closed room and then sets out to imagine the world as what he has seen in an image. In which case, he might need a different kind of help. But for most average viewers, it's just a use-and-throw batch of inputs. Even during the watching act, we might be involved in our chores, chatting with someone, doling out our gyan, knitting a sweater or doing one's job. Like my barber does, dangerously, :) . He keeps me in trepidation as to whether all the Rayalaseema violence that he is watching on the screen while I am on the operating table, will it translate into action on my neck ? :) .

We also meet a lot of good people in the day. We do a lot of good things and some trivial things. The set of inputs from a particular sensory stream has to fight its way with those streaks of goodness and love. What we say of good things : Capture, Contemplation and Conduct (Shravana, Manana and Nidhidhyasana) will also be true of the bad things, I mean, they would need as much effort to get there, no ? Or does Evil travel faster and impinge deeper ? (maybe).

When we speak of the good teachings, we all know how much we read, out of which how much we are convinced to be true, and how (little) we practise :). Ask the teen reader of Ayn Rand and the fortywala who read her in his teens. You will know the Top 10 reasons why we don't act all that we read. Welcome to the world of linear programming. Given a set of constraints, we find the optimal solution. That old creaky furniture, we don't move them around too much, we don't turn the problem on its head and re-examine its boundaries. That job is left to the creative few. I hope we bring the same proportion of inadequacy :) and lethargy when it comes to the bad things. :) :) . For all the build-up that RGV gives on his blog to his upcoming pic on factional violence, how many of us would sympathise with the protagonist any more than we do at the popcorn vendor's oily shirt ?

This is not to condone Evil or a gatepass to be lenient at the Mind's checkpost. You still need your sense control (Or sense of control, if you want to look at it that way). If you are a sadhaka, you are reading the wrong post on the right blog, you should switch to a slightly more complicated post like this . This is just to mock at Satan's inability :) to conquer Man and to glorify man's inherent ability to figure out things which he should act upon and those that which he can ignore. After all , are we, as a Society, Goodness personified, who occasionally stray away into the dark bushes or Darkness personified, randomly remembering a faint Divinity ? Reminds me of Ramnath's blog post, once upon a time, asking Is Man inherently evil ? , after he watched Schindler's List. (See, I remembered my blogmentor on the anniversary post).

I loved Rang De Basanti for its vivid screenplay, well-chiselled expressions and upbeat BGM. I had watched it many times over at that time. But I am not sure if it has influenced me enough to even endorse the climax, let alone taking it seriously. Whether it has influenced me or not, is something others have to comment on!

Will Humble Joe become a Violent Tom, if he watches all that is listed in NYT article ? ( Phew! I haven't watched even one of those.... ) I think it takes a lot more than that to rewire minds. And only if you skip your protective armour of midnight meditation :) . Or will it seep into your roots like slow poison and displace your moral tectonic plates in the long run ? Aren't we made of sterner stuff ? Can Vengeance movies, that portray it misleadingly as righteous anger, create a long-term persistent impact on the average adult viewer ? He paid a certain amount of money to be away from his humdrum world and he won't carry tough lessons back to that world of drudgery from which he wanted an escape to entertainment. The kids' minds and their vulnerability are another thing altogether, but I think adults can differentiate rama from drama and dharma from karma. Do we live in that bad a world ? What say ? And what would you say to your kid ?


  1. I remember an anecdote my Dad always tells. It is about his barber when he was giving my dad a shave. This guy likes to chat a lot and just when he was near my Dad's neck with the shiny end sparkling, he put forth the "innocent question", "Whom are you voting for this election?" and stopped the shave mid breath with knife still in position. There was utter silence all round. Finally my Dad replied, " I will vote for whoever you tell me to. First remove that damn knife from my neck."

  2. well imagine the atmosphere if Ratha Charitram was also running on the shop TV at the same time. I think it would have been better than the utter silence. I feel the latter is more scary.

  3. So one thing we know for sure is whether or not movies influence our heart or brains, it can definitely reach up to the neck in certain situations !! :)

  4. I believe of the fact that nothing external(here the media) can really tranform our mental consititution in
    anyway(though it can affect ) expect for fact that ,the recievers that is fine tuned in our mind defintely gets
    connected to the transmitter(here the media) and gets very satisfied and moved when something that can
    empathise with its views and with its emotions turn up on the screen...
    That satisfaction/fulfilment for some of our wierd emotions may be only through the media which can fantasice
    life to any extent .That feeling is wat motivates a man to repeatedly watch some of his favourites(be it ethically good/moral... wat ever....)
    That is all about the media effect on man's life is my opinion


Thank you for your comments....

THANK YOU: These reflections draw sometimes from readers and friends who initiate ideas, build up discussions, post comments and mention interesting links, some online and some over a cup of coffee or during a riverside walk. Thank you.

Disclaimer: Views expressed in this blog are the blogger's personal opinions and made in his individual capacity, sometimes have a story-type approach, mixing facts with imagination and should not be construed as arising from a professional position or a counselling intention.