Friday, May 9, 2014

Reasons to Watch Popular Films

   As some may know, I enjoy listening to podcasts. One that I listen to often is The Sci-Fi Christian. On one of the recent episodes, one of the hosts asked why people would choose to consume films or novels which were average, if not downright terrible. This is an interesting question to say the least. This caused me to consider my own 'entertainment' choices. Why did I choose to watch the films I watched and read the novels I read? I came up with several answers of why I choose to consume films or novels which are not brilliant instead of works that are.
1. Entertainment Value
   This is probably the weakest of the reasons. However, there is something about a superhero film or a mindless thriller that is entertaining. If it were not so, I doubt they would be so popular. Such stories can form a means of escapism, wrapping up my mind in the intriguing plot or hilarious comedy which separates me from the tragedy of real life. That's not to say that this is the best option for choosing such content, but it is a factor.
2. Cultural Engagement
   When I hear my friends talking about a book or film that is popular, there is a yearning inside of me to be able to add to that conversation. When the Hunger Games became popular, I wanted to read the series merely to find out for myself why people were so interested. I also wanted to be able to engage with people on that subject in order to build relationships. Discussing shared experiences is a means of creating or building friendships.
3. Relationships
   There are those people who are more willing to go see a superhero film than go see a dark, thought-provoking film. That is not so say that superhero films cannot be though-provoking, but with superhero films one is not forced to consider deeply theological or ethical choices. The great thing about superhero films and mindless thrillers is that one can just watch the story and forget about it at the end. However, two people can sit together and watch a less than stellar film and bond over the experience. The film may not be incredibly stimulating or though-provoking, but it requires two (or more) people to sit together for a long amount of time and, at least, converse slightly before and afterward. If in nothing else, they can agree that the film was a waste of their time. However, it was time they spent together enjoying (or ridiculing) a film. Some of my most enjoyable times have been making fun of a bad movie with my brother.
   Remember how I said a great thing about thoughtless films is that they can be taken at face value without much thought? Well, that is true. However, there are few films which are not, upon further reflection, teaching the viewer ideologies and presenting situations to be mulled over. It is not forced on the viewer to consider the ramifications of the scene, but, upon further reflection, the questions are still there. How does one respond if a villain threatens to kill an innocent bystander? What would I do if my enemy were about to kill an entire city and it was up to me to stop him? Can a bad thing be done for a good reason and still considered just? Questions like these invade all sorts of films and novels which, at first glance, might be considered mindless. The question is are we discerning enough to see them?
   My point is not to say that watching a 'dumb' film is okay. My point is that sometimes watching the popular superhero film or reading the popular romance novel may be more than about how great a work of art it is. Even an average or less than average novel can still teach about love and show the destructive power of evil.

   What do you think? Do you have reasons for watching the popular movies which aren't very good? Do you have reasons for reading that book which isn't that great? Comment below and tell me about them!


  1. That is an interesting perspective. I never thought about it quite that way before.

    One thing I've come to realize about this sort of subject, though, is that generally speaking watching or reading just one dumb thing every so often isn't much harm. But I've found that when I am doing a lot of critting for unpolished manuscripts or reading a lot of free books or something like that, my mental quality drops as a result. So I avoid large doses. It's bad for me. ;)

    1. That is a good point. Our consumption of 'bad' entertainment should be tempered with good entertainment.
      Still, I wonder if that is not viewing entertainment too selfishly. Is the entertainment I consume helpful to my relationship with God or others? Perhaps that is a better question than merely how it effects my writing.

  2. Hi Jesse - Ben from The Sci-Fi Christian here. This is precisely the reaction I was hoping my comments would have. Glad to see such a thoughtful response to our conversation on the podcast

  3. Yes, I see what you mean. And what I meant by mental quality affects more than my writing... it changes how possible it is for me to think and express myself and be who I want and need to be as well. Though of course writing quality is an obvious place to notice the change in, I've noticed a difference in more things as well.

    And of course there are additional things to think about when considering this, like some of the things you mentioned in your post.