How movies affect and change our reality

By Ma Li Ke

Reality as defined by Merriam Webster is the totality of real things and events. Many things could influence and change reality. In ideology for example, Karl Marx’s “Das Kapital” has arguably ‘created’ the 20th century because of how influential the idea of communism was. Without his idea, there would be no revolutions, no wars, no political reformation, and there will be a different ‘today’ than what we already knew.

In the present day, many things could influence our reality and one of them is cinema. To say that movies simply could not change what is happening around us may be true to a certain extent. What movies could do is to raise awareness and bring attention to a certain topic or matter, and that will spark discussions between people and inspire people to think deeply about that subject.

Motion pictures inspire people just as well as written words. There are some movies that left huge impressions on people and their actions and resulted in the reality we know today. For example, the 2004 film “The Day After Tomorrow”, albeit the accuracy of the movie is questionable, it still has many people beginning to worry about the effects of global warming.

A survey conducted three weeks after its release by Anthony Leiserowitz, a researcher from Yale, revealed that 83 percent of people who saw the movie said they were “somewhat” or “very concerned” about global warming, while only 72 percent of people who hadn’t seen it agreed.

The 1942 film “Bambi”, which told a story about a mother deer being killed by hunters in front of her child’s eyes, after the release of the movie, deer hunting in the U.S has almost been cut in half.

Those are examples in how movies can positively influence the society. There are also some movies which might cause negative influences, for example the 1975 film “Jaws” has caused a drop in tourism rates for both the East Coast and the West Coast (of the U.S) for some time, before recovering slowly. The film has instilled unnecessary fear of sharks in people’s hearts, even though shark attacks are very rare.

There are also some movies that speak about existing social occurrences that we may or may not have heard about, for example Yasmin Ahmad’s 2005 film titled “Sepet”, which translates to ‘Chinese Eyes’. The film challenged the idea of interracial relationship, which according to the society at that time is something absurd.

Interracial relationship nowadays does not sound like a big issue but Yasmin brought out the unseen side of the society, which looks at interracial relationships with a biased, judgemental and bitter eye. This movie did not necessarily spark any protest or any big changes like the “The Day After Tomorrow” or “Bambi”, but it sure has made us realise more about the reality of our society, and there are many other films that have achieved similar effects.

Instead of causing a direct result, it embedded ideas into people’s heads and those ideas turned into unconscious actions that will shape a whole new generation of society.

Movies and films can affect and change our reality just as well as books and ideologies. ***

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