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King: Movies may reflect societys psyche
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I love movies. I’ve loved them since my parents took me to see Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in 1937. I was 5 years old and hid under the seat during the scary parts. In my teens, when others went to Saturday football games, I could be found at the local cinema.

My husband is a fan as well. Our children were introduced to motion pictures at an early age. My granddaughter and I read the first Harry Potter book together, and I took her to see the movie when she, too, was 5. We spent more time out in the lobby than in our seats, but she refused to leave the theater.

Now at almost 14, she is not only an avid movie fan but a knowledgeable critic as well and can discuss film directors as easily as other teens discuss the stars.

Motion pictures are the art form of our era, comparable to the great paintings and music of the past. Even our mediocre movies are beautifully filmed. The actors are talented and the directors often are inspired. Like great art of the past, the art of the cinema reflects both today’s culture and today’s ever-evolving technology.

Despite my long love affair with cinematography, when I walked out of "Inglorious Basterds," I was not sure I would even enter a movie theater again. The movie was more comic book than drama, more spoof than social commentary, and more of an exercise in imagination then plot or character development. Why was I upset?

Because despite its impossibility, it was so very real. Human beings were scalped, beaten to death with a baseball bat, flogged and burned alive. But the worst thing about it was that I knew that, despite an R rating, my young granddaughter already had seen it.

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking since then. The violence has faded, and I’m reasonably sure my granddaughter has not been desensitized to other people’s pain and suffering. In fact, it may be just the opposite. She is almost overly solicitous when others are hurt.

Obviously she knows the difference between a movie and reality. Maybe I’m the one who doesn’t.

Today’s movies are violent, and psychologists tell us that constant exposure to violence does desensitize. There is no escaping it once you enter the theater. No matter how benign the main attraction, movies begin with previews: car chases, explosions, knock ’em down, blow ’em up sequences accompanied by horrific noise and rapid scene change.

Monsters and mutants are in. Ordinary people are morphed into zombies, healthy bodies reduced to tattered flesh and broken bones.

But of course, we know it never happened.

Dinosaurs chase little kids in "Jurassic Park." The U.S. Capitol is destroyed in "Independence Day." New York freezes over in "The Day After Tomorrow." But it is not real.

Disaster movies are particular popular. A coming attraction advertised in the lobby of a local theater pictures the whole world in upheaval, cities being torn up, block after block reduced to rubble, the earth opening up and swallowing everything. But of course, it can’t happen, can it?

Could it be that we are getting a glimpse of the future, a warning, preparation for things to come? Or has cinematographic technology simply run amuck?

Maybe we’re still children who like to smash our toys. That’s why we spend millions to entertain ourselves in this manner.

I really don’t know. However, I think maybe movies are like dreams.

They aren’t real, but they are meaningful. It is the social psyche at work. An individual’s dream is his or hers alone, yet he has no real control over it.

The dream processes that person’s life experiences, his hopes, fears and anxieties. It can either inform, repel or be forgotten.

Movies process the culture. They aren’t real, either, but they can be meaningful. The decision is ours.

Joan King lives in Sautee. Her column appears biweekly and on gainesvilletimes.com.

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