When Films Start Being The Muses For Crime; Reel In The Real World

Posted on March 27, 2012 in Society

By Tanima Banerjee:

As part of the youth culture, we all realize the importance and space we give to the world of entertainment in our lives. Who doesn’t watch movies or television shows? Watching various TV series is the latest trend. The celluloid world does occupy an important realm in our day-to day lives. It can be said that movies and shows have replaced books and radio, as a source of entertainment and understanding of reality. The visual media undeniably has a much stronger and long-lasting impact on our minds and hearts than any other. Movies and shows not only narrate stories, they also tend to explore and communicate a variety of ideas and themes. There is a mutual relationship between movies and society, wherein movies reflect society, while society reflects on these movies simultaneously.

The fragment of society movies influence to the greatest scale is the youth. This is mainly because the minds of the adolescent population are still in the process of developing. They are yet to attain the maturity of distinguishing between the dichotomies of right and wrong, and have fairly impressionable minds. This is the reason movies and television shows tend to completely overpower the minds and thoughts of the young generation. There is a general acceptance and even attempts to emulate what the movies show us at face-value.

Most of the people in their teenage and adolescence, forget everything else in those three hours and completely submit to the ideology of the movie they are seeing without questioning, be it romance, comedy, action or thriller. The visual impact of these movies is such that they dominate the way we think and act. It generates a desire to be a part of that reel world, and inspires action driven by that desire. Thus one can realize the power of the movies in shaping the minds of the youth. This could have a positive and optimistic potential, as well as be holding seeds of propagating destructive activities. On one hand, it could inspire, motivate and improve one’s understanding of society. On the other hand, it could valorize and romanticize negative elements and inspire one to indulge in illegal or criminal activities, on the mere reason of seeing the “cool” hero doing so.

The famous Chelembra Bank Robbery in Kerela, one of the most sensational and biggest robberies the state has ever seen, was actually inspired by the Bollywood action movie “Dhoom”, the robbers had made a hole in the ground floor of the bank and got away with the valuables during the new-year event. The robbery in Chelembra was based on a similar fashion. This is something the convicts themselves had confessed.
More recent is the stabbing of a teacher by a 15 year old student in St Mary’s Anglo Indian Higher Secondary School in Chennai. The child during interrogation expressed that he was inspired by the Bollywood flick “Agneepath” to kill his teacher who used to scold him. He had slit her throat, apart from stabbing her in the chest and abdomen! If a 15 year old could be motivated to commit such a heinous act of crime, through a movie, one can easily realize the insidious impact of movies, and the threat they pose to immatured audience.

Not only Hindi movies, but even Hollywood movies, which are known to be sophisticated and nuanced in the ideas they deal with in their movies, has been giving rise to crimes in the States. Recently released movie “Project X” was stated by the Texas Police to be leading to break-ins, vandalism, drug use, and even one murder. The Warner Bros. film is about teenagers throwing a party that grows out of control while their parents are out of town. But police say the fictional film is inspiring copycat parties where teenagers break in to vacant houses and vandalize them. An 18-year-old football player was shot and killed during one such party in Houston. In another incident near Houston, teenagers trashed a half-million dollar vacant house during a “Project X” party, leaving behind more than $80,000 in damage.

Not only the youth, but even adults get inspired by what they see in movies. An incident in New York, where five thieves, between age groups 22-34, got inspired by the Ben Affleck Movie, “The Town” and poured bleach on ATM Machines to hide their fingerprints, as shown in the movie. The uncanny parallels between the movie and these incidents, express the tendency of people to imitate the conducts of the actors they see in the movie. There are TV shows like “Dexter” which may be seen as crime thriller, but they also tend to excite its viewers by showing the intricacies and details of murders being conducted in the most disturbing ways. This could lead to social chaos as a lot of people could go astray from their morality.

Thus, one can see that movies and television shows, apart from just providing cathartic pleasure, also have a dark side. The entertainment industry needs to realize the huge responsibility they have towards society. Movies and shows need to propagate hope and motivation, and make the audience aware of the social surroundings and help raise issues about the world. It should not just operate on commercial basis, or make movies only to sell stories of violence and crime. They need to come with social messages, and use the influence it has on its audience in a constructive way. Movies like Taare Zameen Par, Rang De Basanti, Swades, 3 Idiots and the latest Udaan, Black Swan and King’s Speech are examples of movies that instill hope and motivate the audience towards embodying healthy ideals.

This is not to say that crime movies and shows like Dhoom, Vaastav, Agneepath, Dexter and Crime Patrol shouldn’t be made. Most of them suggest that evil is conquered by the right morale in the end, and the criminal always meets his devastating end because of his actions. But that aspect of good triumphing over evil gets subverted against the highlighting of violence and goriness in these movies and shows, and the audience is more touched and influenced by that than the didactic ending. There is a need to address these concerns and make good, inspiring films and television shows with a progressive motive, and not to lead to moral degradation.