Bridging The Gap
Movies have power. They have a massive influence on society and culture, but there is a problem… and it’s not what you think…
It seems most people go to movies for one of two reasons; entertainment or inspiration. Yes, there are movies that inspire as they entertain. In fact, the best movies do both. But if you think about it, I suspect you will notice the gap is starting to grow. Movies EITHER entertain or inspire. The more you look at movies the masses spend their money to see, the gap looks larger and larger.
Let’s look at the last 3 years. These are the highest grossing films since 2013;
The Force Awakens
Avengers: Age of Ultron
Although I do believe all movies have a message or moral to take away, it’s painfully obvious the intention of these movies was not to inspire - but to entertain you and your wallet. I don’t point this out to favor inspiration over entertainment. I am merely giving an example of the box office power strictly “entertaining” movies have. Of course, movies are made to make money. Hollywood is a business. I’m grateful for big box office hits. They help fund smaller projects for more filmmakers. I am also not saying there are no inspirational movies being made.
In 2016 movies like La La Land, Kubo and the Two Strings, and Sing Street were extremely inspiring (for me). The difference is in the box office. These three movies COMBINED made 10% of what The Force Awakens made. This might not seem like a problem to most of you because you probably just want to be entertained. You want to escape without feeling like the director is trying to teach you a life lesson. I completely agree with you, but what I want is a movie that inspires me to change without telling me what to do.
“Okay, this is me, planting an idea in your mind. I say: don't think about elephants. What are you thinking about?... Elephants?... Right, but it's not your idea. [You] can always remember the genesis of the idea. True inspiration is impossible to fake.”
If you speak fluent movie quotes, you will recognize that quote from Inception. Let me emphasize what I am getting at: “True inspiration is impossible to fake.” Most “inspirational” movies set out to be just that – inspirational. They seem to preach and shove morals in your face. They tell you to be or do something. People don’t like being told what to do. Whether the movie is “right” or “wrong,” people naturally resist change. The most recent example of this, to me, is Zootopia. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed Zootopia! But, I walked out of the theater feeling preached to. Yes, it preached good morals; don’t judge, discriminate or persecute. In fact, it probably applied to me more than I would like to admit. The problem was I could “remember the genesis of the idea.” I knew if I changed, it was because Zootopia told me too. I was being told what to think and how to change by an outside force. This is not true inspiration. This is the problem.
The gap between entertainment and inspiration is getting larger and larger. Those that seek to inspire are doing only that. They want to get their audience to change. To do that, they preach without entertaining. People don’t like that and the box office reflex that. On the other side, to avoid preaching to a specific kind of individual, blockbusters appeal to a larger audience by purely entertaining without teaching morals and messages. Larger movies fear putting a message in their film because of the potential consequence of low box office numbers. It’s created a culture where preachy movies that seek to inspire don’t make money, while the movies that stay away from inspiration make A LOT of money. Eventually, if a production company wants a successful movie, they will only support movies with no message. Why is this a problem? Because if movies have massive power to influence millions at a time and they don’t… that’s a problem.
Some would say the problem with Hollywood is not that they don’t teach morals, but that the morals and messages they do teach are wrong. In fact, I would probably jump on the wagon too. The reality is - who decides what’s wrong or right? I believe there is a God that has done that for us. I hope to inspire individuals to consider the reality of that God. If someone tried to stop me from doing that because they disagreed with me, I’d be upset. So, I won’t stop someone from doing the same. I might disagree with them, but they have the right to make any movie they feel is appropriate. The problem is not freedom of speech. The problem is the effectiveness of speech. If a superpower like the media can’t help inspire their audience, then they have failed. If film and television can’t help illustrate problems of the world in an understandable and inviting way, that’s a problem.
The solution? Inception. If a movie tells you to change, you will resist. If a movie can get you to think and come to the conclusion that changing will benefit you… that’s inspiration. When a movie can present a story, dilemma, and solution in an entertaining way, it stays with the watcher. The next time that watcher is presented with a dilemma similar to that movie (whether immediate or not), they will be influenced by that story. That influence might help inspire certain actions in the watcher, but that came from the mind of the watcher. It was their idea to change their action. It was influenced by the entertaining and inspirational movie, but the “geneses of the idea” feels like the mind of the watcher. I call it ”Inception inspiration.”
I believe a movie can accomplish this Inception inspiration is by being entertaining while building on an inspirational foundation. You will notice the best movies have done this. You can do this with any genre of film. Let’s stick with the same example of Inception. It’s extremely entertaining – car crashes, guns, spinning hallways, intensity, thrilling action, punches, suspense and everything an audience wanted in a Christopher Nolan film. It also has an inspirational foundation. For me, Inception presented the reality of mental health issues. It also addresses manipulation, grief, loyalty, family and even more. The reason this movie didn’t feel like it was preaching the difficulties of mental health and shoving a solution in my face, was because it benefited the story. It was the foundation on which a more exciting concept was built. Whether you ponder these life lessons after watching Inception or not, it doesn’t matter. To have these deeper concepts as the foundation of the film makes it much more engaging and entertaining. When a movie is purely entertaining, it’s fun but you forget about it when you leave the theater. If a movie is purely inspirational, you feel preached to and resist it. When a movie is entertaining with an inspirational foundation, you get Inception inspiration. Examples; Shawshank Redemption, The Godfather, The Dark Knight, La La Land, It’s a Wonderful Life, A Christmas Carol and so many more!
Inspiration is entertainment for the soul. Pure entertainment is an escape for the mind. If a movie can keep your mind busy while inspiring the soul (Usually, without you noticing.) you get a masterpiece. We need more Inception inspiration. Movies that entertain while giving enough substance that lessons learned leak into other parts of your life. Movies with messages worth saying. Movies that can implant ideas that will help improve your life. Movies that matter.