We’ve heard it a million times: film and TV are bad for us. Of course, in the Nineteenth Century, they said the same about novels. In general, any pastime that doesn’t involve physical activity gets accused of making people lazy and slothful. However, Movies and TV are actually a mixed bag. Yes, it is true there are downsides. However, there are positive sides as well. In this article, I will discuss some of the pros and cons of movies and television.
Increased Emotional Range: Movies and television can introduce us to new emotional experiences that we would otherwise not experience. This can include even such things as experiencing the thrill of successfully running to president to such bad emotions as a revenge movie. While there is, of course, a great deal of emotional content to our daily lives, our lives are rarely as complex as what we can see on television or films. Moreover, we only live our own lives. Increasing our emotion range can make us more empathetic to other people.
Emotional Training: By this, I am referring to how films can help us learn to deal with emotions before we need to deal with them in real life. A show involving the death of a spouse, for example, can help us to think about and develop our own emotional reactions so that when something similarly tragic happens to us, we will be more ready.
Imaginative Education: All of our thoughts are mediated through imagination. Think about something. Notice how you had an image that went with that thought? We constantly have our thoughts mediated by images, and experiencing new images gives us new ways of thinking about and reacting to things.
False Objects: I think I realized this when the character of one of my favorite shows apparently died at the end of a season. We become incredibly attached to characters on television and movies. However, those people aren’t real. This causes a couple of problems. First, we have a disconnect between our own emotions and the real world. Second, it splits our psyche. When our emotions feel something about objects our reason knows isn’t real, we become divided.
Addiction: Television, especially, is addictive. No one has ever given an especially good explanation as to why, but, for practical purposes, does it matter? We’ll often find ourselves sitting in front of the television, trying to find something to watch. The pleasure from films and television can become addictive, just like any other pleasure.
Non-Social: Movies and television are non-social activities, even when they are done with someone else. They don’t involve any personal interaction with the people around us, and envelop us in our own world. However, they give the appearance of being a social activity, which is why people go to movies together. This can give us the false impression that we are interacting with people more than we actually are.
Notice how I didn’t say that movie and television are wastes of time? I didn’t do so because that would be question-begging. Movies and television would only be wastes of time if they were bad; they cannot also be bad because they are wastes of time. Instead, movies and television have positive and negative elements, just like most pastimes.