The recent box office boom thanks to remakes and reboots have caused us to look at the 1980s directly in the face. Sometimes we like what we see, and sometimes I think it's dangerous to glorify a decade that was about trickle-down economics, sidelining the AIDS crisis, and the glorification of greed. But as I'm sure people have heard, Roger Ebert called cinema a machine for empathy. And I think empathy is what keeps us going as a society.
That's why I was excited to come across this video by Pop Culture Detective, where he examines the 80's movies that shaped his humanity.
Over the course of the video, we learn about how the movies Journey of Natty Gann, Nausicaa Of The Valley Of The Wind, Amazing Grace and Chuck, Harry and The Hendersons, and Batteries Not Included emotionally affected our narrator and changed the course of his life.
In a way, we're all raised by the media we consume. And those of us who make a living creating film and television have an immense responsibility because we're going to raise the next generation. Whether we like it or not, our movies and TV shows become role models for the people watching them.
And whether or not you're writing animation or horror, empathy matters. Because it's what teaches us to be human.
The decade in which movies are made is indicative of the social change and/or the morays of the time. It's weird to think about, but as I sit down to write I've started to think about the lasting impact of my words when I write.
Will this character feed into a stereotype? Is this plotline going to be problematic? What does the moral of this story have to do with how I view society in general?
While this could be labeled a little too emotional, I think it's an important way to look at our own work. Mostly because if we don't examine the heart and humanity of what we produce, other people will. And I want those people to learn empathy and love more than I want them to laugh at a joke.
Well... depends how funny I think the joke is and how desperately I need the laugh.
Or, if I'm writing horror, the scare.
As I talked about in my Happiness post, Hollywood can be a depressing place. So can the real world.
As creators, we have to think about the secondary impact of what we write and direct for the world. That why the Bechdel Test is a useful tool when it comes to brainstorming ideas and breaking tropes. It's why when you're using our Story Map you should also be thinking about what each scene and beat means to the people watching.
What are the values in our stories? What are the ultimate truths we believe and how can we see that in the world?
Here's why that matters: People are watching.
So give them something that moves them. Give them something that can change the world for them.
Otherwise, what are you doing?
What are some movies that shaped the way you feel about the world?
Got an idea you want to start writing? Joining our Free Screenwriting Seminar.
I can't wait to read what you write next!