How significant is cinema?

What mediums most significantly influence our minds in the 21st century? Whilst we might like to think that as we live in the internet age, with greater access to the ‘truth’ than any previous generation has had, we are all capable of individual and rational thought. However, this isn’t strictly true. The media tends to display a wide range of heavily varying opinions, and attitudes fluctuate based on things like income and age. However, cinema seems to be the one centralised opinionated medium which unites a common mindset.

Cinema is the one medium which truly reflects the overriding, dominant opinions of the time. The standards by which a film is judged are being constantly reconfigured by shifts in public opinion. We get issues like black representation in film raised at a time of intense police violence against African American’s. We get fans demanding gay characters in a series of franchises, an offspring of the increasing momentum behind the gay rights movement. We get women demanding equal pay to male stars, at a time when there is a heavy focus on women’s rights. Marginalised or oppressed groups are all demanding equality through cinema. As these demands are slowly being met, we are being shown how we should think to stay in line with the times. A film doesn’t even have to be overtly political to be influential, it only has to conform to the political standards set for it. With cinema the biggest industry in the world, and more and more people exposed to it by the day, the public are having their opinions directed on a mass scale.

The reason for this demand through the cinematic mode is the lack of trust that can be placed in other mediums. Books, whilst still influential to some, have been largely replaced by movies in the 21st century. Whereas, before the mass politicisation of cinema, a novel like 1984 or A Brave New World would have set the political benchmark for a generation, now we have mainstream cinema taking up the mantle of literature. Novels aren’t untrustworthy, they just aren’t popular enough to truly change the face of politics. Media sources seem the obvious political tool. However, in our day and age, too much distrust is placed on these outlets. The Sun, The Daily Mail and The Telegraph are examples of right-wing media outlets. The Guardian, The Mirror and The Independent are examples of left-wing media outlets. The two sides of the political spectrum have such different takes on every piece of news, heavily influenced by differing agendas, making it hard for the general public to find an unbiased news source only concerned with fact. Cinema, however, seems to be a rather standardised form. All must conform to the same standards, otherwise, they will face an immense backlash. Look at the issue of whitewashing for example. Whereas cinema is held to account for a faux pas, the media is given a free pass, making it less reliable on the whole in comparison.

The world is so celebrity-centric nowadays that the opinion of a celebrity seems to hold greater gravitas than that of a politician. With media assassination a real concern in the modern day, we are constantly told that no one is reliable. Even a man like Jeremy Corbyn, who has a fantastic track record, always having been on the right side of history, has been painted as a public enemy. Honest politicians are seemingly a thing of myth in the minds of the general public. Just look to the US. Donald Trump is a reality TV star and he’s managed to beat Hillary Clinton, a woman with a tonne of experience, to the presidency. No matter how much controversy was heaped on top of him he fought through it. Like Trump, when a celebrity speaks their mind, it has a huge impact on the public. Movie stars are talented, often attractive artists, and faith is placed in them. Politicians, on the other hand, are perceived as money grabbing snakes, only out for personal gain and to damage the lives of the public.

No matter what trends are set, a key factor, however, will always be age. The trend throughout history has been the young setting the new political benchmark, and the old sticking to tradition. As the political spectrum inevitably shifts the opinion of the elderly stands firm. Look at Britain. 75% of voters aged 24 or under, voted to remain in the European Union, which was seen as the more left-wing, progressive option. However, the old served to eradicate the significance of young voters. Whereas the cinematic status quo or the opinions of a celebrity might shift the mindset of a young and more open person, it tends to be the case that nothing can truly change the votes of the older generation. The facts were on the side of remaining, the facts are on the side of Jeremy Corbyn, but custom counts for a lot to some. The majority of the older generation will not care if Marvel has a gay character, or who Beyonce endorses for the presidency.  The significance of different forms of media tends to vary based on who you are and the demographic you can be categorised into.

On the whole, cinema does seem to be the most prolific and influential political tool. Whilst you could never change or impact the opinions of everyone, it is the one mode which strays from a large disparity in opinions. Every form of media has somewhat of a role in swaying public opinions but with cinema one of the most lucrative and popular mediums, it’s hard to compete with. If you want to look at where the political norm lies look no further than a mainstream film.