The idea that a film, radio program or TV episode can influence a generation of people
seems like a scary thought.
Yet, time and time again, we’ve seen that the events in a fictional world
can have consequences in our real world.
Some far more sinister than others.
The 2004 indie smash hit Sideways follows two men
-Miles played by Paul Giamatti and Jack played by Thomas Hayden Church
who take a trip to wine country together,pursuing very different goals.
The banter, honesty and undeniable tragedy of Giamatti’s Miles charmed audiences
在电影放映时 迈尔斯搞笑 现实又难避免的
at the time of the film’s release.
In particular, his infamous monologue in which
he curses at the prospect of drinking Merlot at a dinner
seems to have struck a nerve with the moviegoers of the time and so,
the popular red wine’s sales experienced a significant dip.
Thus, the Sideways Effect was born.
A concept that encompasses the idea that
film and other narrative mediums can elicit such a visceral audience response
that it has an effect on the outside world,
leaving the confines of the screen and manifesting itself in reality.
To find the first true example of this,
we have to go back to the early 20th century.
D.W. Griffith’s 1915 film The Birth of a Nation
is an epic set just after the Civil War.
Though a work of fiction, the film explores the U.S. during the era of Reconstruction
as the country attempted to contend with the aftershocks of a brutal and divisive war.
The film’s calling card is its racist and vulgar depiction of Black people
and its glorification of the Ku Klux Klan.
At the time of the film’s release, the KKK had basically died out as an organization.
By the end of the 19th century,
it was more a group of disparate gangs operating on their own
rather than the organized criminal syndicate we think of today.
Sadly, the premiere of the film and its subsequent screening at the White House,
as requested by President Woodrow Wilson,
led to a resurgence of the Klan throughout the 1910s and beyond.
The film was essentially propaganda, and its success was scary.
Membership of the KKK exploded,
and race relations in the United States were plunged back into conflict and despair.
It’s impossible to quantify how much the film itself played into the overall sentiments
white people had toward Black people,
but it had an undeniable effect.
This dark side of the Sideways Effect isn’t unique to The Birth of a Nation.
Steven Spielberg’s 1975 blockbuster Jaws had such an infamous impact on shark populations
that it was also given its own “effect”.
Before the film’s release, humans had little context
to support an opinion of sharks one way or the other.
Sure, they have always been a bit scary, but was anyone actually worried about them?
When the film was released, its music, cinematography and,
电影放映时 其音乐 拍摄技术
of course, the dreaded image of a fin slicing through water,
all combined to create the ultimate vision of terror,
one that was seared into audiences’ brains.
Even after the film ended, the associations remained.
And so following the release of the movie in 1975, shark populations decreased by the
thousands thanks to fishermen and sailors hunting them as trophies.
The truth is that sharks are not cold-blooded killers who thirst for human flesh.
In fact, only about a dozen of the more than 400 known species of sharks
have ever been involved in an attack on humans.
But Jaws had changed that perception in the minds of an entire generation.
As a result, to this day, an estimated 100 million sharks are killed each year.
The effect of this fictional story was so disastrous that the writer of the book that
the movie was based on, Peter Benchley,
wishes he had never written about the villainous great white.
It’s important to make a distinction between
the way Jaws and the Birth of a nation affected moviegoers
and the way Sideways influenced a generation of wine drinkers.
The increase in shark hunting was a result of the fear Jaws created around sharks
great whites in particular.
On the other hand, Sideways had a more subtle impact.
Its ideas were buried deep in characters,
similar to Tom Cruise in Top Gun.
The original Top Gun is known as one of the greatest action movies ever made,
and was the perfect vehicle for an actor
like Tom Cruise to dazzle and inspire us.
The film glorified the U.S. Navy,
going as far as to invent the idea that it uses pilot rankings and trophies
to help the organization look and feel more like a sports team.
There was a brotherhood depicted that invariably made the U.S Navy look,
It seemed like the Navy itself was aware of the potential appeal of the film
as they famously set up recruiting sites outside theaters all over the country
during the film’s initial release.
This led to an incredible 500% increase
in recruitment in the year after the film premiered.
Does that mean Top Gun was produced and financed by the U.S. government?
Probably not.But we may never know for sure.
But the timing of the film’s release – when the US was in the middle of a cold war –
and the decision of the Navy to stage recruitment sites outside of theaters
certainly raised some eyebrows.
The history of storytelling is long and complex.
Humans have been telling stories since we had language, maybe even earlier than that.
And since the beginning, these tales were designed not just to entertain,
but also to inform and shape our thoughts, beliefs and actions.
还有提供信息 塑造思想 信念和行为
So what does this say about our nature as humans?
Are we naturally easily influenced,
or is there something innately persuasive about the media we consume?
I think the answer lies somewhere in between the two.
The outward, aggressive nature of The Birth of a Nation and Jaws
represent a base, simplistic manipulation of the human psyche.
These stories want us to feel something specific:
fear, hate, anger.
如恐惧 厌恶 愤怒
They play on simple emotions, things we have all experienced or felt,
things we see every day around us.
They are political because they are obvious.
We know what they want us to feel and think.
But films like Sideways and even Top Gun are different.
They present us with a set of ideas hidden away inside of a character and
that gives them authority.
Maverick is an authority because he’s great at what he does.
He’s likable, a little flawed, so he’s relatable.
他招人喜欢 有点缺陷 让人产生共鸣
The same can be applied to Miles
– who is presented in the film as an “expert” on wine –
and so naturally, we believe these characters.
Even when that’s all they are, characters.
It’s unlikely that the writers of Top Gun or Sideways
were trying to accomplish anything by having Miles rant about Merlot
or with Maverick doing cool tricks in his fighter jet.
In film terms, these actions are expository,
they are meant to tell us about the characters
so we build empathy, a relationship.
We formed such a strong relationship with these fictional characters,
in fact, that we started to subconsciously act like them.
We stopped drinking Merlot.
We started joining the Navy.
Today, social media apps like TikTok and Instagram
encourage us to tell stories about our lives and personal experiences.
It’s normal to talk to our phones about something that
went on in our day and post it online.
We scroll past dozens of videos every day
featuring different people telling various stories.
We watch vlogs, beauty tips, mukbangs, cooking videos, all day, every day.
看vlog 美妆 吃播 烹饪 整天 每天
We are affected with stories and imagery exponentially more than
we were when The Birth of a Nation was released,
or even when Jaws or Sideways came out.
This made me wonder; has the increase in the volume of stories we consume
affected the potency of the Sideways Effect?
Are films still able to affect us today in the same way they did
at the turn of the last century?
The short answer is maybe not.
While more recent films such as Blackfish have likely increased
our awareness of issues and created a shift on a political or conscious level,
I can’t think of a clear-cut example of a recent film that
spontaneously changed the trajectory of something like Merlot sales
or the number of sharks hunted each year.
Perhaps this might also be due to everyone having access to information now
more than ever, and as a result, we can easily fact check things.
Maybe, maybe not.
In the end, the Sideways Effect is just another way of saying that,
as people, we will always see ourselves in the images and stories we consume.
We will always interpret how we see them,
we will always make assumptions and draw our own conclusions.
Or maybe it says something about the movies we watch,
about their intention, their desire to change and affect us.
Either way, we are in a constant state of change,
and stories – movies, TV, radio, podcasts- will affect that change
故事 电影 电视 播客 都会有影响
whether we want them to or not.
The idea that a film, radio program or TV episode can influence a generation of people