Life according to the movies

I was listening to Kevin Smith ranting about how bad movies are these days, and it got me thinking about what impact movies really have on me. Do bad movies really matter?

I love to be entertained. Whether by music, movies, tv or my latest obsession, podcasts, nothing beats some pure escapism. Movies make you laugh, cry, think or just give you an excuse to consume your body weight in popcorn while you rest your eyeballs.  And if there’s some nice scenery – Mark Ruffalo, Edward Norton, yes, even the Mcconaughey  – well so be it. Not exactly Oscar caliber, but hey.. who cares. Movies are just entertainment right?

Except… except….Many of us learned the basics from a movie. The English/ Scottish border? Braveheart. What actually is Afghanistan like? The Kite Runner. The Iraq war? The Hurt Locker. And that’s just the history lessons.

Online dating? You’ve Got Mail. Life in fashion? Devil Wears Prada. Being an astronaut? The Right Stuff.

And I don’t think I’m alone. I’m sure most of us don’t know much about the Australian outback other than ‘Rabbit Proof Fence’ or ‘The Thorn Birds’. Which brings me to the dark side of movies.. and no, not snuff.

Apparently movies aren’t real.

They’re made up.


Which means much of what we’ve ‘learned’ isn’t ‘fact’, its not even close. And yet its sort of ‘become’ fact because we’ve been exposed to this stuff so frequently and the messages are so repetitive across multiple movies.

So because I can’t change the channel on a Saturday afternoon, I’m convinced that I could get into Harvard and become a lawyer if I just wear pink (Legally Blonde), if I’m a workaholic I can make my boss fall in love with me (Two Weeks Notice), or being a hooker means I’ll wind up with a successful rich businessman (Pretty Woman). Highly unlikely of course… I couldn’t wear those boots for a start, my legs are too short.

But I do worry about the more subtle messages that these delicious pink fluffy nuggets of escapism have actually indoctrinated me with.  That single women are cute or psychos (seriously, try and think of a non cute single woman in a recent movie and the only one I get is Kathy Bates). That if you meet someone and immediately can’t stand each other, it means you’re going to wind up married to them  (When Harry Met Sally). If you’re single and alone you’re a drunk chubster (Bridget Jones), you work for a secret organization (every Angelina Jolie movie ever) or you’re destined to perish by the end of the movie (Thelma and Louise). These are the movie options featuring single women – saddo, spy or dead? Suddenly Matthew Mconaughey suddenly doesn’t seem so bad.

Yes, these are a just a few examples and its a mass generalization. Yes, there are tonnes of great movies out there with strong, single, independent women..I just can’t think of any and I sure don’t find them on my TV very often. Which means if you’re between 10 and 30, the only single movie heroines you’re likely to see are waiting to be rescued by the perfect guy, shooting people in the head or whining about their weight. Wow.. positive role models galore.

Since I’m 41 and single, (and I can’t erase 25 years of crappy movies from my psyche), this means I’m probably due to kidnap or kill someone (Fatal Attraction, Misery), inherit a few kids ( Raising Helen) or go work for some weird secret agency (Salt, Hanna, Wanted).  But since I can’t shoot while running and I’m not the best with kids, I guess I’m off to find some comfortable shoes and a sledgehammer.

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