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Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Recognizing the importance of films in society

The art form connects us through universal experiences and feelings


By SARAH HAN — arts@theaggie.org


Films are inevitably part of our lives; from childhood favorites to recent hits, films have likely taught us at least something about the world around us. And as they continue to address modern-day problems, they might just be the perfect tool to teach us about society.

The key characteristic of a film is the theme, which is the overarching lesson or idea of the story. It’s generally a complex thought instead of a single word or phrase. For example, in the movie “Parasite” directed by Bong Joon-ho, the theme isn’t solely “social inequality.” Rather, it can be how social inequality distorted the rich and poor’s views of each other, how humans inherently desire something they don’t have or how kindness fails to persist in society.

The themes we see in a film can also vary from person to person, but that’s what makes films a good teaching tool; we can use a single story to send an infinite number of lessons. Everyone has different experiences and yet one film has the ability to send a message broad enough for everyone to relate to and understand. 

This doesn’t only apply to movies that address serious issues either. The same can apply to children’s movies or comedies. Take “Ratatouille,” for example. Directed by Brad Bird, it’s a story about Remy, a rat who embarks on a journey to practice his culinary skills in the human world. Although it’s a lighthearted, playful film, it communicates deeper messages about society as well, like how people need to believe in themselves in order to act on their ambitions or how discrimination makes goals challenging to reach, but not impossible. The message can be anything, showing how even children’s films can reveal a lot about the real world.

Films also invoke universal emotions and feelings. Think about it: when have you ever empathized, cried, smiled or felt any other emotions when watching a movie? Probably more than once. Movies are culminations of everyday events that hold significant lessons or meanings. Indeed, the events can be shown in different ways through imaginative fictional scenarios; however, the foundational messages remain applicable to real life.

In addition to teaching us important lessons, films also educate us about new topics and inspire us to do new things. I remember learning a lot about working conditions and gender inequality after watching “Les Misérables,” a film about late-18th-century France. Although the film might not be entirely historically accurate, it did enough to display what people in the time period experienced. I like to think that movies expose or at least ease the audience into a particular subject, all with the goal of teaching something new and inspiring viewers.

Overall, films capture, influence, educate and inspire our lives. Next time you’re watching a movie, notice if it changes your perspective or teaches you something new.

Written by: Sarah Han — arts@theaggie.org