Our society today is a visual one that is inevitably influenced by the by the arts: painting, prints, photography, movies, television, and literature. Artists have used their medium as a way to influence people’s opinions throughout history, for both noble and corrupt purposes. In doing so, the aim of the artist is to convey the facts of an issue and influence people’s opinions to either garner support or disapproval for a particular cause. In recent years the arts have become increasingly politicized, especially in cinema. So, for the purpose of this paper, I will focus mainly on that medium.Order now
Take for example the movie Syriana, an Academy Award winning geopolitical thriller. Syriana, adapted from former CIA agent Robert Baer’s memoir, See No Evil, focuses on the vast influence of the oil industry’s political, economic, legal, and social effects, such as corruption, poverty, and terrorism. Ultimately, the film tries to illustrate the United States dependence on foreign oil and the ill effects of multinational corporations manipulating global politics for their own profit. Michael Moore’s 2003 Academy Award Winning movie, Bowling for Columbine, is another example of a movie influencing society.
In the movie Moore tries to explore the reasons and causes for the Columbine High School massacre, other acts of gun violence, and why the United States has higher rates of violent crimes than other developed nation in the world. The movie focuses on the background and environment in which the massacre took place, and some common public opinions and assumptions regarding gun violence. The film uses an informal, artistic look into the nature of gun violence in the United States, focusing on guns as the controversial symbol of American freedom and its possible paradoxical self-destruction.
Although highly controversial, due to the exposure in Bowling for Columbine, K-Mart, where the two boys responsible for the Columbine High School massacre purchased their ammunition, announced it would stop selling ammunition in its stores. Another movie that had a powerful effect in society is Morgan Spurlock’s 2004 film, Super Size Me. The film follows a period in which Spurlock eats only McDonald’s fast food, three times a day, every day, for thirty days, eating everything on the McDonald’s menu at least once. Super Size Me documents the physical effects the food has on him.
In addition, Spurlock explores the corporate influence of the fast food industry and how it encourages poor nutrition for its own profit. Spurlock, age 33 at the time of filming, was healthy and slim, at 6 feet 2 inches with a body mass of 186 lbs. In three separate medical examinations before he starts his McDonald’s diet, three different doctors give him a clean bill of health. After thirty days, he has gained 24 lb, an increase of 13% of his body mass. He has also experienced headaches, sexual dysfunction, lethargy and liver damage.
It took several months to lose the weight he gained and return to normal health. The driving factor for Spurlock’s investigation was the increasing spread of obesity throughout our society, which the U. S. Surgeon General has declared an epidemic. Subsequent to the showing of the film at the Sundance Film Festival, where it won best documentary, McDonald’s phased out its super size meal option, and began offering healthier menu items in addition to its customary fare, although McDonald’s denied that this was in reaction to the movie.
Literature has also played an important roll in influencing society. Two books worth mentioning are Ralph Nader’s 1965 book, Unsafe at Any Speed, detailing claims of resistance by car manufacturers to the introduction of safety features, like seat belts, and their general reluctance to spend money on improving safety. The other is Rachel Carson’s 1962 book, Silent Spring, which alleged that DDT caused cancer and harmed bird reproduction by thinning their eggshells.
The book resulted in a large public outcry, which eventually led to the insecticide being banned for use in the United States, and was one of the events in the birth of the environmental movement. There are countless other examples of the arts influencing society and leading to change throughout history and in contemporary times. Whether it’s dealing with discrimination, social justice, poverty, protecting the environment, public safety, corruption, etc. , the arts can be a powerful tool for change in the world.