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This image provided by Warner Bros. from Oliver Stone's 1991 movie JFK shows a recreation of the assassination of U.S. President John F. Kennedy in Dallas. (AP)
This image provided by Warner Bros. from Oliver Stone's 1991 movie JFK shows a recreation of the assassination of U.S. President John F. Kennedy in Dallas. (AP)

Study says movies really can change your political views – to be more liberal Add to ...

On the off chance you have been preoccupied with the Polar Vortex, we’ve officially entered Awards season; the BAFTA nominations were announced today and the Golden Globes will be handed out on Sunday evening.

So perhaps it’s no surprise to find various articles that tangentially link our emotional and political sentiments to topical films to emotional and political attitudes.

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Slate, as one example, posted a link to a study that reported how people’s viewpoints can change after watching a film with a strong political message. Writers Asawin Suebsaeng and Chris Mooney selected JFK, The Cider House Rules and The Day After Tomorrow among a list of movies that been singled out in various scientific studies for reshaping opinion.

Take JFK: “In a 1995 study of viewers before and after seeing the film, Stanford University psychologist Lisa Butler and her colleagues found that seeing JFK ‘doubled the level of anger’ of viewers.”

Whereas they point out that The Cider House Rules’ author and screenwriter John Irving might have encouraged pro-abortion support when he “thanked ‘everyone at Planned Parenthood’ and NARAL Pro-Choice America at the end of his acceptance speech.”

Twelve years after the film’s release, two researchers at Southern Illinois University screened it among a group of randomly chosen participants and found that, despite its fictional storyline, that audience felt “more favorable toward legalized abortion in the case of incest than those in the control group.”

As for The Day After Tomorrow, a film that was largely panned by critics, apparently 83 per cent of those who watched the global warming-prompts-Ice Age blockbuster were “somewhat” or “very concerned” about global warming versus 72 per cent of non-watchers, according to Yale researcher Anthony Leiserowitz, who conducted a survey three weeks after the film debuted.

Interestingly – although perhaps to no one’s surprise – the Slate contributors cap their list with All the President’s Men, which was the basis for a 1979 study that revealed a Republican bias against the press.

But if some of these studies seem slightly dated, Suebsaeng and Mooney note that the most recent, published in Social Science Quarterly, suggests that Hollywood films are responsible for more liberal-leaning sentiments. In the abstract for “Moving Pictures? Experimental Evidence of Cinematic Influence on Political Attitudes,” Todd Adkins and Jeremiah Castle claim that “popular movies possess the ability to change political attitudes, especially on issues that are unframed by the media.” Political scientists at Notre Dame University, they go on to state, “such influence persists over time and is not moderated by partisanship, ideology or political knowledge.”

Elsewhere, The Independent looked at the same study and homed in on the noteworthy detail that the audience was “more likely to experience a ‘leftward shift’ in attitudes” when they were “not prepared” to be critical.

Which is to say, less obvious political messages – often originating in sentimental, films like As Good As It Gets with its health-care storyline – could linger as strongly as those with overtly partisan plotlines.

So there you go.

Now we’ll need to wait and see who’s first to develop a Polar Vortex epic disaster thriller rom-com.

 

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