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School Paper About Movies and Culture Ideas


BasilBruce
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Hello All, so for my composition class we are doing a research paper where we pick the topic. My idea was to see if movies helped change the culture or if culture changed the movies. Now I know most people think th latter but I would like to research the former. Any ideas about which decade to do?

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I studied this when I was in the TV news business.

 

Part of it works like this:

 

A few outlaw bikers make a run on Hollister California in 1947 and mess up the town a little.

 

*http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hollister_riot*

 

A few years later, a film was made that was based on that event. The film was titled THE WILD ONES.

 

The film generated an interest in roudyness among bikers, young people, and hoodlums all over the country, and hundreds of thousands of teen boys began wearing black motorcycle jackets, even if they didn't ride motorcycles.

 

The same reaction with the film REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE, which caused the sale of switchblade knives to go way up among teenage boys.

 

The same reaction with BLACKBOARD JUNGLE, which caused many teen boys to react badly in their own high schools.

 

Etc, etc., etc.

 

Small, localized cultural trends can suddenly become widespread if movies are made about them. So, the small localized cultural trends or events inspire major movies that are seen by teenagers all over the country. The movies inspire nationwide-spread of those localized cultural events and trends, and the nationwide spread of the new cultural trends inspire more movies to be made about the same subject, and that starts an even more widespread new wave of national cultural trends.

 

And film producers will say, "We didn't cause this. Just look at the riots in the streets. All we are doing is making movies about what is happening within our culture." And it all starts with things like a one-day riot event in Hollister in 1947, and a movie made about it. And a switchblade fight in a movie about a troubled teen in California, and another movie made about bad ghetto kids abusing their teachers in New York. Etc., etc., etc.

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When "Streetcar Named Desire" came out, Marlon Brando wore a white undershirt exclusively as part of his costume. After this film, sales of white undershirts shot up and men started wearing them as a shirt w/o wearing anything over it.

 

Not a movie, but during "I Love Lucy's" heyday, Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz popularized silk smoking robes and matching his and hers pajamas.

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Exactly the opposite took place when *It Happened One Night* was released. When Clark Gable took off his shirt, revealing that there was nothing under it but his manly chest, the sales of men's undershirts plummeted.

 

But to address the broader question of how movies influenced -- or reflected -- social changes, I think the 1960s are a significant decade for examination.

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Isn't this a little like the "chicken or the egg" came first question? But as some have already pointed out, some popular films did help promote cultural changes or at least created a temporary fad. The fifties may be a good decade to work with, explore the beginnings of the baby boomer culture.

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It seems that a paper could probably be written about any filmmaking decade and how movies of that time influenced culture. Maybe you should narrow down the scope of your paper from the very broad "how movies helped change culture" to a more specific thesis. I know if it were me writing the paper (and trust me, as someone who graduated college with a Communication Studies degree and a minor in Writing, I've written a lot of papers), I would perhaps research cultural changes that came about via film and see if I could find a time period with a multitude of examples; or see if there were a handful of films that each represented a change as a result of the film. I definitely wouldn't go into the paper with such a broad focus. That's just me though.

 

If you were to focus on the WWII era of film, you could talk about how many films were used as means to inspire the homefront to support the war. Propaganda films could be explored. Disney produced a ton of cartoon shorts during WWII. Topics that they covered were rationing, supporting the war at home, anti-axis propaganda and teaching people how to grow their own food.

 

Others have mentioned the 50s and covering the post-war baby boomer time. This is the era of the "American Dream" and all that.

 

The 1960s would be a good time, as you could focus on a variety of social issues like the cold war, free love, and Vietnam.

 

The 1930s could cover the Depression and either how films maybe helped bring hope during the Depression or even how films provided escapism from the harsh reality of daily life.

 

The possibilities are endless. Outputs from the entertainment industry, like film and television (for example) are so intertwined with American culture that I think this paper should be relatively easy to write once you settle on the direction you want this paper to take.

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>speedracer said: as someone who graduated college with a Communication Studies degree and a minor in Writing

 

very apparent from your posts- complete sentences AND punctuation-oh my!

 

>If movies helped change the culture or if culture changed the movies

>The possibilities are endless.

 

I'd take the clothing examples given already in this thread (undershirts, leather jackets) and build upon that theme.

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>I'd take the clothing examples given already in this thread (undershirts, leather jackets) and build upon that theme.

 

I would choose that too. Except I wouldn't just focus on men's fashions, but women's fashions as well. I am sure certain hats, dresses and shoes worn by women on screen generate sales. Loretta Young popularized many styles in film and television. More recent examples you may look at include Robert Altman's READY TO WEAR, and David Frankel's THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA.

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Debating Brando wearing a T-shirt or Gable NOT wearing one and the affect of the sales of that attire is one thing. Movies generating a notable change in the behavior of certain age groups and/or genders is another. To say that BLACKBOARD JUNGLE or THE WILD ONE inspired delinquent behavior among the youth of this country is only one side. The inspiration for these movies (or the book, in "Blackboard's" case) had to come from somewhere. As stated, the inspiration for THE WILD ONE came from an actual event makes me wonder, WHERE did the original perpetrators of that event GET the notion to do such a thing? Possibly some old western? Definitley not a popular song and obviously not a TV show, so....

 

Up until the late '60's, youth culture was obscenely misrepresented in the movies. Perhaps on purpose in hopes of SQUELCHING the direction it was headed. The music kids in movies listened to was far from the actual rock'n'roll tunes they were listening to, their fashions and relationships with their parents didn't ring true, either. So, WHY didn't the "sweetness and light" behavior in those GIDGET type movies have the same affect? In movies, the girls who "got into trouble" were often portrayed as "sluts" with sketchy upbringing, from lower income households or mislead girls with "bad reputations". Not in all movies, mind you, but an awful lot of them. And the truth is, it was not always the case.

 

I remember, in the mid 1960's, watching the old Merv Griffin talk show, and some woman sociologist was on the show discussing the "epidemic" of teen-age pregnancy in New York City. As this was long before cable TV and sexual liberation in movies and song lyrics, one has to wonder WHAT brought the problem about. But I notice I'm starting to ramble, so I'll just say I go along with the "chicken or egg" summation. The cycle of, "movies influence the culture, which influences the movies which influence the culture, which influences the movies that..."

 

Sepiatone

 

Edited by: Sepiatone on Jan 19, 2014 11:15 AM

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One example of the movies influencing society is the practice of firing a handgun sideways (that is, parallell to the ground). This position is often favored by directors because it allows both the actor's face and the weapon to be seen in a tight camera shot. In reality, however, this shooting style is not practical because it can cause the gun to jam.

 

Marlon Brandon used this side grip in ONE-EYED JACKS (1961) as did Eli Wallach in THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY (1966). However, the movie that is credited with popularizing this style "on the street" is MENACE II SOCIETY (1993), which features a gun shot with the side grip in the opening scene. After this movie came out, reports of street gangs using this technique (in an apparent attempt to "look Hollywood") rose dramatically.

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>One example of the movies influencing society is the practice of firing a handgun sideways

 

The Tiki family all target shoot for recreation (heck when we could buy bullets) and holding a gun "sideways" in a movie always breaks us up laughing.

 

We also delight seeing Cagney shoot in movies; he pumps his hand for dramatic emphasis, when in reality he'd never hit ANY thing he was aiming for that way.

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>As stated, the inspiration for THE WILD ONE came from an actual event makes me wonder, WHERE did the original perpetrators of that event GET the notion to do such a thing? Possibly some old western? Definitley not a popular song and obviously not a TV show, so....

 

This is not a topic that can be totally explained in 30 words or less. Not many topics can be briefly explained.

 

But just look what happened with the JACKASS movies.... thousands of dumb teenagers trying to imitate some of the tricks and dangerous stuff they saw in the movies, such as jumping over moving cars, doing stupid skateboard tricks, etc.

 

Show that stuff to NONE of them in a film and only a FEW will be stupid enough to think it up on their own and do it. But show it to MILLIONS of them in films, and HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS will try to do it.

 

I remember the early 1960s, when a bunch of my high school and college buddies wanted to join the army and go off to fight the Commies in Vietnam, circa 1960-66. All because they grew up seeing WW II movies that made war look fairly simple and not too difficult, and WE always won all the battles. Well, some of them joined the army, and they got over there to Vietnam and they soon found out it wasn't as easy as a John Wayne movie.

 

This phenomenon, Re: movies, should be so simple, every old movie buff should already know all about it.

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>FCDobbs:

>Show that stuff to NONE of them in a film and only a FEW will be stupid enough to think it up on their own and do it

 

Never underestimate the ability of people to be stupid. If they had not had a movie to inspire them, they would have found a way to do something equally stupid. Besides, you don't want to protect people from their own stupidity, it improves the gene pool.

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>Show that stuff to NONE of them in a film and only a FEW will be stupid enough to think it up on their own and do it. But show it to MILLIONS of them in films, and HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS will try to do it.

 

Please someone make a blockbuster action movie where the coolest guy who gets all the girls has his pants up over his *ss!!

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>My idea was to see if movies helped change the culture or if culture changed the movies.

 

Let me ask you this.... Can you think of anything you've seen in movies, new or old, that have caused you to be interested in something you weren't interested in before? Do you have day-dreams about someting, or someone, or doing something, or going some place you've never been before, that you've seen in the movies?

 

Do you have any personal mannerisms or sayings or occasional way of talking that you have picked up from some actor or actress in the movies?

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