What role does modern cinema play in society?

After three high-profile shootings last year, the American public was understandably unnerved.

The search for answers, which would provide closure by explaining what drove each of those shooters, would also point to a path in which pre-emptive measures may be taken to ensure that those shootings remained in the past and no longer haunted us in the present, culling our fears of an uncertain future

Joe Biden, in the search for answers, formed a task-force to investigate the effects of violence in video-games, which has always been a chicken or the egg dilemma.

As Biden met with leaders within the gaming industry, some proclaimed that games were mere entertainment and thus harmless.

Similar claims have been made about movies, especially when they are placed in a critical light.

Yet the production of these media, from character archetypes, story archs and gender roles are informed by established cultural norms, even when they seek to subvert them.

I’ve never taken media as just entertainment; far removed from current events in society.

Even satirical works, which on the surface may seem quite humorous if not nonsensical, bespeak many of the injustices that remain unacknowledged by mainstream culture.

Obvious examples abound, such as the myriad foibles of the animals in George Orwell’s “Animal Farm,” to Steven Colbert’s intelligent “Colbert Report” or the trenchant skits of “Saturday Night Live.” The writers of these shows are as adept at humor and caricature as they are informed of the current events in their country and, in some cases, worldwide.

In a similar sense, many of the films I have reviewed for the Trumpet come across as blockbusters that promise action or  CGI laden adventure but even so, the films manage to communicate social and political messages.

My clarion call has always been that art and indeed artists, need to be interrogated about their works.

Media such as films, videogames and even music, are not benign pieces of entertainment but have critical ideological functions and transformative power.

It is expected that Biden’s task force will report on its findings this year and there is much speculation of what that will mean for the gaming industry.

In the U.S., artists are relatively advantaged in their right to exercise free speech which has led to expression in a multitude of genres.

We must question whether that multiplicity exemplifies messages communicated with meaning that are resonant to the lives we live, messages that hopefully lead their recipients on a path to rediscovery and introspection.

If anything, my hope is that Biden’s taskforce would instigate dialogue pertaining to the function of the media we consume and to acknowledge their power, regardless of whether they may seem harmful or not.

With this dialogue, we can hopefully chart a path that enables the creation of art that isn’t only appealing because it is creative or entertaining but rather that it allows us to witness horizons previously unknown.

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