Gathering a nation

The Cinema.

“The cinema’s institutional ritual of gathering a community – spectators who share a region, language, culture – homologizes, in a sense, the symbolic gathering of a nation. ” – The Imperial Imaginary (p.119)

I agree with the statement, except for the subtle fact that cinema-goers in many communities may share a region, but not a language or culture. Apart from that subtle fact,  I think the point stands. We go to the cinema as individuals (or groups of individuals who are friends). We may not have much in common with the people sitting next to us, apart from the fact that we share the same zip code. However, we watch a movie like Amistad, and we all leave the cinema with the same feelings: “Transatlantic slave trade was an atrocity.”

A more personal example: after watching The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas (a poignant, provoking yet simple film about the Holocaust–WATCH IT IF YOU CAN!!!) last semester, I can remember the lights in the cinema coming on while the credits were rolling. After wiping my own tears, I looked to see most people in the cinema still sniffing or trying to wipe their tears hurriedly. That moment in the cinema struck me as special: how could one movie stir up the exact same feeling in a community composed of different cultures, nationalities, languages, and races, a feelings that the movie stirred up in us?

The cinema indeed gathers a nation, my definition of a nation being “the shared belief of disparate individuals…(Imperial Imaginary p.118). In that time and space, as we hold our popcorn and soda, as the lights dim, and as the movie’s soundtrack begins,  we are “born” and become citizens of a common land X. As we watch the movie, we grow. Our morals are “shaped” by what we see on screen. When we see a kid being bullied, and we think that bullying is horrible, Land X then accepts that bullying is bad. When we see a man being killed, we accept that murder is wrong. These are common enough views in our world, so they do not come across as surprising.

Imperial Imaginary gives the example of the elite of colonized people who identified with the European characters as opposed to their fellow colonized characters in films that portrayed these two sides placed against each other. These people saw stories from the colonizer’s point of view, and thus sided with them, or did not find wrong in what they were doing by killing hundreds of innocent people. In a play like Nobel laureate, Wole Soyinka’s Death and the King’s Horseman, or Chinua Achebe’s classic novel, Things fall Apart, we hear the story from the colonized’s point of view, which more or less places us on their side, because we now know their story, and can understand the things they might do as a result.

I have outlined a few more examples of the media’s ability to alter our judgement, in the context of being media observers:

Case 1:

WEEDS: I used to like this show (there’s nothing wrong with it, I just moved on…)…Nancy Botwin (played by Mary Louise Parker) is your average mom who just happens to also be…….a drug dealer…

Watching the show, I found myself not wanting Nancy or her family to get caught, because, in the the course of watching the series, I had gotten to know Nancy and her family. I just felt it wouldn’t be fair if she went to jail because she had a family, and she had issues like everyone else. But then, isn’t selling drugs still a crime?

Case 2:

THE GODFATHER: This movie I happen to love. The Corleones are a powerful Mafia family. And before they are able to become the top family of the New York’s circle of Mafiosi, they do things. They kill. Many times. But we find ourselves cheering for them, and not any other family in the movie, because we have seen their lives and their side of the story, but noone else’s. The murders the Corleones commit are justified, because they are for vengeance.

Case 3:

All three OCEAN’s movies: One sentence: We approve of stealing.

Case 4:

CATCH ME IF YOU CAN: We approve of con artists.

I don’t see anything wrong with identifying with the “bad” side in a movie while we watch. The only fact is that we need to combine our media consumption with a healthy dose of reality, so we can see the real, bigger picture: A CRIME IS A CRIME…………especially in real life. a MURDER IS A MURDER………especially in real life……….THE COLONIZED WORLD WAS GIVEN THE SHORT END OF THE STICK at most(all) points both during and after colonialism.


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