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In the contemporary landscape of entertainment, movies and web series have emerged as powerful mediums that possess the potential to shape societal norms and values. However, the impact of this influence is a double-edged sword, capable of both positive and negative consequences. In recent times, concerns have been raised about the prevalent themes of sexuality, nudity, drug use and abuse, violence, and propaganda that seem to permeate the content available to the youth. This article aims to delve into the complex relationship between audio-visual content and societal behaviour, exploring instances where the influence has been constructive and instances where it has veered towards detrimental outcomes.

Positive Influences:
Though I do not wish to deny it completely, there are instances of the positive impact of online content on society. Movies and web series have been instrumental in fostering social awareness and empathy. Powerful narratives on issues such as mental health, discrimination, and inclusivity have initiated crucial conversations, breaking societal taboos and stigmas. For instance, shows like “13 Reasons Why” and movies like “A Beautiful Mind” have contributed to a broader understanding of mental health challenges, encouraging empathy and support.

Negative Influences:
And this is what worries me the most. Smoking, drugs, sexual violence, crime, and much more… from where our youths are adopting this ugliness in their lives? Though researchers and ‘academicians’ will point another way, we cannot deny that an influx of content glorifying or sensationalising aspects like drug use, violence, and explicit sexuality can potentially desensitise the youth. For instance, series like “Breaking Bad” have been criticised for glamorising the drug trade, while explicit content in shows like “Game of Thrones” has sparked debates about its impact on societal perceptions of relationships. Come to India and we have Mirzapur, Gangs of Wasseypur, Bhaukal, and much more to the credit of Gen Z creators who have left no stone unturned to explode the worst that humans can achieve…

Impact on Morality and Values:
The portrayal of values and morality in movies and web series can significantly influence the moral compass of the audience. While films like “Dangal” have celebrated gender equality and perseverance, instances of morally ambiguous characters becoming protagonists may blur the lines between right and wrong, impacting the impressionable minds of the youth.

The Role of Propaganda:
In an age of information, movies and web series can also be vehicles for political or social propaganda. Content that deliberately manipulates narratives to suit particular agendas can contribute to shaping public opinion in a predetermined manner. An example is the controversy surrounding documentaries that present biased perspectives on significant socio-political issues. Undermining democracy, religious values, beliefs of societies and many other things became a casual habit of filmmakers. Where will it lead?

Youth as the Target Audience:
The youth demographic is a primary target for filmmakers and content creators. The susceptibility of young minds to external influences makes it crucial to critically assess the content they are exposed to. With streaming platforms providing easy access to a plethora of content, there is a need for increased awareness about the potential impact on the mental and emotional well-being of the youth.

Research and Worries:

The impact of media content on youth has been a subject of extensive research, shedding light on various aspects of this complex relationship. Steven J. Kirsh, in “Media and Youth: A Developmental Perspective” (2017), provides insights into how media influences cognitive and socioemotional development. Comstock and Scharrer’s meta-analysis, “Effects of Media on Children and Adolescents” (2007), underscores the need for a nuanced understanding of media’s influence on behaviours. Roberts, Foehr, and Rideout, in “Media Use and the American Child” (2005), offer a comprehensive examination of media consumption patterns. Additionally, Kearney and Levine’s study, “Media Influences on Social Outcomes” (2014), explores the impact of specific media content on teen childbearing. Contrary to concerns, Jane D. Brown et al., in “Adolescents’ Exposure to Sexy Media Does Not Hasten the Initiation of Sexual Intercourse” (2006), challenge assumptions about the direct link between exposure to sexual content and risky behaviour. These studies collectively emphasise the nuanced and multifaceted nature of the relationship between media and youth, urging for a comprehensive approach to understanding and mitigating potential risks.

Regulatory Measures and Accountability:
As concerns grow regarding the influence of content on society, there is an increasing call for stricter regulations and accountability. Governments and regulatory bodies are urged to monitor and control the content that reaches audiences, ensuring it aligns with ethical standards. The responsibility also falls on content creators to exercise discretion in their storytelling, considering the potential consequences of their narratives.

In conclusion, the relationship between movies, web series, and societal influence is intricate and multi-faceted. While these mediums have the power to educate, inspire, and bring about positive change, they also carry the responsibility of being mindful of the potential negative impact on impressionable minds. Striking a balance between creative freedom and ethical storytelling is imperative to ensure that the content produced aligns with the values of a progressive and responsible society. As audiences continue to consume diverse narratives, it is essential to foster a critical mindset that questions and evaluates the societal implications of the content we engage with.


Rohit for ILN Opinion Platform

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