Think of a film that annoys you. Really annoys you. As in, you actually find it offensive to watch. The very thought of said film sends shivers down your spine, haunts you at night, makes you feel both figuratively and literally sick.
Now consider what it is about said film that annoys you so much. Chances are it won’t be merely the badness of the movie. After all, plenty of other movies that annoy you less are just as terrible. It’s probably the fact that said movie is at odds with your own values or ideology. Perhaps it’s misogynistic, over-simplifies issues, or simply paints America as the saviour of the universe.
Ideology in movies is important to us because our values matter to us. What we find offensive, inspiring, or thought-provoking in film is often down to a movie’s ideology.
And all movies have an ideology.
Consider for example Avatar’s environmental message, Iron Man 2’s “privatising of world peace”, or The Incredibles’ depiction of the family unit.
In terms of ideology what is often more interesting to consider is the underlying morals of a film rather than its more overt message. Consider for example Danny Boyle’s two most famous films:
Trainspotting and Slumdog Millionaire
(Spoilers for those movies ahoy!)
Both those movies deal with fairly harrowing issues, yet end on a fairly upbeat note that gives us the opportunity to forget about the horrors we’ve just seen (Heroin addiction, AIDS, blinding of street kids, etc.)
However, when one considers the source of happiness for both protagonists in the film, it may be something that makes us feel a little uneasy. That source? Money.
What message is the movie really trying to tell us? If you’ve seen one of your best friends die, or if you’ve been abused as a child, it’ll much easier to forget if you suddenly get rich?
(End of Spoilers)
Messages like this permeate our screen. The values of a western society implying anyone can find success or work their way to the top if only they stick at it long enough. Or that the nerdy guy can get the girl if only he can get the car that transforms into a robot.
The more palatable we find these types of ideas, the more they are likely to be in line with our own values. Whether they annoy or inspire us, a movie’s ideology will always hold a mirror to our own beliefs. Being aware of such messages allows us to either accept or reject them, ignoring it can allow a movie’s ideals to seep into our own without us even realising.