I want to go skydiving. I’ve had the desire since I was 7 or 8 years old. This desire tracks back to a specific moment, watching a fine piece of cinematic genius (read that last phrase with as much dripping sarcasm as you can muster) that we know as The Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers Movie (enjoy the theme song).
Yes, The Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers Movie has had a profound and lasting impact on my life. I love(d) the Power Rangers. Who didn’t? Well, those poor children whose parents wouldn’t let them watch it probably don’t—poor souls. To complete the connection for those that have not been blessed with the opportunity of watching the movie, the opening scene is the Rangers skydiving. [Sidenote: I recently rewatched the movie and it is delightful. The sweet nostalgia coating the melodramatic, abysmal acting enough to make it hilarious.]
So, something as simple as a short scene in a movie has given me a desire to do something for over a decade, almost two. Seems crazy, right?
I can trace the influence of a few other things fairly clearly, but wonder about the hidden influence that entertainment has had on my psyche and perception of the world. Some more illustrations may help clarify the point.
Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Ever since I watched this when I was 16 or so, I associate the word “shrubbery” with the Knights Who Say Ni, which in some locations can lead to me struggling to stifle laughter where it would otherwise be very inappropriate. My sincerest apologies if I have corrupted anyone reading this with my purposefully muddied and unclear allusion.
‘90s Superhero Cartoons. First, I adore superheroes. The more complex and nuanced takeaway is a sense of justice and need to use my gifts for the good of mankind, to stand up for those that are different and underprivileged, wherever they may be. The stories of Batman, Spiderman and the X-Men drove those messages home powerfully. However, they were tempered by something else or I’d likely be a crazed vigilante…
The Beatles. I listened to The Beatles starting at a young age, thanks to parents who have a generally solid taste in classic rock, helping me appreciate the good stuff. Love and Peace have been at the center of my worldview for a long time. This complicates some of the influence of the superhero cartoons I adored, but produces I think a more nuanced and healthy perspective on the world. I trace all good in the world back to love, and think that that love emanates from God, spreading out to all of God’s children, touching us and inspiring us to bless the lives of others. (Also, debatably responsible for my long hair throughout my teenage years and a fascination with counter-culture movements, specifically hippies.)
All of these influences though are filtered through my fundamental understanding of the world, which is largely based in my Mormon roots that define the basic structure of the tree of my personal philosophy. The Book of Mormon plays a huge role in that, as I’ve read at least a chapter from it every night since I was 12, so for almost 12 years. That reading grounds me, as does my Church attendance and engagement with Church doctrine via the Bloggernacle and fellow classmates at the one and only BYU.
Some of the influence that media has had on me has been negligible and relatively harmless, while other portions have been fairly significant for good or ill.
Being aware of the impact that media can have on us, should cause us to be more deliberate in our media consumption. Obviously, we can’t know every tiny piece of material that we’re going to see and sometimes we can be influenced by relatively small portions of the overall whole, although the vast majority of things that influence me in a positive or neutral way I have an overall positive connotation associated with them.
As we consume media and seek to be aware and discerning, it is fairly easy to make wise choices and find things that have a positive net impact on us. At least, I can generally tell from the feeling I get watching a trailer and some brief research into the cast and crew of a movie whether I want to watch something. Other forms can be a bit more difficult, but easier to obtain and stop part way through if it doesn’t seem worthwhile.
Occasionally, I have not done this. The Prestige and Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials are two examples. I’ve seen The Prestige a handful (maybe two handfuls) of times and each time felt something dark and wrong about it. I don’t know what it is or why, but it feels dark, so I have since tried to avoid it and anything that starts to give me that feeling, which is hard because I otherwise loved the movie and all involved. His Dark Materials is the same way. I read them in fifth grade or so and felt a dark nagging feeling that made me uncomfortable, but I kept reading because I needed to know what happened and it was fascinating. I re-read the books around the time the film came out and the controversy arose, as I tried to defend the books. As I read them, that darkness returned and I tried to push it away as the books being anti-organized religion, or anti-Catholic, but once I got to the final book, it was clear that the message of the book was anti-God.
Anyway, point being—if we want it, we can have the ability to feel and filter out the good from the bad on our own.
Virtuous, lovely, praiseworthy and of good report. All of those things can be ours, if we choose to seek them. Now’s the part where you feel all energized and motivated and start looking for quality entertainment. I can give you some suggestions if you’re really not finding anything…