In the last fifteen years, a number of movie franchises have had sadism as their subjects. Hostel, Saw, and others of that ilk. The production values are high. They are well directed and acted. So there is a lot of quality in these movies that lures an audience. But what message do they intend to send out?
Have you ever watched an old movie and then seen it remade? Sometimes the stories are very similar. But the movies just have a different feel to them. A positive example is True Grit. Using almost an identical story, the 1969 version and the 2017 version had a totally different tone. The last scene left you with different emotions. Both were excellent movies that won the Academy award for best picture.
Sometimes the remake just misses. The recent Total Recall is an example. The first movie was vividly filmed. It was funny. The remake, well, it was just a bunch of actors running around in front of a blue screen.
An author can tell a sad story and intend for it to have a positive impact. A few years ago I nagged my daughter into watching Gone With the Wind. When she was finished she said it was one horrible catastrophe over and over. What I saw was a movie about flawed people who were full of life and kept struggling until they succeeded.
Many great directors have sought to inspire with their movies: Frank Capra, Steven Spielberg, Ron Howard. Today I fear the fashion is to finish a story with a crooked smile that chides the audience, you jerk, things aren’t as good as you think they are.
Netflix recently aired a controversial movie. I won’t promote it by repeating it’s name. It was so sordid, I wondered, what were these people thinking when they made it? What kind of effect were they going for? It seemed that they intended to put people down and depress them so this world would be a worse place to live in.
All fiction doesn’t have to be Mary Poppins. But even in classic works that depress, like Lord Jim or The Great Gadsby, the questions that the author demonstrates can have a positive effect. Romeo and Juliet demonstrates the damage of petty argument. You may leave the theater in tears, but you might vow to clean up parts of your own life.
I want my books to make readers think that things can improve, that people are good and they try to help and make a better world.