Ask the Granny Doctor and Dr. Brilliant Cliche: Are Movies a Bad Influence?

Dear Dr. Brilliant Cliché;

frankMy teenaged daughter and her friends are really into the Twilight movies. It’s such a widespread phenomena that I didn’t think anything of it. But when I watched for the first time myself, I was more than a little disturbed. The values that are being glamorized here seem so skewed — be effortlessly beautiful and strong forever, and be totally cool … and all you have to do is become a soulless blood drinker! I think that if someone from 100 years ago saw any of these new movies, they’d have a heart attack. I can’t help but wonder now if this stuff is a bad influence on my daughter.

Concerned Mom

Dear Mom:

Pop literature caters to narcissistic fantasies: Someone will love you so much they will sacrifice their life for you. They will sell their soul or kill for you. In these books, people do not need to carry a mortgage. They are all free non-starving pirates, or millionaires, or beyond human concerns as they are dead.

These novels are mere entertainment and of no consequence — video game escapism for women. However, if one is a teen with a limited life, cut off from other experiences such as a job or other outside involvements, there is a danger they will believe this fantasy stuff is real. For sheltered kids, pop culture might skew expectations. Normal young adults might dream of becoming queen of Australia someday, but realize that it is not very likely.

One could argue that if continued through adulthood, escapist fantasies could allow a person to accept situations that they should otherwise being doing something about, like lousy husbands and dead end jobs. False expectations might even contribute to the lousy husband choice in the first place. Men often use the same pick up lines found in the novels, but never follow through in the long run.

I believe the first novel considered to be pulp fiction was Frankenstein, written by Mary Shelley in 1818. It catered to women and was wildly popular. You should have your daughter do a comparison between Frankenstein and Twilight for extra credit in English. It would be interesting to show how things have both changed and not changed.

Dr. Brilliant Cliché

Granny says: I think the real question here is whether exposure to movies with trash values and fantasy sex is harmful to teens. I decided to do a little research on the subject rather than just offer my opinion. I was a little surprised and somewhat alarmed at what I found. At the University of Missouri, extensive studies were made of the movie habits of 1,228 teens and preteens between the ages of 12 and 14. Six years later, the researchers went back to the same subjects and followed up to find out how sexually active they were and whether they practiced safe sex. It was discovered that the teens who’d been exposed to more sexually explicit movies lost their virginity at a younger age, had more partners and did not practice safe sex. They were indeed inspired by the on-screen antics of stars.

Unfortunately, about 57% of teens get most of their information on sex from the media and movies. I guess that the days are over when parents took their kids aside and had that talk about the birds and the bees. Now, it seems that parents will have to update those early sex lectures with info on handcuffs, hot wax and the undead.

Teenagers are far more susceptible to suggestion than adults because of their newly surging hormones and their adolescent brains, which researchers claim are incapable of understanding the concept of consequence in connection to behavior. As a concerned parent, you may want to see every flick your daughter does and be prepared to discuss the content afterward. Unprotected sex with a hot vampire can seem like a great idea when you’re giggling with your friends, but it sounds pretty damned stupid when you’re talking with Mom.