|Classic children's movies psychological impact: Wizard of Oz, 1939. Intense scenes and characters of neighbors who became enemies can be confusing to children. (Neubauer, P., Ph.D.)
Peter Neubauer, a child psychiatrist and prolific author, felt that disturbing images in films such as the Wizard of Oz, were especially intense on the emotions of children, and felt that children without stable family lives were especially destabilized by the imagery of this and similar films.
History of the development of films and movies in the United States
Modern technology gave birth to the movie history in a West Orange, New Jersey in Thomas Edison Studios. Edison first featured his films publicly in 1894, and in 1896, he had produced the first story movie, "The Kiss" which both shocked and bonded audiences to motion pictures as a way of life. The development of photography in the 1800s led to the gradual introduction of moving picture primitive at first, the technology would leap from and jump ocean borders from the U.S. to France and Britain.
Prior to the development of photography and movies, and before baseball became a popular sport in the United States (the "national pastime became such during and after the civil war) drawing was a way of life for most children and young adults. The average child and teen during the early to mid-1800s had a skill in drawing which was close to being professional by today's standards. Because you couldn't yet take a photograph and because there were so few serious distractions, pianos in the parlor as well as drawing and art were very common pastimes in the United States and Europe
Because photography produces a lifelike replica, and as its commercial appeal grew, it displaced drawing as a pastime. Movies furthered that trend, and baseball filled up the free-time of millions of children, fathers and adolescents that used to be spent in drawing or, especially for females, playing piano.
Edison Studios first real movie, the "Widow's Kiss" featured the first passionate kiss ever seen on screen. They kissed, and kissed, and kissed.... Nothing like that had ever been seen before by audiences. At first there was protest. However, once the initial shock subsided, the passionate kiss remained a part of films from that early date in 1896, through the Silent Films era, and into the Hollywood era, on until today.
Passionate kissing in film, such as in Dances With Wolves
, My Big Fat Greek Wedding
, even children-oriented movies like Big
, with Tom Hanks, are accepted as a normal part of family entertainment. The protesters of 1896 quieted and the passionate kiss remained forever a standard draw for Hollywood films.
Movie History: First Movie With a Plot - Violence in Movies
While movies prior to 1903 featured short stories, the first movie with a real plot was produced by Edison Studios in 1903, "The Great Train Robbery", which, true to its theme, included robbery and in the end a bloody massacre. It is considered to be the root of violent movies in the 20th century. Thousands of movies were turned out by scores of movie studios in the United States, France and Britain from 1897 through 1914 on all imaginable themes and styles.
Horror movies are as old as movies themselves, the first coming shortly after Edison's foray into the realm of sexual titillation and film. Horror movies are described as "unsettling" movies, movies that endeavor to elicit response of fear, disgust, repugnance and horror from the viewer. Darkness is the backdrop and terror the emotion.
In 1896 early cinematographer Georges Mèliès produced a short film entitled The House of the Devil (Le Manoir du Diable), featuring a bat that flies into a castle, transforming into Mephistopheles, a blood-sucking vampire. A successive film in 1898 by Mèliès was entitled "The Cave of Demons" (La Caverne Maudite). Mèliès went on to produce some 500 films, giving audiences an exciting, spine-tingling glimpse of the world of devils, demons, and the macabre, albeit within the safe hands of the movie theater armrests.
Frankenstein, a novel from Mary Shelly in 1818, became the first Frankenstein movie and was produced by Edison Studios in the Bronx in 1910. The Silent era saw several adaptations of this theme, including "Life Without Soul", a sequel by Edison Studios. The most famous adaptation of the film was in 1931 by Universal Studios featuring Boris Karloff as the monster. In the 1930s and 40s there were approximately eight Frankenstein-themed movies, and from 1957 to 1974 seven. Frankenstein remains a popular and enduring theme in television, cartoons films, comedies, and parodies until this day.
One of the other famous early horror movies was produced prior to World War I in 1913 by German filmmakers and featured the theme of the Jewish bad-good monster legend "Der Golem." Golem was a solidly built clay man that was created to save the ghetto. However, when his job is accomplished, he refuses to cease existing, runs amok, eventually to be defeated by a little girl. A sequel was produced in 1920.
The Cabinet of Dr Caligari was an early horror film created in 1919, and is dubbed "the grandaddy of all horror films", depicted puppet humans controlled by a sadistic madman.
Vampire movies evolved into their present familiar form by 1922 in Germany, with "Nosferatu", with the grotesque Max Schreck, representing the Count Orlok of Transylvanian history and legend, becoming the most frightening vampire and vampire film to date, curling his long fingernails around the limbs of a series of hapless victims.
The Hunchback of Notre Dame in 1923 starred Lon Chaney, the first American horror-film movie star. Universal Studios produced the most successful horror movie production company, and in the 1930s it iconized the American horror movie genre, with "Frankenstein" at the forefront (1931), "Dracula" coming in a close second (1931), and a menacing come-to-life "Mummy" to round off the threesome (1932).
The 1960s brought a new type of horror movie to the screen, that of reprehensible deeds developed in a menacing plot, with a bloody sprinkling of violence and terror. "Peeping Tom" by Michael Powell, and Alfred Hitchock style of psychological thrill, film evil, capsulated in films such as "Psycho", spawned the psychological thrillers, Hitchcock's claim to fame during the 1960s.
Hitchcock delighted in building suspense, presenting impossible choices, hiding the true nature of characters, deliberately attempting to capture and twist the mind of the audience, even as he was twisting the minds of his characters.
He successfully hid the true evil nature of well-developed and likable characters, until the last possible moment, created a tension by a technique similar to putting a glass of water in front of a thirsty man, just out of the reach of his fingers, allowing him to strain to grope for the water, while the audience looks on trying to strain along to help the victim, but unable physically to do so.
The 1970s saw the birth of truly demonic movies such as "The Exorcist"(1973) and "The Omen", preceded by "Rosemary's Baby" in the 1960s. "Jaws" in 1975 was a horror movie, directed by Steven Spielberg, which adults and children could enjoy together, with a happy ending as the monster-shark is finally destroyed against-all-odds by a an average-guy hero who blows him to bits with a rifle and scuba tank turned bomb.
Mainstream Hollywood produced exciting disaster/horror movies in the 1970s such as The Towering Inferno (1974), which proved to be premoniscent to the actual towering inferno which occurred on September 11, 2001 when 3,000 were killed in the World Trade Center bombing in downtown New York. (The Twin Towers were actually completed (April 1973) around the time of the filming of the Towering Inferno).
The 1980s brought horror movies popular with teens and children such as "Halloween", "Friday the 13th", and "A Nightmare on Elm Street", "Chainsaw Massacre" films, which have had broad appeal among young people and children until this day. Most children, in fact, some as young as kindergarten and preschool, in the inner cities but most likely across the board, indulge in horror movies of this type.
Walt Disney actually introduced horror movies to children. A film-buff himself, one of his first flicks was a horror-spoof of dancing skeletons (1929) "The Skeleton Dance", a Silly Symphonies
animated short, voted one of the 50 Greatest Cartoons of all time by the animation industry in 1994.
A clip from the movie-short was later used for a movie with Mickey Mouse, "Haunted House", in which Mickey, sheltered in the haunted house, is forced to play music for the dancing skeletons. Bambi (1942) is listed by Time Magazine
as one of the top 25 Horror Movies
of all time. (off-site) Other Disney movies such as "The Little Mermaid" and "Sleeping Beauty" feature terrifying scenes or scenes of spirit-horror and violence. Disney simply took a genre of film-making which had been developed for decades and incorporated these elements into his children's cartoons and animated fairy tale versions for marketing to children.
Why Horror Movies are So Appealing
Why are horror movies of such broad appeal? The themes of our nightmares, the psychological thrillers and terror, the high level of focus, raise the dopamine level of our brains, providing a type of pleasure; our minds are riveted, our attention is captured, albeit through the our basest instincts, and it forces us towards undivided attention. We escape the world around us completely, and for 1 1/2 hours, nothing else matters. We can twist and squirm in our seats, feel scared, afraid, terrorized, but remain in perfect safety at the same time, in the low risk zones of a comfortable, air-conditioned movie theater, or our own living rooms.
Horror movies and the characters therein, are etched upon our conscious and subconscious. While watching the horror movie, our fear level is raised, our sense of revulsion of the demonic is captivated, and at the same time the inner fascination with the idea that it somehow might have a basis in reality, absorbs our imagination. We can contemplate and absorb the macabre, gently sucking on soda and indulging in popcorn, putting ourselves in dire danger, and we walk away feeling as if we accomplished something brave and daring.
Hollywood and India Bollywood Movies
Hollywood and Bollywood were twins, and movie viewing has become, a way of life in the Western world and India, where Bollywood puts out twice as many movies as Hollywood.
India culture has always had a underlying sensuality, with sensual gods such as Krishna, who came down from the heavens and cohabited with a virtual harem of women. Some of the stone reliefs, sculptures of India Hindu legends, feature exaggerated breasts and accentuate the sexuality of women; some of the Hindu religious-based art also features sexually provocative women.
While the Asian-Indian culture is typically modest about sexual things, Bollywood movies from the 1960s and as early as Bollywood silent movies, have featured the sensual, the provocative, and sexual-dance, albeit sex under raps. The frisky government official feeling up the knee of the heroin, low-key brothels and prostitution, provocative dancing, and love triangles have been a part of the Bollywood film genre for decades, in color and black-and-white.
Bollywood dance sets are extremely visual, often filmed against backdrops of breathtaking Himalayan mountains, or in such exotic places as Kashmir or Darjeeling; they are a visual feast. Today's Bollywood has taken the traditional to extreme levels of sexuality, where what was once hinted at, is now very close to being explicit, in mainstream films and videos, the exotic dance numbers can be even more explicit than that of mainstream Hollywood, with a higher level sexuality than Flashdance.
In the same way that Hollywood has become a way of life for Westerners, Bollywood is an even greater part of the daily lives of those from an Asian-Indian background.
Movies and Pseudo-spirituality
Fantasy movies that are laced with a form of spirituality can beckon the spiritual side of our hearts to join with the light or dark side of the force, as it were. A teenager who is just beginning to explore the world of spirituality, can just as easily bond with The Two Towers of Tolkien, with his magic rings and mythology, as he can with The Bible, Torah, or Koran.
The Star Wars fantasy, similar to Tolkien's trilogy of mythologically spiritual books, is laced with a spirituality that can prove to be fascinating. In much the same way, male inner city teens discuss the finer points of Bruce Wayne's double-life in the Batman fantasy, with serious contemplation, and difficulty for an observer to discern whether the conversation is about a real person or fictional character.
Star Wars is like a religion within itself, "The Force" parallels the Christian "Holy Spirit" in guiding the heroes in their conquest over evil. The supremely cute warrior-teacher Yoda, is master of the religion of the good-side of The Force. More than a teacher, Yoda is a priest who guides the young Luke Skywalker on his sacred mission in the fight against the evil.
Darth Vadar turns out to be a powerful Judas Iscariot-like character who has given in to the "dark side of The Force", turning out to be Luke's own father, but who continues to work loyally now for his new evil cause. Luke doesn't succumb to his father's attempt to woo him to the Dark Side, even as the master of the Dark Side of the Force, the supremely evil "Emperor", a Satan-persona, evil to the core, unlike Darth Vadar whose evil is tempered by certain misgivings, and who is controlled through terror by The Emperor.
The fantasy Star Wars, then, owes its popular appeal to a mixture of swashbuckling action, science fiction mystery, life and death terror, as well as a religious sub-theme which captures our hearts and imagination, with our desire to delve into the unknown and search for deeper meaning than our day to day, sometimes mundane, existence. It taps into our yearning for a higher purpose. Maybe there is a Luke Skywalker in all of us yet to be released.
often lack a solid foundation in spirituality, or are still groping for the spiritual side of life that they will carry with them through adulthood, movies can become a source of spiritual ponderance, a unique format of confusing boundaries between fantasy and reality. Pseudo-religion may being to form the basis of their questions about life, their ideas about life's purpose, about the spiritual world
, and their connection to it. That "it's just a movie" doesn't really factor into the final product in the mind of a teenager or child.
Movies which offer spiritual enlightenment, or pseudo-spiritual themes, are imbibed by the youngest of children. Disney's "Lion King" is one example of a children's movie with a distinct religious character, embracing the animistic spirit world of the African tribe-peoples which inhabit East Africa. The father lion of the Lion King movie dies in a tragic accident, but his spirit lives on and guides his lion-son, eventually reaching immense and benevolent god-like proportions.
Movies may be assimilated on different levels. Some individuals may watch movies somewhat objectively, analytically, from a distance, skeptically or passively. For others, deep emotionally bonding and personal identity with films and film characters can leave a deep impression on one's persona. This can true of adults, teens, and children. Girls can especially become emotionally bonded to movie characters. Movies can have a deep impact on the personality and subconscious of those who tend to internalize the plots and bond with the characters.
While some might view a movie in the same way that some might look at fireworks, others become deeply involved, disturbed or enraptured, and it is for these types of persons that movies have the greatest emotional impact and for some movies may be a contributing factor in mood disorders, other mental health disorders, or even autism spectrum disorders.
Children's Movies, Separation Anxiety, and Childhood Depression
For some children, G-rated movies
, designed for children, can contribute to depression
. Disney makes ample use of emotional ploys such as separation anxiety to capture children's interest. Every child may have a tinge of fear of being separated from their parents. Every child experiences a bit of separation anxiety on their first day of school, some more so than others. Disney movies make a business out of capturing the heart of children's worst fear, and then gently putting them back to safety.
Intense emotions, endearing characters, coupled with cartoon violence that are the backbone of the most popular children's movies, open and close the heart emotions of a child.
Children's movies such as Bambi, Dumbo, Pinocchio, Lion King, Wizard of Oz, and many others, are noted for emotional scenes and separation anxiety. Children's anxiety levels rise and fall with each scene, and linger on in the child's minds for months and even years to come.
Not that children are the only ones who can be deeply touched by a poignant film. Richly emotional or disturbing films are longer than one-half TV programs, and just long enough to develop characters that we become emotionally bonded to. Even for adults it can be difficult to separate the emotional elements separating reality and fantasy or fiction.
Some children can take in much violence on the television and movies
, with apparently little outward effect. For others, the slightest amount of violence can be overwhelming. Additionally, it is possible that years of watching violence can weaken the emotional and even physical structure of the mind and its delicate brain cells and chemical balance, which can contribute towards being susceptible to emotional or psychological disorders later in life.
Children who don't learn to cope emotionally as they reach teen years, can find themselves retreating into NeverNeverLand of moviedom as a life-habit as they venture into adulthood and even into old age, rather than learning to face problems and deal with them successfully. The plethora of fantasy films from childhood until adulthood as a way of life, becomes a safe emotional retreat from even life's most serious problems.
Some of the most enculturalized movies mentioned such Bambi and Dumbo, even Pinocchio, have been described in terms of "horror movies for children". "Disney had the most cunning formula, create the highest illustrative art to make horror movies for children," commented Newsweek.
Other movies such as the Disney Princess Films such as Beauty and the Beast, Cinderella, Snow White and The Littlest Mermaid, along with Barbie Princess movies, are also noted to have a deep psychological impact on children, especially girls, and may provide the psychological foundation for future eating disorders
or marital disenchantment, as the Prince Charmings of fantasy become a bit toad-like after years of marriage and the banality of day-today survival.
While in decades past,going to the movies was something you might do monthly or at most weekly, since the VCR started to become popular in the late 1970s into the 80s, watching movies on a daily basis has become a way of life for many. A non uncommon scenario for a teenage girl is to watch eight movies in one weekend, as a high school Freshman commented on the way she spent a typical weekend (Newark, NJ. 2014).
Patterns of thinking and emotion are established. The emotional fiber of some children, especially those with poor family structure, can be eroded, subsequently contributing to mental health difficulties later in childhood or as teens
and adults; it can weaken the fiber of children
or teens. When a minor or major tragedy occurs in the child's life, with the outcome so very different from the knight-in-shining-armor victory that they have become accustomed to seeing, their life turn out to be the antithesis of that idealistic fantasy, and some children or teens might more easily give in to suicidal despair.
Some clinical studies have established a link with excesses in such programming and childhood depression.
The noted Austrian child psychologist Dr. Peter B. Neubauer who raised the alarm about violence on television and its potential effects on children, and who noted that for children who come from unstable backgrounds, broken homes, or single parent families, violent movies and TV can be particularly unsettling. The movie that he felt was most unsettling for children was the Wizard of Oz because of its use of neighbors in roles of terror or in unsettling situations, the familiarity one develops with the main character Dorothy, linked with the tenseness and horror in some of the movie's scenes.
, (March 3, 2008). New York Times
Some children suffer from nightmares from scary scenes in "scary movies" or children's movies. For young children, Disney horror or "scary" scenes such as that of the witch in Snow White, does invoke real nightmares.
The history and background of Peter Pan
Children, Violence, Sex, TV and Movies:
The entertainment that is available to children today in the form of TV
, movies and video games
, is exposing young children to violence and sex as never before.
The same could be said of common
that most children regularly watch. Many
as young as 1st grade are regularly watching
of the most grotesque and frightening kind. In some communities, up to 50% of children watch such programming. Many parents allow it, others watch when no one is at home, others watch with older brothers and sisters. Some of these children complain of nightmares.
Children and Education in Sex Through TV and Film
Around 30% of children and teenagers
are educated about sex through TV and movies. By the age of 17, 50% of teenagers have had sexual intercourse, and 9% have had intercourse before the age of 13.
Protecting children from potentially damaging negative effects of television and movies that might have is of utmost concern. One young teen candidly asked a teacher with confusion and concern, "What would happen if a women 'made it' with a dog?" She had seen it (not graphically, but within a broader story), in a TV movie, and it was troubling or disturbing to her.
Occult and Spiritistic Themes in Movies for Children
Nightmare on ElmStreet
Occult themes in film can also have an affect on children's psyche as these things linger on in the child's mind and worry them. The movies a child watches can make it difficult for them to concentrate in school and affect on a child's mental health. The Scooby Doo movie for children, as one example, can have a disturbing affect on sensitive children, with intense and long scenes of VooDoo chants.
At What Age do Children Discern Between Fantasy and Reality?
Children often do not discern the difference between fantasy and reality until they reach between 8 to 12 years of age. The Santa Claus fantasy doesn't fully get decoded by some children until they are in the fourth grade, about nine-years old.
It is difficult for most boys in Kindergarten to second grade to discern that Spiderman, and sometimes Superman, are fantasy and not reality, and usually they do not fully catch on until they reach about nine or ten years old. It is around that time that most children get a fuller grasp on the reality-fantasy concept, although some do so at an earlier age.
Education, Ethical and Responsible Teachers, Use of Movies in School
If a child watches movies, he should do so with a parent, and not alone, and the parent should use it as an opportunity to educate the child, explain concepts to him or her, and probe the child's mind to see how they feel about what they are watching; parents need to educate children in the concept of reality and fantasy.
If a teacher uses fantasy-genre movies in class, the teacher cannot take it for granted that the child can discern between reality and fantasy, but should teach children to discern the difference. This includes the most common household name films such as classic Disney movies
Teachers and paraprofessionals (e.g. teacher's aides) too often use films as baby sitters, time fillers, and rewards (rewards to both children, who get to watch a film, and for the teacher, who gets free time to do paperwork).
Rather, e ample space should be provided for films to be analyzed and decoded so that children and youth can gain insight into the subtleties of the use of film-making as a reflection of the ideas or ideals of the film-maker, or be able to use the film as a reference point in history, along with knowledge of the background that led to the film. This can prove to be a valuable critical thinking skill for youth
as they enter adulthood and start to develop their own value and belief system.
Passivity, Films and movies, and Causes of Depression
The passive nature
of the medium of television
itself, as well as the pastime of regularly watching movies, can lend itself well to the development of depression
. Watching films is a passive, rather than active form of entertainment. We do not entertain ourselves, but allow ourselves to be entertained.
How many children and teenagers complain, "I'm bored". One of the reasons so many feel bored is because they have become used to turning on the electric current in the form of video games, ipod-music
, TV and movies to entertain themselves, and without that extraneous artificial stimulation, there may be little that so captures their attention, interest, and imagination.
Watching movies is passive, rather than active, and all-in-all, as a way of life, can be considered to be a mind-dulling activity. Movies as a way of life is buying into a commercial system where the bottom line is profit, not substance. Deliberate efforts are made by directors to add elements of violence (including Disney cartoon movies
), and sex to capture the interest of the viewer and add to box-office receipts.
For some children, it is possible that fast-paced television, movies, and video games might contribute to the development of ADHD, along with other contributing factors. The amount of time that a child spends watching television
or other forms of the media in his or her early years is said to be directly proportional to the incidence of
later in life, according to some well-documented and controlled studies. (See CHADD website, under the section of clinical studies.)
Anxiety Disorders, Panic Attacks, Media Violence, Films and Movies.
in children may often be linked with television and movie habits. It can also have a link with adult anxiety disorders
and for some, can contribute to panic attacks
. In adults, a history of abuse or serious trauma raises the odds that one will suffer with anxiety disorders or depression
Watching movies of violence, horror, action and suspense, as a weekly or even daily habit, as a lifestyle, might contribute to added mental health difficulties, including contributing to a raised anxiety level, either in the present or future for many children, teens and adults.
Conclusion of the Psychology of Movies
------------Positive and Pro-Active Activities for Children, Teens and Adults
By replacing passive or mind and emotionally dulling activities with time spent in the outdoors or engaging regularly in such mind-strengthening activities as reading, creating artwork, learning a language, or learning to play a musical instrument, it can do much to strengthen one's mind as well as the mind of a child, and help a child to develop self-respect, as well as to maintain emotional and mental balance.
Art for children and adults is a better choice than violent or horror / scary movies as a way of life.
, get outside, encourage your child to play, make sure he or she has good association, friends, is not isolated in his or her room all day. Make provisions for good recreation, ice skating, parks, sledding, art, association with other youngsters, costume parties. Keep your child active. Encourage him or her to read. Take him or her to the library. Read with your children.
Art is a good replacement for television, movies and
video games and is a natural mood stabilizer. In the classroom, many children prefer art to movies. In one 6th grade class, 75% of the children chose art over movies. In one 1st Grade Class, 85% chose art over a popular children's movie, without prompting. Children enjoy art, doing something with their hands and seeing the results of their work.
Additionally, there are a lot of well-made, entertaining nature films to purchase or download, that they are as entertaining as Disney
for kids. Parents and teachers need to swim upstream a little, put some thought into what they are giving their children for entertainment, and give thought to what they are putting regularly into their pwn minds as well, as it does affect mental health.
Rather than downloading NetFlix night after night, why not plan day trips to art and historical museums, both locally and out of state. Widen out your interests and tastes beyond the commercial-culture which is economically-driven rather than based on higher values. Movies and films do have a strong psychology and psychological impact on the mind and on the deepest emotions. How movies and films affect emotions should be a part of the study of child and adolescent psychology, child psychiatry, emotions psychology and abnormal psychology. It should also be considering to be a factor in mental health difficulties experienced by adults.
References for the Psychology of Movies
1. Bambi. Time Magazine's Top 25 Horror Movies
2. Monsters And Demons: A Short History Of The Horror Film
, Astrid Bullen. Classic Movies - Everything for the Fan of Classic Hollywood.
(Retrieved November 7, 2010).
3. First Kiss in Cinematic History
. (April 11, 2010). Classic Movie Gab.
4. Horror Film History
- 1920s. Horror Film History: A Decade by Decade Guide to the Horror Movie Genre
Pages Related to Movies Psychological Effects
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Children's movies, kid's horror movies effects.
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Resources for the Psychology of Movies
classic movies (and others) with a powerful emotional punch for children, (May 2, 2010). NewsVine
. (off-site link)