Listen to the audio here at the Mormon Channel.
Listen to the audio here at the Mormon Channel.
What parts of movies and other entertainment do you wish could be real? Just one of many for me would be the “food fight” scene from the movie Hook where the late Robin Williams’ character, a now middle-aged Peter Pan, finally finds his imagination again with the help of the Lost Boys. The food is the bright colors of Play Dough, but more appetizing, with the thickness and what looks to be the texture of just slightly melted ice cream, or pudding in rainbow colors. It shows up as if by magic when Williams, as Peter Pan, begins to remember what it’s really like to be a boy in a match of words/calling each other names with the Lost Boys’ current leader, Rufio.
So, of course I’m not expecting to wake up one day and find out that I suddenly have the ability to produce candy colored food out of nowhere, or find some Pixie Dust and be able to fly. Are there, though, themes in even the most innocuous love stories and romantic comedies in movies and television that might make me expect more out of relationships than is really there, or than I’d really want?
Which begs the question: What are adolescents and adults alike learning from the romance films of today? Research shows that such films can convey values and ideals that influence the way society views romantic relationships. And while those ideals may not be as extreme as what’s offered by “Fifty Shades of Grey,” it doesn’t mean they’re necessarily healthy.
“Media can provide models,” said Julia Lippman, lead researcher in a 2014 study titled “Isn’t It Romantic? Differential Associations Between Romantic Screen Media Genres and Romantic Beliefs.” “It’s not to say (media) has a determining influence — peers, family and school contribute as well. But we know from research that when (adolescents) don’t feel that they can talk to parents, or they don’t think they are getting information they want, they find ways of getting it on their own. If they are not learning about what healthy relationships look like from home, they’ll find it in the media.”
Lippman, a researcher at the University of Michigan, has identified different dimensions to romanticism: love finds a way, one and only, idealization and love at first sight. Her research indicates that the “endorsement of romantic ideals may have both positive and negative consequences.”
“One of the things movies communicate is that love finds a way,” Lippman said. “If it’s meant to be, you’ll find a way to be together.”
This ideal, Lippman said, is generally linked to positive outcomes. Take, for instance, Princess Buttercup from the 1987 cult classic “The Princess Bride,” who believes that true love endures. According to Lippman, people may hold similar views that allow their relationship to endure.
“People who watch more (romantic-themed films) are more likely to endorse (romantic ideals) such as love finds a way,” Lippman said. “People are seeing these ideals portrayed and are adopting romantic beliefs. People who endorse beliefs tend to have happier relationships.”
For example, Lippman said, if a woman finds an irritating quirk about her partner, she may decide she can live with it because “love finds a way.”
“The potential for good is absolutely there,” Lippman said.
Films such as the 2001 romantic comedy “Serendipity” and the 2004 blockbuster “The Notebook” encapsulate the idea of two protagonists caught in a sphere of relationship destiny: soul mates destined to find each other despite opposition.
Yet the idea of a “one and only” is a distorted view of love, according to psychologist Bjarne M. Holmes, associate professor and program director for psychology at Champlain College in Burlington, Vermont.
Holmes conducted a study in 2007 of romance-oriented media and how it correlated with beliefs in romantic relationship destiny.
According to the study, “The notion that one can find a romantic partner that fits perfectly with preconceived standards is an unrealistic view that fails to take into account the work required to develop and maintain a healthy and loving relationship.”
Holmes found in his research that there are implications to the concept of relationship destiny, including the notion that with the existence of a soul mate comes instantaneous satisfaction and happiness upon entering into a serendipitous relationship.
Additionally, Holmes found, there is the belief that a successful long-term relationship is not attainable with anyone but a person’s “one and only.”
And this belief is not necessarily helping the masses of audience members who pour into theaters to suspend reality for upward of two hours.
“I would say there are not many pros from buying into relationship destiny,” Holmes said in an interview with the Deseret News. “We are shown consistently (through research) that if you hold and believe in the notion of predestined soul mates, you are less likely to be happy in relationships.”
In fact, Holmes said, individuals deeply invested in relationship destiny are more likely to break up. The reasoning is simple, he explained: Couples who enter into a relationship where one or both parties believe in the soul mate concept are more likely to end the relationship when challenges arise.
“When things don’t go so well, they think, ‘Wait, why are we having problems? Maybe this isn’t my soul mate,'” Holmes said.
As referenced in Holmes’ research, in a 2003 study by psychologists Litsa Renee Tanner, Shelley A. Haddock, Toni Schindler Zimmerman and Lori K. Lund, researchers analyzed themes surrounding love in 26 classic animated Disney films. The results showed an emphasis on “love at first sight.” In fact, in 18 of the 26 analyzed films, couples met, fell in love almost instantaneously and lived idyllic lives.
According to Holmes’ research, “when notions are in place about some easily achieved state of romantic bliss, satisfaction with one’s own relationship may decrease.”
“I find a lot of people in our culture put so much emphasis — reinforced in popular culture and film — on finding the right person, not an emphasis on what you do over time if you want happiness and longevity,” Holmes said.
A 2005 study by Tracy Sutton and Gregory Fouts from the University of Calgary illustrated what has been referred to in the field of psychology as “affect attunement.” Attunement is “a dynamic process of emotional exchange in which two individuals experience a sense of ‘oneness’ and intersubjective relatedness,” according to Sutton and Fouts’ research.
Additional research collected by Sutton and Fouts shows that this attunement has been described as the idea of soul mates.
Sutton and Fouts’ research also included how attunement is depicted in films through industry techniques: music, pace, number of cuts, camera shots and lighting levels.
Music, they found, establishes the tone or feeling of the film.
“More lyrical and slower-tempo music may reflect being in the ‘flow’ with another and ‘in the moment’ in which time ‘slows down’ or ‘stands still,’ common perceptions associated with ‘chemistry,'” according to the study.
Other techniques, such as close-up camera angles, portray intimacy on screen. According to the research, these camera shots “may be used to indicate an intimate connection or the unspoken, internal dialogue of the characters.”
Additionally, low lighting can communicate privacy or intimacy.
Of the films examined in Sutton and Fouts’ research, 79 percent used music to portray chemistry.
Yet audiences today are paying upward of $10 a ticket to see love that bends time and reality to come to fruition. And it is wrapped up in two hours or less.
“People are selling themselves short if they are front-loading all these characteristics they expect the person to be their ideal mate to have,” Holmes said.
Holmes said that when it comes to romance, it’s a process.
“In reality, you don’t meet your soul mate,” he said. “You develop that over time. You create your own culture over time between two people.”
Films today skip the work and immediately arrive at relationship bliss, Holmes said.
And, what’s more, after analyzing the content of popular romantic movies, Holmes said researchers identified a media trend that portrays couples who have experienced a long-term relationship in a negative light.
“The relationship is often bickering,” Holmes said. “The irony of that is (in reality there are) a lot of people who are very happy together and have figured out what works for them. That’s who these younger people should be looking to.”
Last April I wrote a book review of Pulling Back the Shades, an excellent book by Christian author and speaker Dannah Gresh and Dr. Juli Slattery, a clinical psychologist and sex therapist. After the popularity of the book and subsequent series 50 Shades of Grey, they felt compelled to warn the Christian community (and everyone else) about the dangers of reading graphic romance/sex novels, and the dangers in particular of 50 Shades of Grey. Now that the movie is out, I am hoping that I can (even in a small way) dissuade some of you from going to see the movie, and if you already have, to help point out the dangers of believing that this movie is a good influence for any of us.
I won’t go into any particulars, because so many writers and bloggers have already done such a good job. So, I’ll post my brief opinion, then a few things that our church leaders have said that I believe apply particularly to this movie and book. First, what is hopefully obvious: women’s hormones are well-driven by erotic novels. But even though some are saying that women will be more affected by the book than the movie, we already know that the movie involves on screen nudity and sex scenes. Hopefully most of you have heard by now that the male character stalks the female character and is extremely controlling. Readers and viewers may feel like this is “okay” because the male character is wealthy and handsome, and comes to some kind of “redemption” by the end of the series. This is not how controlling relationships usually end. It manipulates the feelings that we often have as women to want to “save” the bad boy, when we need to be running the other way.
I’ve read accounts online of LDS women who have read the book to see what the hype was about. If you haven’t done so, please don’t. There are many reviews online from psychologists, feminists, and other bloggers who will tell you what is in the book and what is in the movie, and give you specifics, so you can understand the fuss/controversy without having to deal with the book. I won’t judge those who have already read the book, but receiving pornography in any form will dull your spiritual senses.
From Elder Oaks, in a Priesthood Session, but we women obviously need it too:
Last summer Sister Oaks and I returned from two years in the Philippines. We loved our service there, and we loved returning home. When we have been away, we see our surroundings in a new light, with increased appreciation and sometimes with new concerns.
We were concerned to see the inroads pornography had made in the United States while we were away. For many years our Church leaders have warned against the dangers of images and words intended to arouse sexual desires. Now the corrupting influence of pornography, produced and disseminated for commercial gain, is sweeping over our society like an avalanche of evil.
Patrons of pornography also lose the companionship of the Spirit. Pornography produces fantasies that destroy spirituality….Some seek to justify their indulgence by arguing that they are only viewing “soft,” not “hard,” porn. A wise bishop called this refusing to see evil as evil. He quoted men seeking to justify their viewing choices by comparisons such as “not as bad as” or “only one bad scene.” But the test of what is evil is not its degree but its effect. When persons entertain evil thoughts long enough for the Spirit to withdraw, they lose their spiritual protection and they are subject to the power and direction of the evil one.
…Consider the tragic example of King David. Though a spiritual giant in Israel, he allowed himself to look upon something he should not have viewed (see 2 Sam. 11). Tempted by what he saw, he violated two of the Ten Commandments, beginning with “Thou shalt not commit adultery” (Ex. 20:14). In this way a prophet-king fell from his exaltation (see D&C 132:39).
But the good news is that no one needs to follow the evil, downward descent to torment. Everyone caught on that terrible escalator has the key to reverse his course. He can escape. Through repentance he can be clean.
President Hinckley: do all that you can to avoid pornography. If you ever find yourself in its presence—which can happen to anyone in the world in which we live—follow the example of Joseph of Egypt. When temptation caught him in her grip, he left temptation and “got him out” (Gen. 39:12).
Since the release of the book 50 Shades of Grey, the popularity of what is called “erotica” or “graphic romance” novels has skyrocketed. It is often claimed that while women may not be at first drawn to pornography like men are, romance novels can be what draw them in. What authors Dannah Gresh and Dr. Juli Slattery show us in this book is that we don’t have to be completely drawn into the world of pornography for the world of graphic romance novels to cause us problems spiritually and for them to damage our happiness and sense of gratitude for what we have.
Moody Publishing has offered to give one reader a copy of the book Pulling Back the Shades, which boldly gives us a perspective of the possible dangers of reading books like 50 Shades of Grey and why they can be as dangerous for women as pornography.
This book is written from a Christian perspective, and while the authors aren’t LDS, I don’t think it takes away from the message for those of us who are, as with any book or anything that is “of good report or praiseworthy.” The Bible verses they quote aren’t from the King James version, so it takes some getting used to, but it’s a fun opportunity to look them up in the KJV and thus help lock the verses in your own memory.
It’s a quick and engaging read. Gresh and Dr. Slattery use many real life examples from women they know and have met. I think my favorite example was a woman who read so many Christian romance novels that she held real men to an impossible standard. I have no issue whatsoever with Christian/LDS romance novels, in fact I’ve read some myself and (gasp) enjoyed them, but I think the principle follows that the best ones invite us to an escapism that isn’t so far out of reality that we no longer appreciate reality, or that we expect our own lives to follow an unreal standard after reading even the best-written ones.
Dannah Gresh is a Christian author and public speaker and the founder of Pure Freedom, an organization that teaches young girls about chastity. You can read more about her here, or at the Pure Freedom website.
Dr. Juli Slattery is a clinical psychologist, sex-therapist and coauthor of Passion Pursuit, written with Linda Dillow, her cofounder of Authentic Intimacy, “a non-profit organization designed to minister to women on all topics related to intimacy in marriage and intimacy with God.” (website)
Congratulations Krystine on winning the drawing!
I’ll be contacting you with more information.
How often have you noticed people making comments on a news story or article when it’s obvious they haven’t even read the article first? Or even the first few lines of it? That seems to be the case with this article as well. Big surprise.
This article comes from Doug Robinson in the Deseret News and is talked about in this opinion piece in LDS Living as well.
We won’t go into whether or not I was in the “VL” (or “Virgin Lips”) club when I turned 18, although I will say that I wish my parents had done this so that I could have cashed in. However, they helped pay for both college and my mission, and they’re helping me out a great deal with my health issues in my adulthood, so I have no reason to wish further. My own two kids are in this age range, as one is 12 and the other 16. My 16 year old has a girlfriend who I think is a sweetheart.
I reviewed a great book called How to Avoid Falling in Love with a Jerk that talks about the benefits, even for adults, of waiting to kiss someone until several months into a relationship, which has garnered somewhat strong opinions from a few friends of mine when we’ve discuss the idea.
What do you think? How long do you wait until you kiss someone that you’re dating? Do you think this mother, quite by accident, stumbled on a good idea? It seems as though, at least, her two oldest kids think so. I’d love to hear your opinions, whether for or against.
I want singles to feel empowered. They are not victims who just react to their circumstances. They can influence their relationships and they need to express their feelings, rights, and needs. But how do singles do this? And where is the line between influencing relationships and manipulating others.
Provided below are several examples of where you need to draw the line both in how you treat others and how you let them treat you.
Asking for change versus manipulating to get what you want
The primary difference between influencing a relationship to meet your needs and manipulating is that when influencing the relationship the other person is not being coerced into giving you what you want. If they chose to participate in meeting your needs it is their option and they have the relevant information they need to make the decision. They understand what the request means to you and…
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