So a group of wealthy executives get together and plot to insert subtle messages into movies in order to achieve desired political outcomes and profit at the same time… If it were a screenplay, it would probably seem cliche. As a New York Times article, however, it’s more than a little disturbing:
In the last few weeks, a little-noticed nonprofit with big ideas about the persuasive power of movies and television shows quietly began an initiative aimed at getting filmmakers and others to use the insights and techniques of behavioral psychology in delivering social and political messages through their work.
Harmony, based in New York, was organized by John S. Johnson III, a co-founder of the Buzzfeed.com viral media site and a descendant of a Johnson & Johnson founder, Robert Wood Johnson, and by Adam Wolfensohn, an investment banker who was a producer of the climate change documentary “Everything’s Cool.” It was a favorite at the Sundance Film Festival in 2007.
In an interview, Mr. Johnson said the institute was born from his own perception that environmental and social messages in films and television shows were often ineffective.
“It felt like a lot of preaching to the choir,” said Mr. Johnson, who spoke of the limited ability of a blatant message movie like “An Inconvenient Truth” actually to change minds. “It’s not reaching people, it’s not expanding the choir.”
By contrast, he said, a popular adventure like “The Day After Tomorrow,” which wrapped its global warming message in a rip-roaring story, appeared to alter attitudes among young and undereducated audiences who would never see a preachy documentary.
Fun fact about The Day After Tomorrow — it was based on a book authored by Art Bell. Yes, that Art Bell. (Again, I’m struck by the thought that this propaganda plot sounds like the kind of insane conspiracy theory Art Bell would be ranting about on air. Yes, I know this is getting pretty meta.)
In any event, I doubt getting more political is sound box office strategy, but I don’t think that will stop Hollywood from once again trying to claim the mantle of the saviors of humanity. If Hollywood really wants to make the country a better place, how about they start by stop making Saw films, emm kay?