Forman and the Movies

Henry James Forman’s, “Our Movie Made Children” is an astonishing and controversial relic from the dawn of the silver screen. Within the book Forman utilizes a wealth of data collected by several social scientists to discern the impact that motions pictures are having on the youth of America. He essentially puts forth that movies containing deplorable themes (such as those concerning gangsters or sex) are having a negative impact on the nation’s children in several different ways.  The book distinctively admits “the molding quality of movies” and there potential to cause great harm in the mind of children, or conversely, great good if the film is rooted in good morals (Forman, pg. 159). According to the book, media in itself is not a negative thing and is in actuality a natural and positive aspect of human civilization. In this regard, it is not media or even the medium that Forman disdains. It is the immoral roots and themes present within the popular films of the day that causes Forman distress. Several of the studies that Forman refers to within the book corroborate his framing of films and express that negative films do impact the youth and depending on the film can erode or undermine the positive message emitted by other societal institutions (church, school, etc.) (Forman, pg. 182). In this vein, it can be said that Forman views films as being a powerful tool in shaping youth that can cause great damage if wielded immorally.

The book also admits that motion pictures have undoubtedly become an instrument of communication due to their ability to transmit a certain perception of reality. Forman explains that the “clear cut visual distinctiveness” of motion pictures in their imagined retellings of reality have influence in “determining how an individual will conceive and interpret phenomena and experience” (Forman, pg. 177). It is precisely this quality of motion pictures as a form of communication that frightens Forman the most as it can oftentimes impress in young viewers a fabricated notion of society and life that can be dangerous. To support his view, Forman gives the example of several individuals from “high delinquency” neighborhoods that viewed motion pictures depicting fictionalized “big shot” gangsters living the good life and consequently took to a life of crime to immolate their silver screen heroes (Forman, Ch. Xi). Forman also cites the less tragic case of young movies goers who entranced by the party college lifestyle often put forth in film, chose to go to college but were quickly disappointed by reality (Forman, pg. 175). In the grand scheme of things, Forman believes that films are definitely a form of communication, but are worthy of caution because of their tendency to distort reality in the minds of the young.

But what does Forman argue should be done about the corruptive nature of motion pictures? The solution to Forman’s perceived problems with movies is interestingly less clear cut than the reasons for his damnation of the medium. However, through reading between the lines and discussions in class, it can be ascertained that Forman believes that the content of films should be regulated by a societally minded film industry. Forman believes that the film industry is not inherently evil or immoral, but misguided in the impact that their products can have on the youth. This becomes apparent when Forman explains the positive impact that moral films can have on the youth at a level that can potentially be just as powerful as immoral films. However, Forman notes towards the beginning of Chapter ten that, “The fact that good pictures may be as permanent  in their influence as bad only makes the infrequent occurrence of the good the more regrettable” (Forman, pg. 158). In other words, Forman is calling for the film industry to use its power to shape content for good and create films that are beneficial to society more frequently. Forman can be thus referred to as far more anti-immorality as he is anti-film. Taken as a whole, Forman views films as being an influential tool that can be used for good or evil by the film industry and instantaneously has tremendous agency in shaping how the youth perceives society and the world they occupy.


3 thoughts on “Forman and the Movies

  1. I do agree with you that there are arguments towards the film industry putting stricter regulations on movies and the proper audiences that should be viewing them, but I also think they are in it for the money and whatever is going to sell and sell to a large audience, they are going to make. Morally, the industry should regulate what children are exposed to, but in the terms of being motivated by profits, these industries aim at making the most money they can. I don’t see any moves towards changes to this as of right now, what do you think?


  2. Jenlfortin,
    I agree with you that in the present times the film industry is unfortunately far more concerned with making money than they are about the morality of what they producing or who is exposed to it. As of how this can be changed, I think that although it would be very difficult it could be achieved if one were to use the film industries love of profit against them. In other words, the film industry will only make movies that are profitable for a larger audience, therefore we as movie goers do have some agency and power in what the industry puts out content wise. If individuals stop going to “immoral” movies then the film industry ceases to make money and consequently will have to alter the content of their movies to please the general audience. I think that often times people think that a money hungry media is a bad thing, but in truth this aspect of most modern media can be used to one’s advantage. Anyway, thanks for commenting and I hope that made sense!


  3. If we’re going on Forman’s ideas of communication then I think there would be room for every form of media to be immoral or have a negative impact on people. I agree that towards the end of the article Forman seems to be more concerned about the morality of films than the film industry itself, but is it just the film industry that could be considered immoral? We’ve discussed in class that there were newspapers and books that contained the same negative themes as films, so why does Forman only focus on film? The only thing I can think of that would put films at a higher importance would be the fact that they were new and everyone wanted to see movies, and since it’s a more visual type of communication, it would be easier for audiences to understand what was going on. If 7 million Americans went to the movies each week, how many Americans read about death and crime in newspapers weekly? I can see how Forman finds the film industry to have the largest influence over the American population but I can only wonder what his research would have unfolded if he expanded his argument to multiple forms of communication. I really enjoyed reading your post, nice job!


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