August 22, 2014

Neurocinematics.

The science of why people cry at movies is deployed to design movies that will make people cry.

If movie makers could really figure this out decisively, would you go to movies or avoid them? I'm very resistant to manipulation when I perceive it, but I guess part of the science is not to trigger the resistance, but to cause the viewer to have a response that feels natural.

And I see a proximity to political propaganda, so I don't like science helping manipulators learn how to bypass our judgment and get right into our nervous system.

I'm not saying that kind of science is unethical or should end, but we the people need help resisting.

88 comments:

Barry Dauphin said...

Once they start to measure this and try to manipulate people into crying, it will incrementally lose its effectiveness and perhaps even become something of a joke. On the whole, people can become quite adaptable to the world.

Jason said...

Just hire the people who make those life insurance commercials in Thailand.

Willow Viney said...

I dare you to watch either Grave of the Fireflies (1988) or Clannad (2007). You will totally lose it.

PB Reader said...

Someone who on their own writes a funny, sad, or exciting script or score makes you feel manipulated if you perceive it as the creator wished? Or if they pool the advice of others the cross the line?

This line of argument would suggest that you never see a movie or play for fear of being manipulated and you should only experience life as it comes.

traditionalguy said...

Long lost loves are the best triggers, like Bob Dylan's Girl of the North Country far that he wanted to be remembered to since she once was a true love of mine.

Combine that with the death of a parent and you create a chain reaction of crying level emotion.

The Notebook movie with James Garner hit that elusive target. It had older men crying too.

Getting today's digital kids crying may require a computer hard drive crash and a lifetime Facebook ban happening to a child like 30 something within a short attention span.

SomeoneHasToSayIt said...

The science of why people cry at movies is deployed to design movies that will make people cry.

'People' cry? 'People'?

Bet it is overwhelmingly females, so why use the word 'people' when more accurate words are available?

Probably because it is not PC to point out that women are more susceptible to an emotional appeal.

There is probably something genetic there that more easily short-circuits reason, and this gave survival benefit to the individual and the tribe, way back when.

Today though, look at its effect on voting. Yikes!

Hollywood just tapping into that, for bucks.

Birches said...

I hate feeling manipulated into emotion. It's like that awful Christmas Shoes for Mama song. What a farce.

But I did cry uncontrollably when Cedric died at the end of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Perhaps I was manipulated and I didn't even know it.

gerry said...

And I see a proximity to political propaganda, so I don't like science helping manipulators learn how to bypass our judgment and get right into our nervous system.

Like Obama's campaigns?

Michael K said...

"Probably because it is not PC to point out that women are more susceptible to an emotional appeal."

How dare you say that about Democrat campaigns ?

“One must have a heart of stone to read the death of little Nell without laughing.”

Nothing new under the sun.

broomhandle said...

I first awoke to the movie-as-emotionally-manipulative-propaganda when I saw Philadelpia. It was so grotesquely calculated that it almost drove me to be a homophobe and a racist.

rhhardin said...

Rush pronounces sycophancy with the accent on coph.

A man would have to have a heart of stone not to laugh at little Nell.

Making you cry is aimed at women. They like it. Against the advice of Kant, they go for true love unmediated by context. Fanaticism, he called it.

The corresponding male fault is skepticism.

Page on it Cavell.

Fernandinande said...

We try to avoid movies that are heartwarming, as in "I dunno about that one, it sounds heartwarming". Is causing tear duct leakage a subset of that?

Saint Croix said...

I'm very resistant to manipulation when I perceive it

Boy is that the truth. I've been trying to convince Althouse forever that the pro-life movement is right. Also, she should get a dog. Those are my two attempts to manipulate Althouse.

Do what I say, Althouse! You are getting sleepy....so sleepy...cute dogs at the humane society...unborn babies are people...

Fernandinande said...

And I see a proximity to political propaganda, ...

From a google-scholar search for "neurocinematics" (152 results):

Using cinema and film clips in partial care/day hospital groups - psychiatric rehabilitation settings

Tibore said...

Let's be careful about two things:

1. Thinking that science identifying a human response trigger can be used like "magic" i.e. invoked to elicit a reaction that the target cannot help but give. Or in other words, "bypass(ing) our judgement and get(ing) right into our nervous system". I didn't read anything in the article that even remotely paves that path. Rather, I read it more as filmmaking refining their standard techniques at forming scenes, dialogue, music, etc. to resonate even more with common emotional touchstones among people. And also psychological researchers attempting to describe what's happening to the viewer/reader after the fact. Being post facto descriptive is a long way from being predictive and an even longer way from having utility in being coercive in a way that's not voluntary for the target. The real lesson to take away from "neurocinematics" is that there has to be buy-in to the paradigm of the movie to get these triggers to work.

That has utility, true, but this manipulation has been known about for how many decades now? People were identifying it back when Leni Riefenstahl released her infamous epic filmed at Nuremberg. The audience has grown more savvy about what they're consuming. The article itself notes this, that triggers that used to work reliably before work less well when the audience gets more familiar with the narrative type.

2. Falling into the related trap of thinking that just because a work - literature, film, etc. - is designed to evoke a particular response that it will actually succeed in doing so. That's the mistake people make when thinking Dorfman's How to Read Donald Duck is so "accurate". People bring their own biases, worldviews, and narrative processing skills to any given display, and just because a given display works a cultural touchstone like a stripper works a pole doesn't mean the viewer will take away what the "auteur" intends. That's why so many works are misinterpreted when compared against the author's/writers/actor's intent, and also why entertainment sources - such as cable TV - is so fragmented. Audiences have never been blank slates for artists to scribe "Joy", "Sorrow", "Anger", "Disgust", etc. across, and nothing I read into that article, combined with nothing I've seen elsewhere in tomes about movie making, composing, opinion writing, novel authoring, photography, or any other creative venture even cracks open the door to that. Everything is still all about voluntary buy-in by the audience. And that is what makes getting past conscious judgement "right into our nervous system" more a fantasy than an acquirable reality.

Saint Croix said...

I hate feeling manipulated into emotion.

Film is all about emotion. You read Hitchcock/Truffaut, Hitch talks about manipulation all the time.

What you hate is your awareness that you are being manipulated. It takes you out of the movie. The goal of the artist filmmaker is to hide his manipulation. If he does his job well, you feel strong emotions at the time and place he wants you to feel them.

And there's no reason to hate people who manipulate you into emotion. Do you hate people who manipulate you into orgasm?

Control is important. It's important to understand how people are trying to control you. And yet it's also important to be able to let go of control, and to let other people take charge.

I love Hitchcock's movies. And my knowledge that he's manipulating me doesn't spoil it. I also don't mind women who try to manipulate me. It's part of the fun, really.

St. George said...

Willow Viney--

Totally lose it?

"The Miracle Worker"

I also just saw "The Family Man," an updated "It's a Wonderful Life" starring Tea Leoni and Nicolas Cage. Not as good but worth a look.

As for emotion, hard to top Jimmy Stewart's raw feelings in the telephone scene as he tries to deny his feelings for Donna Reed.

David said...

I skipped that article this morning. Enough.

Peter said...

Movies have always been a medium well-suited to emotional manipulation. Which, perhaps, is why so many 20th century dictators fell in love with the medium.

Manipulating emotions for commercial gain is hardly new; isn't that what advertisers are paid to do?

So perhaps the question is, how much more effective is this science over similar manipulations produced with human intuition?

And, do you really want to brand your emotional-manipulation software package " Riefenstahl"?

n.n said...

Barry Dauphin:

Cynicism. Ideally it should be rational and contextualized, which is a skill acquired with maturation (e.g. experience).

Clayton Hennesey said...

"And I see a proximity to political propaganda, so I don't like science helping manipulators learn how to bypass our judgment and get right into our nervous system."

What? The U. S. Government has been subsidizing NPR's doing that for years. Just listen to David Green chew through any given script: gnawr...sob..gnawr...glub...hooolddddthoseconsonants...ohmygodofcourseillsendyoumoney...

tim maguire said...

You know what kind of movies I like? The well written, well acted, and well directed kind. That's why I don't go to movies much.

More manipulation will undoubtedly mean worse writing and probably worse acting.

Saint Croix said...

Movies have always been a medium well-suited to emotional manipulation. Which, perhaps, is why so many 20th century dictators fell in love with the medium.

They suck at it, though. Nazi propaganda and Soviet propaganda is horribly boring.

The masters of propaganda films are, hands down, Americans. See this film or this film or this film. Or, the most famous example of all, this film.

Did you know you were being manipulated? Most people have no idea. They simply do not associate these films with propaganda, or emotional manipulation for that matter. That's why the films are so amazing, and so fun to watch.

John Lynch said...

This is what all art is- manipulation of emotions. If you can't do that you are not an artist.

The motive behind the art is what distinguishes hacks.

amie lalune said...

I don't enjoy crying at movies; I don't think many people under 60 do.

If you think "women like it" then you are obviously surrounded by silly women.

I don't go out and recommend ones that make me cry, either.

Drago said...

Birches: "But I did cry uncontrollably when Cedric died at the end of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Perhaps I was manipulated and I didn't even know it."

I cried uncontrollably when I coughed up the cash for the tickets to see "Harry Potter and Goblet of Fire".

You don't even want to know what happened at the snack bar...

William said...

There's a new movie out with Scarlet Johansson, called Under The Skin.. From what I understood it was a scifi movie where Scarlet played an alien being who seduced men. There was extensive nudity involved.....I don't know art, but I know what I like. Reader, I rented that movie......Big mistake. There's one scene where a guy rushes into the surf to rescue his drowning wife. He also gets caught in the riptide and drowns. He leaves his 18 month old baby on the beach. The baby is shown screaming as the tide comes in. Scarlet walks around the screaming baby and leaves the beach. I guess the scene is meant to show her alienation from common human sentiments, but it's an extremely disturbing scene.....On the other hand, Scarlet does get naked in several scenes so I can't say the movie is a complete waste.

Shanna said...

I cry at all sorts of movies/tv shows but I don't really want to unless I am in a very specific mood. Things that try too hard bug me, though. This article seems to be mainly about how to use film making tools to enhance, not detract from, the emotional heart of a scene. That is what it is supposed to do.

"Birches: "But I did cry uncontrollably when Cedric died at the end of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Perhaps I was manipulated and I didn't even know it."

Heh. It's kind of complicated when you know what's coming (because you've read the books). I think I am generally more distractable, by things like bad special effects, bad acting, bad score, etc.. Stuff that has emotional resonance in a book doens't always work on screen - and I want it to work! Whether you cry is not important, but the emotions need to shine through otherwise why bother?

I can't believe they had a whole article about this topic and no mention of Old yeller.


SJ said...

@Ann,

For some reason, this reminds me of a section of Augustine's Confessions.

While meditating on the theater, and the human response to a great actor, Augustine notictes that an actor (and/or playwright) can move him to great grief and anguish.

Then he asks himself why he enjoys this experience.

(I wish I could remember and re-state his answer. All I can remember is that his thoughts were profound, and seemed to transfer well to emotional responses to literature, cinema, radio, etc.)

It's not quite on-point. Nor is it a scientific study.

But it is worth noting that the question of what moves people to sadness in a story is a very old question. And one that has been studied by many minds in history.

Even if this study brings better data, I doubt it will bring a perfect formula.

Saint Croix said...

I don't enjoy crying at movies; I don't think many people under 60 do.

When I first saw Umberto D., I started laughing, because the attempt to manipulate me into tears was so obvious. "You're not going to make me cry, De Sica! Just keep piling on the pathos. I am immune to your feeble attempts to get me to feel sorry for your hero."

30 minutes in, I was frickin' bawling. "Oh my God, you better not kill the dog! Don't kill the dog!"

And that's still not the saddest movie I've ever seen. The movie that always makes me cry is this one. It's so awesome because it's funny and raunchy, which makes the sad parts that much more powerful.

The Godfather said...

That Shakespeare guy was sure manipulative. Like the end of Romeo and Juliet where both the lovers kill themselves because of a mistake? And the Greek playwright with Oedipus gouging out his eyes? Sheesh!

Kirk Parker said...

Willow,

How about Ponette?

Saint Croix said...

I resisted the pro-life movement for years because I thought their attempts to manipulate were so obvious. I used to joke I was pro-death, because I supported capital punishment and abortion rights.

And then I got older, and I read the cases, and I saw photographs, and I heard arguments, and I became more aware of what's going on.

And now I'm aware of the manipulation from the other side, using the word "fetus" to cause non-feeling. Hiding abortion photographs for 40 years so people won't get upset.

Abortion politics is a case study in manipulation, by both sides. Pro-lifers trying to get people to feel something, and pro-choice people trying to deny feelings.

richlb said...

I don't cry much at all during movies (guy thing?) but there are a few. Notable among them is the film "Rudy". That chanting at the end gets me every time.

Key for me is the death of a father. I'm so emotionally tied to my dad that seeing him go on screen really gets to me. That scene at the end of Big Fish practically has me drenched. I'm tearing up typing this right now!

Also on my list? The John Travolta TV movie Boy In The Plastic Bubble.

That may be it.

Michael K said...

"I also just saw "The Family Man," an updated "It's a Wonderful Life" starring Tea Leoni and Nicolas Cage. Not as good but worth a look."

Especially the scene where Tea Leoni is taking a shower.

I liked Don Cheadle too but I like him in anything.

Roy Lofquist said...

Reds, Waterworld - mega million dollar flops.

Twelve Angry Men, Casablanca - quicky, low budget classics.

Kill Bambi's mother once - tears.

Kill Bambi's mother twice - farce.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n-wUdetAAlY

Ever run into a scientist with a sense of humor? Thought not.

Birches said...

Well, yes, I hate the feeling of someone attempting a manipulation, of course. A manipulation gone bad, if you will. That's why I hate that song so much. It's designed to elicit emotion, but it's so overt it's disgusting.

I cry at the end of Rudytoo, or when Pippin sings his little song in The Return of the King, which made me tear up again when I saw this trailer.

jacksonjay said...

I had no trouble resisting Hope and Change!

traditionalguy said...

The week Princess Di died there was an amazing outpouring of love for her that impressed Hollywood and the Government Propaganda Bureaus all over the world. they are determined to learn how she did that.

Her secret was loving hurt people with the sensitivity from hurts she had experienced at the hands of the Windsor's family thing. But I doubt that message got through.

Ann Althouse said...

"I dare you to watch either Grave of the Fireflies (1988)…"

That has been in my profile under "Favorite Movies" for the entire 10 years I've been writing this blog.

rhhardin said...

I liked Get Smart (2008).

A send-up of Bond and a tribute to Get Smart (TV), with a modern feminist who does things well but grimly and a rookie who screws up sometimes but loves the work.

Unlike Bond they wind up together, so it's not necessary to kill her off. On the other hand there can't be a sequel.

There's an interior film-makers' battle between gag writers and story writers, and sometimes a very nice compromise.

Ann Althouse said...

"Bet it is overwhelmingly females, so why use the word 'people' when more accurate words are available?"

The article discusses what makes men cry as distinguished from females.

I don't think the subject needs to be broader than just tears, to include welling up of emotion that feels powerful even if you control the tears.

By the way, I just watched the movie "Downfall," and though it didn't make me cry, there was one scene where one tear rolled down Hitler's cheek.

Ann Althouse said...

"I hate feeling manipulated into emotion. It's like that awful Christmas Shoes for Mama song. What a farce."

I don't know that song, but you know that song "Scarlet Ribbons." That's bullshit, man.

Anonymous said...

I rather liked "Under The Skin." and its attention to aesthetics. Scarlet Johannson nude doesn't hurt, but it was also a vulnerable role.

An art house movie? Sci-fi? Deeper commentary on human affairs? A wash of rich, beautiful images?

The feeling the director created of being quite unsure of what would happen next, and the beautiful disturbing end scenes of the Scottish woodlands, the unfolding of events and the snowflakes have stuck with me.

It was what is was and didn't need to be too much else.

Anonymous said...

Hitler loved animals.

What are ya gonna do?

rhhardin said...

Love and Other Drugs (2010), investigating to see if Hathaway did anything else good, is notable for nude scenes that work.

The acting faces a character line that doesn't make a lot of sense, but then maybe it's just a generic woman not making sense thing. Mood changes are portrayed and he has to work around them. That's not unrealistic, I guess.

Hathaway has a tiny part in Dark Knight Rises, but a well set up final scene. There is in addition an unrelated story line that I couldn't follow.

Alex said...

To me the most haunting scene was on the early Twilight Zone episode called "Walking Distance" where a middle-aged media executive travels back in time to his old home town to discover some truths about himself.

rhhardin said...

Hathaway appears to have been awful in Les Miserables, but I didn't see it, only heard the song.

It's nice that she can sing, but the convention is not to act when you sing. The song itself works by itself.

Sobbing the song just makes it bad.

Anonymous said...

This post is making me cry.

rhhardin said...

Then there's James Bond, a good series until it went all psychodrama at the end.

The beginning is good for remembering how bad American car suspensions used to be, and the first couple for how low budget the special effects were.

Bond is always at his best in casinos playing against the bad guy.

His method : provoke and confront.

No tears there.

rhhardin said...

Pink Panther, with the various pink panthers, were good.

You can watch them every couple of years, when you've forgotten the plots and gags.

A couple assembled from unused editing room cuts were no good, after Sellers died. The alternate stars would good though.

rhhardin said...

And the Get Smart TV series (5 seasons) is good.

Tearless.

An edge of parody and some gags brings in the guys, is the lesson.

SomeoneHasToSayIt said...

I think I've teared up at three movies:

Old Yeller (damn you, Walt)
Field of Dreams
It's A Wonderful Life

Andy Krause said...

The emotion and manipulation is not a bad thing. It makes movies enjoyable. You always know its a movie, you're self aware during the experience.

Bob R said...

Terry Teachout had a great line in a review: "the tears were earned, not jerked." The hard part isn't making people cry, it's making people glad they cried.

Sigivald said...

I'm very resistant to manipulation when I perceive it,

Well, pretty much every movie is trying to manipulate you, ain't it?

It's just a matter of how and to what end.

(Me, I avoid entire classes of movies exactly because cheap emotional manipulation annoys me...)

Bob R said...

Another good quote about (men) crying in films was in a review of 1941, the Spielberg, Belushi, Ackroyd flop. There is a scene where an army general goes into a movie theater to watch Dumbo. It shows him with tears streaming down his face watching the part where Dumbo visits his mother in her cage. The reviewer pointed out the embarrassing contrast between the genuine emotion of the Disney file and the stunted humor of the Spielberg film.

rhhardin said...

Cavell mentions "women's films, or tear-jerkers" in his analysis of I think Gaslight, here.

He himself takes the genre seriously.

Birches said...

Here's the crappy Christmas shoes song

It's worse than "Scarlet Ribbons."

Saint Croix said...

"the tears were earned, not jerked." The hard part isn't making people cry, it's making people glad they cried.

I feel that way about laughing. If the movie's dumb, and I'm laughing, I resent it. I feel dumb for laughing.

In general there is a huge prejudice against comedy for this reason, I think. And there was a prejudice against Hitchcock for years and years. We feel this disdain for movies that make us laugh or cry or afraid. We feel this disdain for movies that work!

rcocean said...

Penn State professor who has studied tearjerkers, asked students to propose movie ideas designed to make men cry. "There were a lot of father-son kind of things," she says. "There were a lot of athletes. There were a lot of war films."

Yep, the ending of the "Sands of Iwo Jima" always gets me.

eddie willers said...

Being a man of a certain age (title of a late great and lamented TV Show) of course I cried at Old Yeller and the original Brian's Song but I find myself flabbergasted at the current TV British import, Call The Midwife.

Each episode has me in tears twice. It seems that every story has a very sad, sad story and one that brings tears of joy and/or pathos.

Call The Midwife and Brian's Song?....cognitive dissonance or getting old?

You make the call.

rcocean said...

Also, Kids and animals are sure bets to cause tears.

Unknown said...

Hollywood is already filled with lecture, agenda and propaganda. Outright psychological/mental manipulation is the next step.

And, for the most part, I've stopped watching TV altogether.

Hollywood is a nest of scum and villainy. They have no idea how the real world works.

The Godfather said...

Whoever said guys don't cry must be an Englishman or a Dutchman. I'm part Irish and Irishmen cry readily -- they say an Irishman's bladder is close to his eye. I certainly teared up at the end of The Notebook, and when the kid ran after Shane when he rode away, and (happily) when I read the end of Lassie Come Home. Resisting crying at a sad movie is like not being scared by a scary movie -- what's the point?

The Godfather said...

Whoever said guys don't cry must be an Englishman or a Dutchman. I'm part Irish and Irishmen cry readily -- they say an Irishman's bladder is close to his eye. I certainly teared up at the end of The Notebook, and when the kid ran after Shane when he rode away, and (happily) when I read the end of Lassie Come Home. Resisting crying at a sad movie is like not being scared by a scary movie -- what's the point?

Saint Croix said...

The most obviously manipulative art form is porn. You watch porn for only one reason. And then you stop watching. The acting is bad, the cinematography is bad, the music is bad, it's all bad.

Hitchcock talks about repression a lot in the Truffaut book. Repressing violence and repressing sex. That engages the audience because they want to see what is hidden. But if you show them everything, if nothing is hidden, the audience is quickly bored.

All art is manipulation.

And art creation is sublimated sexuality.

In his book Hitchcock talks about the women in his movies. They are almost always blondes. And they are never dumb blondes. (Dumb blondes are easy, that's the appeal of the dumb blonde). His blondes are always smart and aloof.

It's a classic use of building desire for an unattainable woman. Sex motivates a Hitchcock movie. His films are suffused with sex. His movies are as sex-obsessed as any porn film. But it's his control and authority--the hiding of what we want to see--that keeps us enthralled.

The manipulation in porn is obvious. It's blatant. And we feel nothing. The manipulation in a Hitchcock movie is incredible. He's worried about the clothes, the music, the lighting, everything. And then he hides all this manipulation from you, so the whole thing feels real. So you feel real emotion.

eddie willers said...

His films are suffused with sex. His movies are as sex-obsessed as any porn film

I always giggle at the ending of North by Northwest

Fred Drinkwater said...

Thinking about this, and some of the meta-news coming out of Ferguson, MO, reminded me of a short story I read, oh, must be at least 20 years ago. It's told from the POV of a reporter-interviewer-cameraman, talking to the mother of a kidnapping victim. There's a lot of obvious grief, as you might imagine. Absolutely nothing unexpected, until, at the very end, the reporter turns away from the mother, and sighing in annoyance to himself, adds a final voiceover to the end of his recording: "The law mandates that I inform viewers that the subject's emotions may have been mechanically amplified in this report."

Saint Croix said...

I always giggle at the ending of North by Northwest

The other thing that's awesome about Hitch is that he totally gets our fear, too. His characters are often afraid of intimacy, afraid of marriage. In Rear Window, poor Jimmy Stewart is terrified of Grace Kelly. She's so beautiful you don't notice that she's basically stalking him. And he's helpless! He can't get away.

I think many of his movies are fundamentally comic. You might not laugh, but they're light-hearted and fun. It's kind of amazing that Rear Window isn't morbid. I think there's a lot of comedy there to keep it light and fun.

rcocean said...

"I always giggle at the ending of North by Northwest"

Titus, is that you?

rcocean said...

"Hollywood is a nest of scum and villainy. They have no idea how the real world works."

Actually, they have a very good idea how the world works. That's why they're rich, and been able to bribe the US Congress to enforce their copyright protection.

But yeah, movies are unrealistic.

Ann Althouse said...

"The most obviously manipulative art form is porn. You watch porn for only one reason. And then you stop watching. The acting is bad, the cinematography is bad, the music is bad, it's all bad."

This was the basis of Catharine MacKinnon's argument that porn could be censored: it's not speech in the sense of free speech at all, because there are no ideas that go into the brain to be understood. It bypasses the mind and goes straight to the nervous system. It might as well be a vibrator as a photograph.

Ann Althouse said...

Tearjerkers are like porn in that they're just doing what they can to extract a particular emotional response. There's no expression that any human mind has any ideas or feelings about conveying. It's a product, and it's packaged as a work of art, but it's empty of real communication.

Ann Althouse said...

The porn-like things in Hitchcock require the participation of the mind to perceive.

rcocean said...

Seriously, is there any point in 2014, with the internet, in discussing whether "porn" is bad or not?

The liberals have destroyed any argument for "Censorship" so that any reasonable person just believes it special pleading. Hey, lets have abortion, pot, open borders, complete sexual freedom, Gay marriage, vulgar language, but lets think about censoring "porn".

Silly.

Bob R said...

I never followed the legal argument that closely. Did MacKinnon acknowledge that her argument was very similar to those who want to prohibit burning the flag, etc?

n.n said...

An emotional appeal can serve as either an enhancement or to manipulate perception and behavior. There is a not so fine distinction between mental and emotional exploitation, and nuanced expression or exhibition. The former tends to be crude and obvious. While the latter is often elegant and subtle. However, whether it is by mental or emotional stimulation, each is designed to communicate a message. The difference between pornography and other forms of art is measured in both intent, method, and outcome; between a hard and soft drug, respectively. The intent of pornography is to sponsor moral change.

rhhardin said...

Porn could give you what you're wired to respond to. How does that differ from art?

Say Deborah Butterfield

That's wiring.

rhhardin said...

Porn reduces the market value of women.

It doesn't objectify women. It competes with them to temporarily end a male obsession, to the relief of the male.

As does, by the way, math or physics, by displacement.

So women can't make such a good deal for themselves so easily.

traditionalguy said...

Testosterone Art is usually a true story about an intelligent self aware man that has courage to sacrifice himself for others in the face of an enemy.

Few have seen Band of Brothers by Spielberg on HBO, although it is now free on Amazon Prime. It tracks a true odessey of a Company of Airborne through many intense battles to Berchtesgaden where most of the the men are wanting to get home. Except their Captain Winters decides to to go on to fight the Japanese next.

Winters is being interviewed by a Lt.Colonel who after reviewing his intense combat record says to him, " I gave you this interview out of respect, but frankly Colonel, you have done enough."

Those are the words make men cry.

Ann Althouse said...

@rcoceon I was referring to the censorship arguments that were trending circa 1990, not today.

Nevertheless, of course, porn is bad. People like it anyway.

Matt said...

Does your dislike of manipulation in art extend to performance art? For example, in a blog's comment section?

Saint Croix said...

This was the basis of Catharine MacKinnon's argument that porn could be censored: it's not speech in the sense of free speech at all, because there are no ideas that go into the brain to be understood. It bypasses the mind and goes straight to the nervous system.

That's not true. My penis can't read, or watch movies.

Of course a movie, or a book, or a website, is an idea, one that my brain has to see and respond to. Porn is not a great idea, or a high-minded idea. But a book is a book. A movie is a movie. A website is a website. People have been saying speech is not speech forever.

MacKinnon is like regurgitated Bork (yuck) wrapped up in feminist-crazy. And it's not just her urge to censor sex-related art. She says that men are dogs and women can't consent to sex. I'm officially freaking out that I'm reminding you of MacKinnon. Now I got to go run naked in the streets just to redeem myself.

I don't mind control-freaks in art. Some of our finest art is made by control-freaks. But lawyers and judges who are hostile to free speech are dangerous people and I feel great antipathy towards them.

eddie willers said...

to temporarily end a male obsession, to the relief of the male.

As does, by the way, math or physics, by displacement.


Eureka....this thread is hotter than Archimedes taking a bath!

The Godfather said...

On porn: On of my law school profs (this was probably 1967) argued that porn had redeeming social value (and should not be banned) because it taught us about human relationships. I don't know how much porn he really watched.

Laura said...

Bread and circuses.

Dr. Stephen Falken, shall we play a game: http://esciencenews.com/articles/2014/08/06/researchers.boost.insect.aggression.altering.brain.metabolism...?

rcocean said...

"MacKinnon is like regurgitated Bork (yuck) wrapped up in feminist-crazy."

No she's like Ginsburg, only more so.