Continuing from yesterday, is the exploration of great movies that end badly, which I have termed Ten Minute Movies. The question is, are these movies a reflection of our society or at least the mood of our society at the time they are made?

– Societal Reflection & Neurology –

There is no doubt that some movies are produced with a specific message to get across. Philadelphia raised awareness of AIDS, Good Night, and Good Luck was pointed at the current climate of political distrust, even Night of the Living Dead delivered a poignant view on civil rights and fear of authority. The 10 Minute Movie, on the other hand, has the tendency to end badly just for the sake of leaving the audience deflated.

By now, the notion that violent imagery leads to violence has been documented, with studies proving and negating any tenable link. Such research has fueled the fire of everything from television ratings to attempts to ban video games. What is known, however, is the existence of linkages between our environment, including media, and our brain chemistry. It seems the 10 Minute Movie contributes to this cyclical dance by impacting our expectations and happiness.

If we go into a movie and are led to believe that despite some hardship, good will triumph and are instead met with a flat ending, our inflated expectations contribute to unhappiness. Jonah Lehrer has a great article on the effect of dopamine neurons, happiness and lower expectations among the Danish.

Because the Danes never expect very much, their dopamine neurons are rarely disappointed. And when a reward does come their way, it’s always surprising, which makes their neurons even more excited.

Vivian Jung also relates that

Our brains are built to search for the unhappy spot and dwell on it. That is why we are constantly trying to “improve” our lives.

So are 10 Minute Movies a reflection of the lowered expectation we have, the creators brains attempt to dwell on the unhappiness we possess as a nation, does the imagery we see contribute to our unhappiness, or does it create a vicious reinforcing cycle? Perhaps the answer to all of these questions is yes. Regardless, we must keep in mind that our happiness is directly related to our health and wellbeing. The next time you run into a 10 Minute Movie, follow it up with a comedy.