Part of the theory of active spectatorship is that audiences do not all just watch whatever they are told to watch and instead different individuals consume different films for different reasons and pleasures. The Uses and Gratifications theory suggested by Blulmer and Katz indicates that there are four main pleasures that audiences gain from films; diversion, personal relationships, personal identity and surveillance.
Diversion is probably the most common reason people choose to watch films. Quite simply many viewers will watch a film just to get away from the problems and reality of their own lives. This is why most big Hollywood blockbusters offer pure escapism. They tell easy to understand stories where good usually triumphs over evil and people can go home feeling good. They can provide us with emotions we may not always feel in the mundane routine of our everyday lives, making us laugh, cry or scream. Many films even take us to fantasy lands like Middle Earth in Lord of the Rings or far off planets like in Star Wars, allowing us to completely escape the reality of our lives.
Some people may use films as a substitute for personal relationships. A classic example of this is a viewer choosing to go and see a romantic comedy because they are single. The idea of a relationship or finding a happy relationship is played out in the film. Similarly films that are about groups of friends may help a person to feel like part of a group. In films like the American Pie series or The Inbetweeners, viewers might find characters that they would like to be friends with and watching a film is like being in their company. I’m not sure I fully agree with this one and think it may apply more to TV shows like soap operas rather than films.
On a perhaps more concerning note, many people may watch a film for reasons of personal identity. This is where a viewer watches a film because they see themselves reflected in it, whether it be one specific character or a certain subculture of lifestyle. Stoner comedies are a perfect example of this. People who smoke certain substances are much more likely to relate to the stoner comedies of Jay and Silent Bob, Cheech and Chong or Pineapple Express. Similarly some people chose to watch violent films about football hooliganism such as Green Street and The Football Factory because it is a lifestyle that they can relate to. The viewer may even learn some of their values from the text. For example when I first saw Fight Club, I was taken in by much of what the revolutionary character Tyler Durden said found my own beliefs altered after watching the film.
Finally surveillance is another pleasure of film watching that means finding films that might contain information that is useful for living. For example watching documentaries such as Michael Moore’s Bowling for Columbine or Fahrenheit 9/11 might educate the viewer about the current state of America. I might also watch world cinemas to learn more about cultures that are foreign to me. For example the films City of God and La Haine teach the viewer about what it is like to live in poor areas of Brazil in France. While this could be considered escapism from my own life in Britain, they could also contain information that is useful in my life.
Next up in part 3 I will be looking at Frameworks of Interpretation and Media Literacy and how this affects the relationship between audiences and films. Part 1 on active vs passive spectatorship is here.
Did you miss...?
Did you miss...?
Part 1 on active vs passive spectatorship.
Part 3 on frameworks of interpretation.
Part 4 on media literacy and intertextuality.
Part 5 on the effects of film.
Part 6 on fandom.