We find out if the big-screen relationships we watched as kids stay with us long after the credits roll.
When I was seven years old, I fell for a much older man. He wore spandex pants, hair extensions and eye makeup. He was interested in a teenage girl, kidnapped her baby brother and even drugged her food. Yes, Jareth the Goblin King, David Bowie’s character in Labyrinth, was quite crushable in my young eyes.
That year, I listened to the Labyrinth soundtrack ad nauseam until my uncle gave me his David Bowie record collection. That’s when my daydreams of a life spent alongside a Goblin King husband (weird, I know) were replaced with fantasies of marrying a rock star (infinitely cooler). But what if I had continued to dream of a life with Jareth? Would I have eventually fallen for a manipulative creep—a real-life goblin, metaphorically speaking?
It has already been established that young people’s attitudes toward smoking and sex are influenced by film and popular culture—so it shouldn’t come as a shock that what we watch as teens impacts our views about love and relationships as well. The reason lies in the brain’s development—or lack thereof—explains Maria Nikolajeva, a professor of education at the University of Cambridge and an expert in literature for children and young adults. During the tumultuous teen years, our brains restructure; while our noggins still have a child’s capacity to learn and accumulate an enormous amount of information, we’re not yet able to sort and contemplate messages as adults do. But herein lies the key to Hollywood’s power over teens: Young brains do not distinguish between real-life memories and what we file away from books and films. They are all stored under the general heading of “memories.”
So kids, who have very little experience with relationships to serve as a comparative counterpoint, end up giving more weight to the lessons learned from dramatic film plots. “Stories we [see] provide vicarious experience of things we have not yet met in real life—romantic love, for instance,” explains Nikolajeva. I believe it. Nothing seemed more exciting than creepy Jareth; so I understand why a vampire named Edward—with his awesome power and magnetic pull—could easily steal the hearts of young girls waiting to fall in love for the first time.
Do movies like Twilight portray unhealthy relationships or do they bare no impact at all? Read on to the next page...