I personally believe it creates society.
I believe that artists (writers, producers, directors, etc.), etc. have a creative “vision”, which is often, but not always, in opposition to the culture they live in. If they are allowed to present their vision in the form of a novel, play, TV show, movie, song, or visual piece of art, it may actually create the artist’s “vision” in real-life culture.
For example, when the Beatles came along, their music, fashion, language, etc. created a huge interest in mod, merrie old England here in the U.S. which to a certain extent, continues to this day. Many teenagers and adults turned to Carnaby Street to dictate their fashion, makeup, language, and attitude.
Unfortunately, the Beatles’ music, fashion, language, etc. also created a huge interest in drugs, promiscuity, rebellion against the establishment, world peace through pacifism, etc. Even to this day, if I’m feeling kind of counter-cultural, I’ll play my old Beatles LPs.
One of the best examples of media creating culture is the “Jimmy Buffet Parrothead Lifestyle.” It’s amazing how many adults are into this.
There are numerous examples of television shows in which phrases, fashions, and other quirks have become part of American culture. The first one that comes to my mind is the “Fonz” and his “Heeyyyyy!” Kids everywhere were buying leather, slicking back their hair, banging on vending machines, and saying, “Heyyyyy!” Thankfully the producers of Happy Days turned the Fonz into a “good” bad boy, who had a heart of gold underneath that tough exterior. That at least gave the children a good role model, and I think that the Fonz did more good than harm.
HOWEVER–to this day, many women fall for the “bad boy,” believing that he really is a good boy and will make a good husband and father. Tragically, they often discover that the Fonz is just a fictional character, and their bad boy husband really IS a bad, bad boy.
Actually, before the Fonz came along, there were plenty of “bad boys.” James Dean is probably the best example. He only made a few movies, but to this day, people all over the U.S. admire his wild, free lifestyle and try to live it, in some way, in their own mundane lives. We take off for weekends of “adventure,” we buy boats and motorcycles and sports cars, we dress in jeans and t-shirts, we swear–I think a lot of these actions are our attempts to be “bad boys” or “bad girls” like James Dean and others like him.
Another example of media creating culture are the “occult” movies, tv shows, and novels that came along in the mid-late 1960s. Rosemary’s Baby created a lot of interest in the occult, and sadly, so did the television show, Dark Shadows. (Dark Shadows was at least clear who the good guys were and who the monsters were! It didn’t blur the lines.) I think that these shows, and many of the books that came out during this time were a violation of a cultural norm that had stood for many decades that stopped most Americans from overt involvement with the occult. Before the 1960s, many Americans played party games with Ouija boards and gypsy witch fortune tellers, but after these media pieces came out, Americans began rejecting the Christian religion and using the occult religions instead. All this is the forerunner of the “New Age” movement that infects even the Catholic Church today. Very sad example of media creating culture.
Some of these examples are not “bad”–there’s nothing wrong with Anglophilia or beach life or riding motorcycles. That’s the wonderful thing about art–it can re-shape culture in good ways. I personally think that a lot of the “black” television shows of the 1970s and 1980s (Good Times, The Jeffersons, Cosby, etc.) helped many people in my generation to learn to accept black people as normal, everyday human beings just like us. (Many of our parents retained a belief that black people were slightly less than human, and that’s one reason why segregation and other racist policies were continued in the U.S. for so long).
Now I think that much of the “black” media is having just the opposite effect–black people are portrayed as jumpy, frenetic music-addicted “clowns”, or as cop-haters, or as women oppressors, etc. and many of these stereotypes are creating a new breed of white racists. I wish that many of the rappers would figure out that they really aren’t helping their fellow African Americans by yelling out degrading things about their mothers and advising their brothers to kill cops.
One Broadway play that will be revived for the first time in many decades this season is Finian’s Rainbow, which was originally done in the 1940s, at the height of Jim Crow. This is a brilliant musical which, on the surface, seems to be a story about leprechauns, pots of gold, fairies, romance, and daddy/daughter love. But the play is actually a stinging denouncment of racism. To me, it’s a marvelous use of media to attempt to create a culture in which racism is unacceptable.
I have written several teen novels that I actually HOPE will create a better society! I know that’s very grandiose of me–that’s the way artists are! We all want to change our world. I have included themes in the novels such as tolerance and acceptance of others, belief in God, kindness towards fellow man, never giving up, courage, willingness to sacrifice for others, hard work ethic, etc. I hope that my novels don’t sound like morality tales, but I also hope that children, teenagers, and adults who read them will be inspired to live better lives and be good citizens of both God’s Kingdom and the kingdom that they live in here on this earth.
There’s so much more that could be said. I wish this topic could happen in real life at a coffee shop and last all day, as I’m sure there will be many who argue that media is created by society. It’s a fascinating topic, and very timely for anyone involved with the arts.