I believe that it is incredibly important to be a critical consumer of media and information in general. What we watch has a direct influence on how we behave, believe and view the world. This belief stems from a variety of places. My religious beliefs point to desire to watch "clean" and "uplifting" media. "If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things." The For the Strength of the Youth pamphlet says "Choose wisely when using media, because whatever you read, listen to, or look at has an effect on you. Select only media that uplifts you. Satan uses media to deceive you by making what is wrong and evil look normal, humorous, or exciting. He tries to mislead you into thinking that breaking God’s commandments is acceptable and has no negative consequences for you or others. Do not attend, view, or participate in anything that is vulgar, immoral, violent, or pornographic in any way. Do not participate in anything that presents immorality or violence as acceptable. Have the courage to walk out of a movie, change your music, or turn off a computer, television, or mobile device if what you see or hear drives away the Spirit."
Another source of this belief is my education. I recently learned about the Information Processing Theory (don't mind my nerdiness for one minute) and how we processes media. We don't imitate the exact action or behavior that we see, but it does change how we respond to real life situations. For example, lets say we are watching a movie and there is a very nice guy that sees his beautiful maiden of a girlfriend being harassed by some evil villainous man. The hero then goes and sword fights the villain, kills him and rescues the girlfriend. After watching this, if a guy were to see another guy picking on his girlfriend, obviously he is not going to imitate the same behavior and kill the guy. The theory would suggest that he would most likely use violent means to get the guy to stop, like punching him in the face. Additionally, the current literature on the effects of violent video games is very clear that "Exposure [to violent video games] is positively associated with heightened levels of aggression in young adults and children...Exposure [to violent video games] is negatively associated with prosocial behavior." (Anderson) If you don't believe me, take either SFL 333 or 358. There's a whole world of quality research done on this subject and it's awesome.
So what's the point that I am trying to make? That all media is bad and awful? Absolutely not! If what we take in is so powerful, why not just focus on what it can do for us? My generation is called a number of things, but one title that I really like is the "do-good generation." I think that this is heavily influenced by the number of rockin' documentaries and movies that have been produced in our era that focus on social issues and world events. So while I agree full-heartedly that we should strive to consume media that is clean, we should really focus on what it makes us want to accomplish.
p.s. Want a couple of suggestions for really great films? Check out ic.byu.edu.
Anderson, C. A., & Bushman, B. J. (2001). Effects of violent video games on aggressive behavior, aggressive affect, physiological arousal and prosocial behavior: A meta-analytic review of the scientific literature