The Power Of Language In Film

As a film lover and with Oscar’s just around the corner, I felt that I should reiterate Professor Lewis’ emphasis on language and how it can both help/hurt empire but through movies. In this year’s Oscar slate, language is portrayed through songs in La La Land, betrayal in Fences, loss in Manchester by the Sea, fighting prejudice in Hidden Figures, and through actual linguistics in Arrival. These high caliber movies represent the most acclaimed and prestigious products of Hollywood for the year. And while these movies will all be presented at this year’s Academy Awards, these movies will never gain the mass audience and box office that big blockbusters have the luxury of having. Any Marvel movie, any Transformers, or Star Wars will gain millions or even billions of dollars regardless of the quality being presented. Every movie, at least in my opinion, should have a lesson or meaning behind it, and blockbuster movies do not always have these lessons, most of the time they are just turn off your brain entertainment. La La Land had a clear message – to achieve your dreams you must make sacrifices. Hidden Figures had a clear message – you can overcome prejudice through your hard work. So all-in-all, this shows two sides of Hollywood – one of merit and meaning, and one only concerned with money.

Here I attached an example of the sheer power of language used in an Oscar movie compared to something usually seen in a blockbuster.

La La Land – Audition (Fools Who Dream) vs Jurassic World: Dinosaur Fight

And while I am not saying there is something wrong with mindless entertainment, I do enjoy them sometimes, it is just that these blockbuster movies most of the time do not use language the same way that independent or smaller-budgeted movies do. These blockbuster movies both help and hurt the empire that is Hollywood, because they made tons of money for them, but hold no real meaning (again I am not talking about all blockbuster movies – just ones like Independence Day 2). Independent and Oscar type movies do the same – they do not make as much money, but they are celebrated and win awards.

Yet there is more to movie language than just dialogue, messages, narration, etc. There is a visual language to movies through shots, technique, camera angles, etc., there is a social language to movies, and history of language as depicted in Language in Cinema: Martin Scorsese’s Essay Explains the Importance of Visual Literacy. Out of all of these languages though, I will highlight what I think is the most important: social language. Practically everyone loves movies, and through things like social media, movie reviews, movie shows, and word of mouth, movies are an integral part of society today. Star Wars would not be a cultural phenomenon without language. The Godfather would not be held as one of the best movies ever made without language. The way people talk to each other about movies shapes how that movie is perceived. Something like the movie Monster Trucks is criticized by people everywhere for being a dumb, useless movie that no one wants to see, while something like Arrival is praised for the acting, cinematography, story, and editing. So as Professor Lewis said language is both a partner to empire, in my case, Hollywood, and it can also be used to criticize that empire.



2 thoughts on “The Power Of Language In Film

  1. Interesting blog Isabelle! I enjoyed reading about a more contemporary empire for a change rather than the Incan or Spanish empire. I agree when you say that most of the time blockbuster movies have no real meaning or lesson and you give the example “any Marvel movie”. But I feel the need to defend Marvel by giving you a counterexample: in Spiderman, audiences learn that “with great power comes great responsibility” (even though it’s a message that’s kinda hidden in between all the drama, action, romance and other dumb things). This is just one example that came from the top of my mind but I still totally agree with you about most blockbuster movies. I liked that you talked about how social media, movie reviews, and word of mouth really benefit the empire (Hollywood). It made me realize that some movies would have never been so popular or a big deal if it weren’t for language.


    1. Thanks for the comment! And I’m sorry that it came across like I didn’t think Marvel movies or Star Wars have no meaning, because I know they do and I am such a big fan of them! Your Spiderman counterexample is totally valid and I think the Captain America movies have such great messages as well. But some Marvel movies like Thor 2 have no real meaning, at least in my opinion. I was just trying to emphasize that blockbuster movies don’t care as much about the quality of their movies, they just want the box office money.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s