Anyway, this was not meant to be a critique of the Harry Potter phenomenon. I just always feel the need to do some (fairly extensive) scene setting before I get to my main point. So here it is.
We arrived at the cinema for 10.30 am, and had to sit through 30 minutes of adverts for various products and forthcoming attractions. Now, we don't have a television. (My older children have portables in their rooms, but you would be taking your life in your hands trying to negotiate a safe passageway to the on button, never mind locate the remotecontrol . ) Furthermore, it has been at least 3 years since I last went to the cinema, so I have not been subjected to on screen advertising for some time. I even commented to my daughter that I was a bit dazzled by it all.
It was a very interesting experience watching these short pieces of film, designed to draw the audience in to wanting - no, needing that product. The adverts were for various products - mobile phone companies, computer games, children's sweets among others. What struck me most was how aggressive the tone of many of these ads were. The computer games featured monsters breaking down walls, explosions with great plumes of smoke billowing towards us, lots of shouting, noise and general chaos. The advert for thechildrens' sweets featured 2 young children, aggressively interrogating their Dad, who had apparently eaten all of a particular variety, in the style of a macho detective show.
The atmosphere grew progressively darker with the forthcoming attractions feature. What an array of doom laden, depressing and gloomy movies we have to look forward to. Even the 'comedies' were all about bad things happening to people. Each trailer seemed to open with either a huge explosion,someone's face contorted in a scream, fighter spaceships blasting through the screen, even, bizarrely, special agent guinea pigs blasting on to the screen in fighting poses.
Is the world really such an anguished place? Is there no room for love, gentleness or positive images of family life? Is there any hope? The world I saw portrayed in that half hour before the 'main feature' filled me with despair. Did my fellow viewers feel the same, or was it just that I now watch in a different way? My daughter said she doesn't pay attention to ads and they just wash over her. Is that true?
Martin Large, in his excellent book Set Free Childhood, describes the TV Brain phenomenon. Studies have shown that watching TV inhibits the working of the left brain, which deals sequentially with logic, language, analysis and reason. The right brain, which primarily deals with images, colours and emotions, is thus given free reign. He quotes a study in which the conclusion was "Television is a communication medium that effortlessly transmits huge quantities of information not thought about at the time of exposure" (my italics).
I think it is time we paid big attention to what we are being given to watch on screen. It is only by paying attention that we can begin to think ourselves out of this sad and unhappy place. Otherwise we may be sleepwalking into the kind of 2012 future that the entertainment industry presents us with. There - see! I have begun to portray life as a potential apocalyptical event. Voldemort round every corner, death eaters trying to break into my house; I hear the deep gravelly voice saying "it begins..."Where is my wand when I need it?