What is Ideology in Film?

Think about any film you’ve watched and the influence that characters and their ideals have on the audience’s interpretation of them. Ideology in film is frequently referred to as the body of ideas. Which reflect the individual social needs of a group, class, culture, or individual within the story. But what is ideology in film exactly? And how does it influence the media?

Video Production Filming Camera

What is Ideology in Film?

Ideology represents a systematic world view in which we define the concepts of self and relations of self in regards to the collective state in which we live.

In order to truly understand ideology in film it is important to first break down the definition of ideology itself. What is ideology?

The Definition

One can define ideology as “the body of ideas reflecting the social needs and aspirations of an individual group, class or culture.”

Generally speaking, the term ideology has close associations with either politics or party platforms.

However, ideology may also be associated with a particular set of moral values and the underlying assumptions that are made towards individuals with those “values” or “beliefs.” 

Comprehensive Vision

Therefore, when we look at ideology in film, it’s easy to come to the conclusion that ideology in film represents a comprehensive vision.

In which assumptions of existing conformity are presented and a push towards transformation in society is made.

Ideology in film is not foreign nature or difficult to understand, it’s simply the power to impose influential views or specific ideals to a particular norm.  

How is Ideology in Film Evident?

When you watch a movie, do you see a film that delivers ideals that are directly in line with your own culture and views? Not always.

It’s very common for ideology to approach an element of belief.

In which it is imposed that ideas are the imposed beliefs within a system that are so widely accepted that they are unrecognized by the audience. 

The Director’s Impact

Every film has its own ideological slant based on the director’s values and underlying belief system.

Basically, the films ideological slant is based on what the director believes to be right and wrong.

Therefore, certain characters, institutions and cultures within the film are going to be privileged based on the Directors views.

For example:

  • Casablanca places the views of nationalism a sacred place above the notion of family and love.
  • Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid represents a cowboy’s failed metamorphosis as a failure to adjust to changing times.
  • Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid when Billy says “Times have changed, but not me,” the focus is on the cynicism of the times in Vietnam war era.
  • Thelma and Louise attempt to navigate the organized men that are out to destroy them but female protagonists suggest to men that women are fed up with the way things are from times past and are changing the future.

Types of Ideology in Film

Videographer Prepping Camera Gear 192

When it comes to ideology in film there are several different types of ideologies that can arise in a film. Categories of ideologies in film include the natural ideology, the implicit ideology and the explicit ideology.

Most of the time, films will represent implicit ideology but there are instances in which the neutral ideology arises or the ideology is explicit.

The categories of ideology in film or types of ideology in film can be further understood as follows:

Implicit ideology in film

Protagonist and antagonist have conflicting values.

But the message from the Director is slanted with a particular focus on accepting the system and particular world views as normal and just “how the world works.”

Explicit ideology in film

Typically focus on persuasion and are not willing to accept the “world views” or values as is.

Films that follow explicit ideology are seeking to persuade the audience into thinking outside the “traditional norm” box.

Neutral ideology in film

Typically focus on delivering light entertainment without an emphasis on world views or beliefs. There is no “this is just how the world operates”.

Nor is there any instance of attempting to change the views. These films are often adventurous and action oriented and may lack any focus on a value system.

Unless it is to reflect on the fun and entertainment consumerism.

Capture Interest

Ideologies in film are frequently used to capture audience interest. And engage the thought process of “what would I do in this situation” or “how would I feel.” 

Because ideologies frequently engage the juxtaposition of world views and what “is” within the world.

It’s very common for ideological viewpoints and principles to help the audience connect, or detach from their own self-image. 

The Takeaway

So what is ideology in film? And how does ideology cause the audience to connect with particular viewpoints or detach from the story?

Ideology generally is used as a means of encouraging change in society. Or in addressing a need for adherence to a particular set of ideals or norms within a viewpoint.

Where conformity already exists, ideology in film can engage a normative thought process and connect with audience members.

Likewise, where ideology in film represents abstract thoughts or opinions the result is an audience that engages in the central concept of influential decision making and distinct change. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *