Film and Your Health 

A "scientific" examination

Arguably, we sensitive little humans are hedonistic creatures through and through. We seek that which brings us the "warm and fuzzies." Entertainment is meant to make us feel good, to distract us from our day-to-day stress and unhappiness.

Often, successful movies are simply those that have a positive effect upon viewers. A successful inspirational film, for example, uplifts viewers while a good romance gets the viewer's pulse racing and heart fluttering. A good thriller or horror movie provides an emotional catharsis of sorts, causing a bit of stress with a relieving resolution. But what effect can a bad movie have on a viewer? Is it possible, as we so often joke, that a movie can be so stupid as to actually make its viewer "stupider" simply for having viewed it?

Thinking my own intellect and physical health could have been compromised by my previous movie watching experiences, I committed to risking life and limb to determine whether Hollywood is a health risk.

First, I located a Web site that provides numerous free Intelligence Quotient exams and took a preliminary test as a control before watching any movies. After scoring a whopping 126, I searched for a movie moronic enough to threaten to lower my intelligence. Though a plethora of dumb movies exist (often so named, like the cult classic Dumb and Dumber), I chose Jury Duty, since anything starring Pauly Shore certainly qualifies as "dumb."

Jury Duty, Shore's starring vehicle from 1995, is so bad that Andrew Dice Clay had his name removed from the credits. The story, as such, concerns Shore's attempts to prolong the deliberations of a jury he sits on. At first, he does so merely to continue collecting his daily $5 payment, but he gradually realizes the accused is actually innocent, and then convinces everyone else on the jury as well.

After struggling through this brain-dead, infantile exercise, I was fairly certain my IQ had dwindled considerably. I was shocked when my second test netted an improved score of 128.

Urban myth one: fiction. Even an abysmally stupid movie cannot make you stupider. On to test number two.

Since a stupid movie had actually improved my IQ, I decided it was possible that an annoying, irritating movie might have a similar positive effect on me, at least physically.

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I chose Legally Blonde 2, the 2003 sequel to the original sleeper hit, and for this experiment, I monitored my blood pressure. Before the movie my blood pressure was well within the normal range at 115 over 72. Then I viewed the film, and when its highlight proved to be a gay love affair between two dogs, I knew I was in trouble. The dog motif is quite fitting, though, as "dog" is a very concise review of this movie.

After the film was finally over, I checked my blood pressure again. It had jumped to 136 over 89, which is still within the normal range, but shows an obvious increase. While an increase in my blood pressure was not surprising given the movie content I had subjected myself to, I was still a little shocked by the IQ results. Remembering my grade school science experiment lessons, I decided another test was in order to confirm my initial results. In one last test, I monitored both the mental and physical effects of a film.

The last test had to center on a film that posed a serious threat. It had to annoy, irritate and be a high scorer on the stupid scale.

click to enlarge Screen_MonsterInLaw.jpg
Figuring any movie starring Jennifer Lopez learning to love and respect Jane Fonda couldn't help but anger me and insult my intelligence, I opted for the recent home video release Monster-In-Law. In Monster-In-Law, Lopez plays the fiancee of Fonda's son, and the film follows an expected path of events, with Fonda trying every trick in the book to break up the couple and Lopez predictably getting revenge. What wasn't so predictable was how utterly crazy Fonda's character turns out to be. Having just been released from a clinic following a mental breakdown, she proceeds to do her best to drive Lopez crazy as well. The whole thing ends up getting borderline scary as Fonda attempts to poison Lopez with food she's allergic to, and the two of them engage in an admittedly humorous slap fight. In fact, the film was so close to its conclusion when they finally came to blows that I began to think it was going to degenerate into a knock-down, drag-out, bloody battle of wills, maybe Whatever Happened to Baby Jane Fonda? Unfortunately, through the arrival of a contrived character introduced at the last minute, Fonda sees the error of her ways and everybody lives happily ever after.

The results? A new round of tests following the movie's ending proved what the previous two tests had hinted. My IQ jumped up to 136, and my blood pressure escalated into the high range with a reading of 141 over 98.

So what does all of this nonsense prove? My completely amateur conclusion is that watching bad movies evens out in the long run. Sure, an Internet IQ test may say you're getting a little smarter from letting your brain rot in front of a bad movie, but it may come at the price of risking your cardiovascular health. Personally, I've been an avid bad movie watcher pretty much all of my life, and now that I think about it, I always made the honor roll in grade school and the Dean's List in college. Of course, I was also rather unhealthy, missing lots of school and classes in the process. Hmm ... that's an interesting coincidence.

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