Study Finds That Films Can Have a Measurable Impact on Audience Behavior

Norman Lear knew that film and TV could impact audience behavior 24 years ago when he co-founded EMA. EMA encourages TV shows and movies to incorporate environmental issues into story lines. Doing so increases awareness which leads to activism and eventually, change.

Researchers at the USC Annenberg Norman Lear Center released a study measuring a movie’s power to change the behavior of people who see it. The study of more than 20,000 people found that those who saw the 2010 Oscar® nominee Food, Inc. had significantly changed their eating and food shopping habits. Continue reading

From the Desk of Norman Lear…

The logline for the episode is quintessential Happy Days: “Richie goes to a local college and Fonzie takes him to the library to meet some girls.” For a sitcom in the 70s, this is standard stuff, but what happens after this episode airs on September 27, 1977 is far from standard. Millions of kids watching the show see the Fonz take out a library card — his first, mind you, which is a big deal by Happy Days standards. Younger viewers are duly impressed. In the days that follow, according to the series creator, Garry Marshall, requests for library cards zoom by more than 500% nationwide.

Dissolve to eleven years later. Dr. Jay Winsten, director of The Harvard Alcohol Project, comes to Hollywood with a new idea: the “designated driver.” Winsten meets with writers and producers of The Cosby Show, Cheers, LA Law and dozens of other prime time series. He asks them to incorporate story beats that will introduce this new concept to the drinking public. The TV community responds, and starting in November 1988, over 160 prime time episodes include subplots, scenes, or dialogue telling viewers it’s okay to party as long as someone stays sober for the drive home. One year later, a Gallup poll finds 67% of adults surveyed recognize the term “designated driver.” In 1991, Winsten’s new idea is a listing in Webster’s College Dictionary.

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