I recently came across this answer which recommends that the OP watch a popular movie that focuses on a situation similar to the one that the question is asking about.

We had a conversation in chat about whether or not films and tv shows were acceptable backup for a post. The conversation was brief and did not have many people involved, but the more common belief was that movies/tv are not great backup. I certainly don't believe that an answer based entirely on seeing a similar interpersonal situation in a movie would be a good answer here, but things get a bit fuzzier in situations like the answer I linked.

The linked example

The example I linked is a bit of a grey area because the movie being mentioned is not being used as the sole backup for the answer. Instead, the answer references a psychology blog that draws on several research studies to form conclusions about topics related to the question being asked. In addition to linking to this study, the answerer also recommends watching a movie

You might wanna watch this movie (Crazy Rich Asians). It's an exaggerated comedy genre, but it'd be good for you.

The suggestion is qualified by pointing out that the movie is a fictional comedy, but it the fact that it is being recommended still implies that the author thinks there is merit in watching the movie in order to learn interpersonal skills.

Possible issues

There are a few reasons that I think recommending movies/tv shows could be a bad idea

  • They are fiction designed for entertainment rather than for accurately portraying interpersonal skills
  • Situations in film tend to be contrived to be overly dramatic
  • Resolutions are often portrayed much more simplistically than they would be in reality

So, the key question is:

Should we be recommending works created for entertainment (movies, tv shows, fiction books, etc...) as examples of good interpersonal skills in action?

1 Answer 1


The answer you link has problems outside of the movie reference, ie it just says "you should" do this and "you are gonna have to" do that and then finishes with "this answer is just an opinion" and a link drop. But ignoring all of that to focus on your question...

Film and TV shows are at the heart of human culture. The way we interact shapes these mediums and they in turn shape the way we interact. I think ignoring the nuance behind the effect of TV/film on our interpersonal interactions is ignoring a large part of the psychology behind IPS.

In fact, mass media has some extremely interesting and well-researched effects like Social Learning and Priming (and more in the general Wikipedia article on the influence of mass media).

All of that to say, I don't think pointing at a movie and saying "Well Bobby did X there and it worked, so if you do X it'll work for you too!" As you say, movies do tend to oversimplify and exaggerated things (or just be blatantly wrong if it fits the creators needs!). However, I do think that referencing critically acclaimed media as a secondary or tertiary source for the purpose of "this way of thinking does exist" or "other people agree with this" may be useful.

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    not only that, but the answer doesn't even say "X did Y and it worked" - it expects the asker to watch the whole movie and then learn some point from it. If the answer said "you need to X, which you can see Y slowly try doing in movie A," then that would be different. Jan 20, 2020 at 21:41

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