The many relevant truths behind our visual media today create an impactful environment for viewers to explore. The incredible way we get to tell stories sheds light to the realities of everyday social struggles society continues to endure. The beauty in this genre of telling true stories lets audiences become aware of the social issues surrounding us daily while teaching us about compassion and empathy in the process.
Check out 10 films and tv shows that discuss social issues within their platforms.
1. The Falcon and the Winter Soldier
To all the superhero and comic fans out there, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier delivered amazing action sequences, but also gave powerful, combating messages of race and prejudices of the past. The leading title character, Sam Wilson, struggles with accepting the role of Captain America due to the implications that come with a Black man becoming a symbol of a nation.
However, Wilson triumphs over all judgment and finds the strength to take on the role, creating a new path of hope and tolerance for the next generations to come. This creates meaningful narratives for the future of cinema and the youth of today.
2. When They See Us
One of the most heartbreaking limited series to hit our screens was When They See Us debuted in 2019. The show speaks on the issues of racial prejudices, the corruption of the judicial system and its bias towards the persecution of black and brown individuals. While the show speaks to the real event of the Central Park 5 and can often be a very sensitive thing to watch due to the subject at hand, the message of empathy shines throughout the series.
The show creates an enormous effort to both humanize the young individuals and give a true reflection on how many young minorities wrongfully become persecuted under unlawful terms and policies.
3. Train to Busan
An action packed zombie movie like Train to Busan makes room to discuss the ways social classes work nationally and globally. The story sheds light to the transformation of the main character Seok-woo, a man who goes from a selfish businessman to a cooperative team player amongst a group of apocalypse survivors.
The chaotic situation they have found themselves in helps them realize the social class divide that corrupts the minds of all people and exposes who have been chosen to be saved from the zombies: the South Korean elites. The movie’s message reveals that we should all treat each other with respect and look out for each other if we have the ability to do so.
One of the most talked about series, Euphoria, opens up the conversation of drug addiction and the struggle with getting clean. The main character, Rue Bennet, goes through constant relapses while also dealing with her mental health issues. What makes this show truthful would be the way it displays addiction, especially how it could affect the youth of today.
“Parents assume that school is a haven for us students when really it’s the perfect place for all the dangers in the world. A show like Euphoria shows the truth to that reality. You see a 16 year old coming home from rehab and abusing her body with drugs just to live another day. Abandonment issues lead to a growing, unhealthy obsession of being perfect so you don’t lose someone you care about. This is something we all face. We all have unresolved trauma, it’s up to us how we go about it,” College of the Desert freshman Maria Calderon said.
The struggle with getting clean continues to be different for every individual, but Euphoria emphasizes that it won’t be a pretty process and it requires a lot of love and care to be able to get to a place of sobriety.
Who knew the story of a little girl and her lovable, giant pig friend could contain such impactful lessons of corporate exploitation of the environment? The story of Okja takes a deep dive into the ways big corporations, named the Mirando Corporation in the film, use the faces of these cute creatures to create a positive reputation in front of the general public.
Yet, it proves inhumane and cruel to both the animals in question and the owners who helped raise them. The film teaches the audience to both be kind to animals and advocate for their rights as living beings.
Yes, even a beloved childhood cartoon can contain some powerful messages of the state of our society. Robots, focused on the coming-of-age story of Rodney Copperbottom, focuses on the way corporate greed and consumer culture affects different social and economic classes. While the big bad of the story, Phineas T. Ratchet, promotes new upgrades for the robots to purchase through Bigweld Industries, many older modeled robots have to fend for themselves on the street by scavenging for spare parts.
“Watching it as a child, I didn’t understand the bigger message it was portraying. As I got older I saw how it demonstrates the way capitalist societies rely and thrive on class stratification and inequality,” University of California, Irvine freshman Roberto Sanchez said.
Robots may be a comedy, but its aim to tell the truth of our society makes it an even more valuable movie in powerful, classic cinema.
There’s a clear reason why Moonlight won Best Picture at the Academy Awards in 2017. The film packs an emotional journey throughout, with both the pressures of addiction and coming to terms with your personal identity. The film’s main character, Chiron, deals with the social struggles and hardships of being a Black gay man.
Chiron attempts to understand his desires and what he truly wants out of his life with love and his relationship with his mother. What makes this film exquisite comes down to the fact that the movie does not end in tragedy like most LGBTQ+ stories and leaves the audience with a hopeful ending on Chiron and Kevin’s blossoming romance.
8. Thelma and Louise
Thelma and Louise, a narrative of two women going on a road trip, doubles as a message on how the overbearing patriarchy affects the lives of ordinary women daily. These young women have had enough with being overwhelmed by their lives and the control men have over them that they eventually decide that running away would be the better option than having to go back and be persecuted by mostly male law enforcement.
Viewers spend a good portion of the film rooting for these two women even as they commit several crimes because they do this in an attempt to fight for justice against the oppressive measures men have forced for far too long.
9. I’m a Cyborg, but That’s OK
An incredible South Korean film goes by the name I’m a Cyborg, but That’s OK. The story revolves around two mental patients, Young-goon and Il-sun, who learn to take care of each other and empathize with one another inside of the mental hospital.
An important aspect of the film would be its attempt to neither villainize these characters nor force them to change by the end of the film. Instead, the story actually has these characters’ mental states stay exactly the same throughout the film, humanizing their stories and giving audiences a real, unexaggerated look into the life of someone suffering with severe mental health issues.
10. Chicken Run
A stop-motion classic would be the tale of Chicken Run. The story has heart and humor to guide viewers along with the message of labor exploitation seen through the hens, who produce countless amounts of eggs, yet do not see any fair conditions for their involvement on the farm.
“At first, Chicken Run just seems like an ordinary movie about a rebellion of hens. Watching and analyzing the movie when I became older made me realize how the film relates to the exploitation of low wage workers. It portrays the reality of corporations and how these laborers are worked to the brink of death. Most importantly it shows hope perseveres, and how the greedy will always face consequences for their inhumane actions,” said University of California, Santa Barbara freshman Andrea Paz said.
While you can view this story as just another humorous cartoon, the message behind it comes out abundantly clear. The humanity and truth of reality shines through these hens and can compare to the ways in which real life workers deal with these unfair working conditions.