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Wednesday, 12 July, 2000, 11:58 GMT 12:58 UK
Big screen to windscreen

Bullitt, Mad Max, Herbie Goes Bananas. A new survey says many motorists think their driving becomes more reckless in the hours after watching stunt-filled action films.

Long has battle raged over the effects that violent films may have on society. However, the real drama could be being played out on the UK's roads.

One in three female motorists, and more than half of male, think they drive faster than usual after watching a movie packed with car stunts, says a new survey commissioned by Auto Windscreens.
Mission: Impossible II
Cruise control: Do action movies make bad drivers?

One in 10 men also thought they would be more likely to race into bends following a dose of high-octane cinema.

With screeching tyres and handbrake turns aplenty in Nicolas Cage's new movie Gone in 60 Seconds (due out in August), can we expect a summer of road mayhem?

Sue Clark of the British Board of Film Classification doubts we have much to fear when the film credits roll and the cinema car parks empty.

"There are all sorts of bits of evidence that people act differently for a very brief time after watching certain films. They may act violently after seeing a violent film, for instance."

Action and reaction

However, for every piece of laboratory data showing a link, Ms Clark says there is another piece seeming to prove the opposite.

"Some studies suggest the type of music you listen to in car has an effect of your driving. We haven't quite gotten around to warning people not to drive after seeing a film though."
Crash director David Cronenberg
Crash (1996) put bad screen driving in the news

Professor John Bargh, a psychologist at New York University, says we can be affected in all kinds of way by stimuli, such as films.

"There is a considerable amount of evidence on the carry over effects of media, so-called 'priming' effects."

Mr Bargh says audiences may be prompted to directly copy certain actions they see on the screen in the course of their everyday lives.

"We've done several studies confirming that, with rudeness, hostility, and walking speed."

Walk the walk

After being shown film of elderly people, college students actually slowed the pace at which they walked from Mr Bargh's laboratory.

"A colleague at the University of Nijmegen has done some related work showing just exposure to the name Schumacher - as in calling a questionnaire the Schumacher Test - caused people to write faster."

Of course, the power of suggestion movie blockbusters have is often not quite so subtle.
Jaws writer Peter Benchley
Fin: Peter Benchley wants to end the Jaws image

Steven Spielberg, father of the event movie as we know it today, can be blamed for terrifying several generations of swimmers.

Prior to his 1975 film Jaws, the thought of becoming supper for a killer shark crossed the minds of few of those paddling at the seaside or taking the plunge at the public baths.

In the movie's wake, lifeguards on America's East Coast reported a marked drop in the number of holidaymakers venturing into the surf.

Jaws of a dilemma

All this despite the fact that anually fewer than 12 people are killed by sharks around the world.

Peter Benchley, author of the book on which the film was based, is now campaigning to save these misunderstood creatures from the human hostility he helped spawn.

Animals can, of course, benefit from making it onto the silver screen.
Babe saved many a pig's bacon

The 1995 film Babe, the story of a mixed-up piglet, is credited with turning countless youngsters to vegetarianism, at least temporarily.

Press reports tell of diners wearing `I Don't Eat Babe!' T-shirts to American restaurants.

Babe's feathered friends have not done quite so well out of this year's claymation hit Chicken Run.

Despite the film's story about a group of hens escaping the jaws of a fearsome pie-making machine, not even its cast and crew felt any compunction to give poultry a miss at the dinner table.

Fowl play

"We had chicken on the canteen menu and everybody tucked in happily," said co-director Peter Lord.

Short-lived crazes and fashions are often sparked by the release of top Hollywood films.
Chicken Run
Poultry offering: Chicken Run can't save the birds

Few of these fads have proved as harmful to impressionable audiences as the "peekaboo" hairdo sensation of the 1940s.

Prompted by screen siren Veronica Lake - the Farah Fawcett or Jennifer Aniston of her day - thousands of women began to sport fringes long enough to cover one side of their faces.

Ms Lake was eventually convinced to tie back her blonde locks by the government.

It had become apparent that a spate of accidents in wartime armament factories was due to female workers' hair getting trapped in the machines.

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25 May 00 | UK
Putting your foot down
06 Jul 00 | Sci/Tech
Soup threatens sharks' survival
29 Jun 00 | Entertainment
Park and Lord's fowl play
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