These impulses have been ingrained in our behavior far beyond the relatively recent invention of movies, so our brains are in a sense tricked by a movie which elicits these emotions, despite the lack of actual interaction. Zacks also talks about his "success rule": If a human response is successful, you repeat it, even if you look like a total dork doing it in a movie theater. That's why you may flinch during an action scene, or test yourself for venereal diseases during the 3D Metallica movie.
Or viewing a John Holmes and Ron Jeremy double retrospective.
"You've got to do something a little extra to override those natural responses," says Zacks. So don't feel dumb the next time a 3D movie makes you duck, or you accidentally think Reese Witherspoon is your best friend. That's just how your dumb brain works.
The Polar Express Sucked Because We Instinctively Fear Death
The Uncanny Valley (as we've covered in the past) may sound like a shitty D&D campaign or an annoyingly trendy dream pop band, but it is in fact the term we've assigned to the creepy way something can look almost human, but not quite. This is why most androids are terrifying and Disney World's Hall of Presidents seem like they're going put aside partisan politics to leap into the audience and stab you in the face.
Walt Disney World
It was a mistake to equip them with realistic balls.
But easily the best example of the Uncanny Valley in cinema is The Polar Express, the story of a boy's trip to the North Pole to see Santa as told by a screensaver-like animation of a bunch of characters who vaguely look like hollow shells of Tom Hanks. Society as a whole seemed creeped out by this movie, but probably didn't understand why. Well, here's a fun explanation: What's the ultimate thing that looks like a person, but isn't alive? Dead people.
Yep, a lot of researchers have theorized that the human horror of the Uncanny Valley is linked to our fear of the sick, or even corpses. We evolved to fear corpses because they're packed with diseases, and we had to learn to avoid potential carriers of that stuff.
Or conductors, if you will.
Even putting aside our fear of catching sickness from dead people, remember that we also fear plain old death. Scholars believe that Uncanny Valley inhabitants can "elicit fear because they can provide a conscious or subconscious reminder of death." So the next time you're forced to sit through The Polar Express with your family during the Christmas season, remember that the reason Tom Hanks is so freaky is because your brain is telling you he's a festering corpse, and to stay the hell away. Hopefully, psychologists can now turn their attention to even greater mysteries, like why the fuck do elf versions of Aerosmith show up at the end of this movie. Seriously, why did that happen?
He looks more alive than the real Steve Tyler, but that's not saying a lot.
Also check out 4 Flawed Life Lessons Movies Accidentally Taught Us and 6 Mind-Blowing Easter Eggs Hidden In Famous Movies.
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