Recently there were reports of suicides attributed to Post-Avatar Depression-- that is people who were so depressed after viewing the movie Avatar that they had killed themselves in hopes of waking in an avatar body or because they were depressed that the planet Pandora did not really exist. Now if somebody killed themselves and left a note behind stating one of these as the reason we will probably never know what was going on in their heads when they performed this act. I for one was not moved by Avatar in any way other than to go to bed after it was over.
Back in the 1930's there was a Hungarian song that was later translated into English as "Gloomy Sunday" and recorded in 1941 by Billie Holiday. Urban legends began to spread that the song had been responsible for a wave of suicides. There are claims that "Gloomy Sunday" was banned in some places because it was blamed as a cause for many suicides. It's quite possible that the rumors were spread as part of a publicity campaign for the song. You can listen to an updated version here and judge for yourself--don't listen if you are highly susceptible to the power of suggestion.
Many claims have been made about the influence of the arts over human behavior. Rap and hard core music has been sometimes cited as an incitement of violent behavior among youth. The same goes for video games, movies, and television shows. Some very persuasive studies have indicated that there is a correlation between aggressiveness and what a test subject has recently viewed. Many would argue that certain language and lifestyles depicted on film and television has had a detrimental influence on the moral fiber of our society.
There has been concern expressed about the effect on young people by books such as the Harry Potter and Twilight series. There is much written work on the market that could be deemed of questionable value to the betterment of society.
I am not making any judgments, but merely posing some questions to those of you who create. If you are a creator in the arts--a writer, filmmaker, musician, songwriter, or anything else of this nature--do you think about what kind of effect your work will have upon your audience? I don't mean the short term manipulative effect upon the emotions, but the long term mental effect upon the psyche of the individual.
Do you stop to think as you progress through your work about the value of each step and if it contributes to the betterment of your audience and the world? Are we seeing classics being created in the last hundred years or so that are comparable to what we have traditionally considered "classics"? Are you in it for the ephemeral gain of the quick buck in your pocket, or are you striving for something bigger than that?
What kind of influence do you want to have on your audience?