Nightmares as entertainment
The Hollywood "dream factories" have always utilized themes from dreams and nightmares, and there's no doubt in my mind that this compelling stream of screen imagery insinuates itself into our own personal dreams and nightmares. So I was riveted by a recent New Yorker piece that provided an overview of the state of nightmare research.
Apparently, certain themes tend to dominate certain historical periods. German dream researcher Michael Schredl found that "bogeyman" dreams were popular in the 1920s; the 1950s and 60s were dominated by ghosts, devils and witches; and in the 1990s, movie villains became central elements of nightmares. Currently, the chief baddies are Voldemort and Freddy Krueger, who, in the classic movie franchise Nightmare on Elm Street, actually wrecks his knife-fingered havoc inside people's dreams. Wasn't it inevitable that he would slice his way into our dreams as well?
Current research does not clearly indicate that watching more TV or playing more computer games contributes to having more bad dreams, but children's nightmares often reflect the imagery they soak up while glued to the tube. British psychoanalyst Susan Budd actually argues that pop culture has not only affected the content of our dreams, but it has also affected their length: dreams tend to be shorter and more fragmented now than they were at the turn of the century. And it is very creepy to hear that there is a strong correlation between whether people report having black and white or color dreams, and their access to black and white or color TV and movies. It's no wonder that people get so riled up about television and film and its impact on society. Screen images literally worm their way inside our heads and help shape the stories our brains tell ourselves.