Racial Trauma in Film: How Viewers Can Address Re-traumatization

Re-traumatization by film can have profound effects on one’s mental health and well-being. Some may ask, “Well it’s just a movie; can it really have that deep of an impact on someone’s mental health?” The answer to that question is, yes, it can.

When you are watching a movie or a show, your brain thinks the action on screen is happening to you. This is why you have to consciously tell your brain, “It is just a movie.” Our mirror neurons are part of the reason we cry during a sad part of a movie, laugh at jokes, and jump at a scary scene (Zacks, 2015). Our emotions are deeply impacted by watching film and media content. This raises the question: “What happens if we watch content that we have already experienced ourselves and was traumatizing in our real, present day life?”

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