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Power of Narrative Essay

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    What are beliefs but a series of ideas that have likely originated from lessons we’ve learned from stories. Ones we’ve learned from our own lives or watched unfold. Stories have been around for centuries to pass down history or values. Stories are powerful in communication and for the psyche in which we want life to be explained in a story. There are few things more alluring then a well told story because as humans we want to know what happens next and we form connections with the characters or events and our personal lives. Stories and their narrations can have other goals then to just tell a story they can be to persuade a person to a certain idea.

    The purpose of this paper will be to identify, critique and analyze Pursuit of Happyness, directed by Gabriele Muccino, and the narrative which ultimately promotes capitalism. In Pursuit of Happyness, the camera follows the protagonist, single father and stockbroker intern, Chris Gardner, struggling to create a better life for he and his son in the American corporate world. The title alone reflects the movie’s ethos: happiness as a direct result of quality work and resilience. The American dream that everyone should have an equal opportunity for success through hard work and determination. (Cambridge dictionary, n.d) The title is tribute to Thomas Jefferson’s enlightenment philosophy as immortalized in the Declaration of Independence: the right of any person to pursue what makes them happy. The American Dream and the “pursuit of happiness” define happiness itself in two ways, one rational and the other overly optimistic. It tells the viewer that happiness is the perfection of security and capital accumulation. In the United states, the quantitative bigness of wealth, provides power and recognition thusly romanticizing capitalism among businessmen.(Weber, 1905)

    A blast from the recent 1980’s past, the movie shows Ronald Reagan encouraging Americans to believe in themselves again and work hard for the futures they long for. Capitalism is the blood pumping in the veins of the narration of this movie and throughout America since the dawn of our complex nation. The history of capitalism in America is filled with stories of individuals born into poverty or facing it only to later overcome and rise to success leading to the rationale, the land of opportunity. This message asserts one to not simply show up at work but that when one strives for a lasting and better future, the end result will most likely launch one up and out of circumstances. Again capitalizing on Reagan speech in this film which suggest to some a time when the nation had the largest period of economic growth in history of our nation. (Limbaugh, 2015) Reagan prosthelytize “Supply-Side economics” which states increased production drives economic growth and the factors of production are capital, labor, entrepreneurship and land. (Amadeo, 2018) Reagan promoted free market and capitalism as a cural to the nation’s problems. Drawing in the success of that era, we are reminded of what capitalism and free market can do for our nation and why the film allures to this concept. The film asserts individualism and resilience: not letting anyone tell you that you can’t do something. The pursuit of happiness survives and thrives because it keeps the hopeful dreamer dreaming.

    When we use this expression we think that people tell us we can’t do something simply because they don’t think it’s possible or that they’ve never seen it done. This message fuels determination to obtain a goal and thus prove naysayers wrong. This movie takes a factual story which emphasizes a “rag to riches” story and gives overzealous hope in a definite amelioration of one’s circumstances. The movie inadequately shows what the true struggle of social mobility, and how only few people really become rich with a capitalist economy. As Marx tried to demonstrate in Capital, that the political economy is ideological because it conceals the operation of capitalism as a class system. (Giddens, 1983) This gives people the false sense that they can exercise their freedom of choice in employer/employee relationship but in fact there is still alienation and exploitation. Despite it’s “Pollyanna attitude,” the story manages to connect its viewers via intimate witnesses of the hardship the protagonist overcomes.

    While tugging on heartstrings, the movie skims over how rich become richer and poor become poorer. The movie does not even allude to Chris Gardner being a black man in the 1980’s when inequality still permeated America. The narration of the movie promotes ideas that anyone can obtain social mobility with hard work and determination. That the American dream is attainable. Chris Gardner states how happy the business men and women looked with all their luxury. This is in fact a huge misconception as we’ve now seen that money is not making people any more happier. Psychologist Oliver James points out how addiction to economic growth and personal material gain increases the likelihood of disappointment and depression. (Power, 2011) Despite a rose-tinted lens this film successfully asserts that capitalism is an illusion and reality of happiness. The movie fuels capitalism because it demonstrates two realities; material comfort and lack thereof. We witness the hardship Gardner endures in seeking a room in a shelter as a last resort when he runs out of money. Paradoxically, Gardners coworkers and broker clients soak up luxurious and leisurely lives of excess shared with their families. A poignant scene in the film presents Gardner with a potential client in box seats at a NFL game.

    In one short scene the viewer witnesses both the potential client’s affluence and Gardners penury. The voice of Gardner’s son gives voice to the American dream, attainable or not; the desire to work and enjoy life’s comforts and consumerism. These varied and accessible perspectives presented in the film render the film as an instrument for idealists across the nation. It is understandable if not necessarily pardonable that Washington officials wielded this film as a conduit of idealized capitalism when they intentionally showed it to a group of homeless people to enlighten them. It can be apparent the movie version of capitalism and real life version of capitalism. People definitely pay to see the former for all reasons listed throughout this paper. The movie paints capitalism in favorable light in which Gardner is able to overcome very unfavorable odds. It fantasies’ the idea of pursuit of happiness as a tangible, and obtainable thing. It promotes Capitalism because it does not tell the truths that lie behind the story. It relies heavily on the idea of social mobility as a direct path from hard work. By ignoring some of the crucial problems of the time the movie provides an idealistic state which perpetuates capitalistic ideals to obtain success, happiness, and wealth. As Michael Mann stated it is not in consciously articulated ideology that capitalism finds its support and its stability. (Mann, 1975)

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