Friday, December 15, 2006

The Pursuit of Happy-ness....

Of late, there have been endless reviews of "The Pursuit of Happyness", starring Will Smith and his son. I'm sure everyone here has seen the commercials so I won't reiterate the story here.

There are a few things I'd like to say, though.

The first one is that I will not be seeing this movie. The entire premise is offensive.

Here are a few reasons why:

The movie promotes the idea that material success is the highest value, that it will deliver happiness. It does not. The movie does absolutely nothing to promote the values of loyalty to others, charity, generosity or lessons learned through adversity that would make most of us more compassionate toward others. We never find out if Smith's character (based on a real guy.... one whom I hope to never meet) experiences spiritual growth.

It downplays the struggles of real homeless people who deal with multiple hurdles that have nothing to do with attitude or perseverance. Homeless people can not find a job because they don't have an address or a phone. They often don't have the resources for personal grooming. They often have disabilities that need to be addressed by the social services system. It is not enough to say a homeless person should just cowboy up and change their thinking. The if you really want it, you can have it mentality is shallow and unrealistic. The entire message downplays the class and race issues in this country with simplistic platitudes. It promotes the notion that only those with resources truly have the right to increased resources. How many homeless people could really walk into a Wall Street stock brokerage and get a job?

It promotes predatory individualism. At one point in the film, Smith says to his son, "Don't let anyone tell you, you can't do something... not even me." The message is that personal dreams and desire trump everything else, that we have no obligation to others or society at large. The only thing that matter is that we are individually "happy". If someone gets in the way, stomp 'em down.

The Horatio Alger theme runs through many American movies in one form or another. This one is just a bit more blatant and heavy-handed in its presentation. I give it five stars on the Mindless Propaganda Scale.

Peace to all ~



jen said...

you already know i agree with you - but i must say, the guy was a heck of a father and a heck of a man....his story was inspiring. misleading and unapplicable to the plight, but still might check out the book he wrote, which is a better tale and much less hollywoodized.

Caro said...

I very much disliked the premise of this film and for various reasons. Mainly because it takes a very complex issue like poverty and whittles it down to this : if you work hard enough and are determined, you can overcome indigence and be a success, look at Will Smith, he did it, so can you! It says if you are poor then you must be lazy, look at hard-working Will Smith, he made it in the corporate world, he did it for his son! What if you do not want to be rich? What if the thought of going to work everyday scares you to the point of paralysis? What if "the desert" has you in its deadly grip? Does that make you a contemptable, lazy, good for nothing parasite? I came out of the theater , my throat a mess of angry knots. By the length of this comment I think I am still a little angry.

leann said...

I haven,t seen the movie so I can,t comment on it.but I can on homeless people.I was one for a while being shifted back and forth from one place to the other.and almost ended up living in a tent for a while.people who slip through the cracks aren,t cared for by the government.they only get help by christain groups.these are people who eather got pushed out of places in the 80,s do to government cut backs or who needed help and couldnt find any because of no money.but for the grace of God go I.if it han,t been for the Lord leading me thourgh the government red tape I would be dead now.I had no money and was sick and would un known to me then need a life saving operation.well it was the Lord who helped me get the help I needed.see the Lord has layed it on others hearts to put safe grauds out there for those who need it.and thank God I was able to learn how to get it.but others do not know how.and with out someone to show them they slip through the cracks.but I believe every one can pull them selves up out of the pit with the Lords help and just plain pit bull fight!!I have seen people do it.and they pass that fight to their off spring if they are mom tought me to never give up.and the Lord gives me the strangth to keep on.Happy-ness is a state of one can make you happy but your have to choose to be happy.

Thailand Gal said...

Jen, I don't know if I would find something like that inspiring. Unless it goes quite a bit deeper, I just don't find someone getting rich at the expense of others to be particularly attractive. Capitalism, as they say, is not a victimless crime. I dunno. It's one of my mental blocks maybe. I'd be interested to hear your perspective though. :)


Caro, you nailed it exactly. That is exactly the point I have been trying to make. This culture is far too obsessed with money. (which is not to say many other cultures aren't similarly afflicted :) As a disabled person myself, I know exactly what you mean about perceptions and turning someone into an "Other", simply because we do not participate in produce-and-consume. Perhaps my one advantage is that I truly don't care much about the judgements of others. That is a positive byproduct of "the desert". One gets thick skin. Still, have you considered a blog? These are the things that need to be said.


Leann, Jesus was right. People can come up with a ton of plausible reasons why they can't get their hands dirty. (Buddhism uses karma as an excuse... New Age will tell you that interfering in the karma of others is destructive... blah blah blah.) Truth is: yes, we have an obligation to help each other in any way possible and, no, there are no excuses or valid reasons for abdicating that responsibility.

*clink, rattle of bangle bracelets... *thunk*... (Sound of Chani stepping down from the soap box.)


Thanks, guys. This is an important topic.



joe said...

Your oversimplified and uninformed opinion splashes across the water but like a skipping stone sinks after a short show. I have seen the movie and been in the situations and the fact of the matter is that while many people truly need assistance and cannot under their own power succeed in the fair and free market most are simply too lazy. The basic needs of life are food and shelter both of which can be obtained for free everyday. This leads to the understanding by many that they need not produce in order to consume. Try to eat an apple that has not been grown and don't complain to me about your hunger. Try to start your car without the thousands involved in producing and refining petroleum. No man is a society to himself but a society that allows a certain percentage to eat and talk their way through life without providing a fair share of goods in return will find itself in shortages and the non producing will be left to fail or the society that hold them up will fall. Tell me why a poor farmer must work 80 hours a week and barely survive compared to the standards of a lawyer while able bodied men of sound mind dominate the free soup and housing lines in our cities all the while complaining that what they have been given, and have no right to, is not enough. If only i had "blah" i could get "blah" but do they ever rise with determination and obtain their "blah"? no. why should they? we have taught them that if they simply stomp their feet long enough they will get what they need to survive. Don't blame the lawyer for his success instead look at all he has done to earn it and truly understand that nothing is free. I can tell you that here in America you can make more money without any employment then you can in a service industry part time job. In effect we will pay you not to work please. I am done taking apart the bullshit defense you have built for the failures within our society. Yes not having a job with which you can purchase what you need is failure. You let yourself down and all of the workers who will silently pay for your existence until you one day get off your ass.
Now i will comment upon the ignorant statement about capitalism being a crime with victims. First we are not a capitalist society the government has never allowed a truly open market to exist. Second in that we provide goods at market cost to other nations we are suppling them with a need at a lower cost then they can produce it. This allows that country to use its labor in other pursuits. This has been the force on earth that has moved the masses from the farms to the cities. Trade of efficiently produced goods in large quantities has enabled the advancement of technology, communication, transportation, and governance. The capitalist victims that i am almost sure you are indicating are the low paid workers in outsourced jobs markets in third world nations. In comparison to American life theirs sucks. The suckage does not come from the "low" wage recieved at the new position but because they live in a third world nation. Capitalism does not provide them with relief because their local governments don't allow capitalism to control their markets. local wars long fought terrorize their populace. the addition of a job market to their country has provided some of them with a wage which they would otherwise not have. It has not enslaved the employee in any way. You as a group have missed the point of this movie and are trying to tie everything including global politics in with it. The simple fact here is this movie is about a single dad's ability to groom himself without resources and keep the kind of attitude necessary to achieve something truly amazing. it took guts to try, unimaginable pain to work through and strength to achieve. The man had to overcome the address and phone number hurdles. The man had to overcome the demands of two jobs no home and no support. He did so because the quality of his son's life and his meant enough to him that he never faltered in the pursuit of happiness.