The field of social psychology is a fast growing fields which possesses a very critical vital effect on how people think about the behavior of humans, websites, magazines, newspapers, films, as well as various other forms of media that tend to report the discoveries of social psychologists, as well as the results of social psychological studies which in turn, tend to influence decisions in various areas. Social psychology refers to the research of how individuals feel about, think about, as well as behave towards the individuals around them as well as how their thoughts, behaviors, and feelings are normally influenced by these individuals. As suggested by definition, the subject matter of social psychology is quite broad and can be located in almost everything which occurs every day (Jhangiani, R., Tarry, H., & Stangor, 2014). Thus, there are numerous principles of social psychology which exist with regard to what people do every single day. Social psychology provides an understanding of many different things. For instance, it explains why people are normally helpful to other individuals as well as why they may, at times, be aggressive or unfriendly. It studies the advantages of possessing good relationships with other individuals as well as the costs of being lonely. It studies what aspects cause individuals to buy one product instead of another, why men and women tend to behave or act differently when in social surroundings, as well as why some individuals engage in environmentally friendly behaviors as compared to others, among many others. Basically, this field of science studies everyday behavior. Below, this paper will analyze three social psychology principles, modern racism, self-determination/motivation, and transcendentalist non-conformity present in the movie The Pursuit of Happyness.
The Pursuit of Happyness is a fact-based movie which premiered in 2006. Its basis is a true story which is set in San Francisco, 1981. In the film, Christopher Gardner is portrayed by Will Smith. This is a character who goes through a series of obstacles as he struggles to fend for his family. Chris is depicted as a very determined and hard-working person who will do all that he can to provide for those he loves, however, his efforts do not align with his struggles due to the inequalities of society (Mogul, n.d.).
The first principle, which is quite obvious in the film, is conformity. Conformity in social psychology is the most persuasive and most common type of social influence; it is often well-defined as the tendency to think and act as members of a certain group. In psychology, conformity refers to the act of matching beliefs, attitudes, as well as behaviors to group norms. Conformity may take different forms, such as persuasion, criticism, teasing, pressure, bullying, etc. However, in the film The Pursuit of Happyness, the belief of non-conformity is shown by the main character, Chris Gardner. This is evident in how Garner overcomes different obstacles to end the struggles which both he and his son face. Non-conformity in social psychology refers to when individual acts or behaves in ways that are against the standard norm of society. Gardner shows non-conformity as a father as well as a victim of the economic recession. He is also a victim of a bad investment after he invested all of his life savings on various Osteo National bone-density scanners, which is a device that cost twice as much as an x-ray but shows a clearer image. Doctors had determined these items were a luxury so Gardner had a hard time selling them, even though they were the only source of income for him. One good example of non-conformity in the film was a scene where Gardner and his son play basketball. Gardner tells his son in this scene that he does not have much chance to play basketball in the professional leagues. He then, after a short pause, adds, “Don’t ever let somebody tell you, ‘you can’t do something,’ not even me. You got a dream; you got to protect it. People can’t do something themselves they want to tell you; you can’t do it. You want something, you go get it. period.” These words in this scene are enough proof of non-conformity (JustinGportfolio, n.d.). These words allow the audience to understand the Gardner’s dreams of overcoming poverty as well as his intentions to provide his son with a better life. These words are, in a sense, the main theme of the movie since Gardner is constantly faced with overwhelming obstacles. For instance, he finds himself homeless, and at some point, he and his son are forced to stay at a restroom in a train station, and even donating their blood for extra cash. Yet, despite all these obstacles, Gardner refused to conform to the norm of society and accept his fate. He refused to conform or give in to his situation and to poverty. Eventually, as seen in the movie, his non-conformity bore fruits, and he managed to do well for him and his son as well (JustinGportfolio, n.d.).
Another social psychology principle present in the film is modern racism. One of the scenes, which is a clear depiction of racism is when Gardner is running late for an appointment, and he decides to obey the commands of a white man to park his car. In this scene, Mr. Frakesh, the white man, tells Chris, “Would you move my car? It would really help me out.” This sentence from the movie reinforces the existence of racism. In the sentence, Mr. Frakesh tells Gardener to park his car for him on the other side of the street as a result of the street sweepers. In spite of Chris telling Mr. Frakesh that he had “a green light from Walter Ribbon” with regards to his internship work, Mr. Frakesh rudely interrupts him by telling him he is running late for a presentation. This is an illustration of modern racism in that Chris is the one who gets picked from all the other interning individuals, most likely due to his African American descent and that all the others seem to be a member of the dominant society. Modern racism is quite frequently depicted in this film, and there are many other instances where racism is evident. For instance, when Chris shares a taxi ride with his employer, Jay Twistle, there is racism in that Twistle immediately concludes that Chris cannot solve the Rubik’s cube. He repetitively tells Chris that he is unable and cannot complete the puzzle. The comments by Twistle reinforce the idea that those of African Americans culture are not intelligent. It is evident from this scene that there exists a stereotype about how smart African Americans are. This scene emphasizes the dominant ideology regarding African Americans along with other minority groups. Nonetheless, to the surprise of Twistle, Chris was able to solve the cube in just a few minutes.
Another social psychology principle is motivation/ self-determination. In this film, Chris is portrayed as a very motivated and self-determined individual. There are many examples of this, and a good one is a scene when Chris lacked any money left to pay for his rent, and they were already far behind on their rent. Rather than giving up on everything and accepting his situation, he promised his landowner to pay him the money, and eventually he did pay his rent. He was so determined and motivated to pay his rent that he decided to paint all the walls of his apartment just to make enough money so that he could pay his rent. This is just one small instance of how determined and motivated Chris was not to give up. Chris, in the film, is a very optimistic and hopeful individual who never gives up throughout his life. He decides what he wants to do, and he actually goes for it. Even after, as depicted in the scene above, he had no money to pay for his rent and take care of his family, and even after he became homeless and his wife left him, Chris did not break down. He remained self-determined and motivated until, eventually, when things started to go his way.
In conclusion, The Pursuit of Happyness is an amazing movie which elaborates through examples of Chris Gardner’s life that everyone has the opportunity to accomplish their own pursuits of happiness if they have the drive. Determination can lead you to the happiness you expect and want for your life. Chris’s determination was so strong he just didn’t settle for a mediocre life. He accomplished much more and is a very successful man. He came along way from sleeping in that restroom in the train station. His success and motivation are admiral and can give others a lot of hope. Happiness is not something which can be pursued since everyone possesses the capacity for the happiness that they need. Happiness tends to come from within, as well as from being content. Therefore, people can choose to be happy, or they can choose to be miserable. But as illustrated by Gardner in the film giving in to conformity is not the only path that exists and isn’t the path to your own happiness.