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Inquiry Paper

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Inquiry Paper

  1. 1. Kirk Rose Comm 145I Materialism in Society Abstract: In the 21st century we see these musicians, actors, and sports figures with all kinds of nice things. As kids we all grow up wanting to get good jobs so we can have big houses, nice cars, and be able to go on luxurious vacations. Well this is something that is wrong with our society. Finding out what influences these behaviors is something we need to study and find out. Looking at films such as Bruce Almighty, Click, Forrest Gump, and Family Man we can get a better understanding of what causes us to grow up thinking this way. These films have a sense of materialism engraved in them and this leads to kids and adults feeling like the only way to be happy are to have the nicest things money can buy. Is this really the case or are we reading too much into these movies. Introduction Growing up in today’s society we are obsessed with having all kinds of nice new things. I remember a time when I was a little boy and the first PlayStation came out. I just had to have it no matter how much it cost. I told my parents that I would do as many chores or whatever they wanted to have it. I can not quite remember how much it cost at the time but to a young kid like I was, it seemed like a million dollars. Having the nicest stuff and wanting as much as we can is something that is engraved in our society. We see all these rich celebrities with five cars and three mansions with another three vacation homes. Who really needs all this stuff, is having all this stuff really beneficial to our everyday lives? In this researcher project I am going to look at how films like Bruce Almighty, Click, Forrest Gump, and Family Man show how our society in American is obsessed with materialism.
  2. 2. Bruce Almighty In the film Bruce Almighty there was the ideology of materialism and how everyone wants more. One scene that made this completely obvious was after Bruce had gotten Gods powers. Once God gave Bruce his powers he told Bruce to use them wisely and to help others with them. Well after Bruce used his powers to get his job back like I explained earlier he went around doing things that he felt would improve his own life. So he did things like turn his car into a nicer more expensive car. He went out and got a new wardrobe and started getting things that he didn’t really need, but now that he had the power he wanted as much as he could get his hands on. Another scene that showed this sense of materialism is when Bruce’s girlfriend broke up with him and he was trying to get her back. He was buying her flowers and trying to be Mr. Romantic with her, but what he didn’t realize is that she could see he had become materialistic, and she just wanted him to be the same person she met and fell in love with. Bruce thought that he could use the powers God gave him to influence his girlfriend into loving him again by buying her things and being materialistic. He found out that that doesn’t work in the real world you can’t just buy things for people to get them to like you. The last scene that I felt show some sense of materialism was after Bruce got the anchor job the company through a big party for him. During the party Bruce was calling his girlfriend to come down and join the party but she wasn’t answering so he left a message. After he had hung up one of the other girls that worked at the news station started to flirt with him. Things got heated and she told Bruce that she liked him and then went in and started to kiss him. I felt this showed some kind of materialism because before Bruce had the powers and all these things she never showed really any interest in him. Now that he has all these new things and the high anchor position she decided that she was attracted to him. This to me showed that she was materialistic because she wants Bruce now that he has all
  3. 3. this stuff. While the movie Bruce Almighty was not centered on materialism there are many instances where it can be found throughout the movie. Bruce Almighty isn’t the only American film that displays some form of materialism. Click In the next film I watched, Click, I saw some of the same things. It starts out with Adam Sandler living a normal life with his family. At his job he is really looking forward to a raise and then going on a vacation with his family that they never seem to go on. He goes to a store to find a new remote for the T.V. and this guy tries to sell him a universal remote. With this remote you can fast forward through anything in your life you want. I found this to be materialistic because he planned on using this remote to fast forward though every bad thing that happens in his life. It ends up that he gets a big promotion and gets all this nice stuff like a big office, new house and cars, but it costs him his family. The ideology of materialism focuses on having the best stuff and as much as you want. It does not guard you for being obsessed with that stuff and losing everything you had before. So now Adam starts to think that this remote, while it helped him achieve all this nice cool stuff, was costing him his family. His wife and he eventually got a divorce and she married someone else. He starts to realize that having a nice job and more money is meaningless if you don’t have the love of your family around you. He starts to develop health problems from all the stress of being the head guy at his company. Towards the end he has a heart attack and is in the hospital. This is when I feel he figured out that having all this nice stuff was pointless if he had no one to share it with, and that it cost him the family he once had and adored. From this movie I found that materialism while on the surface might seem like something cool it can also turn a lot of people away from you.
  4. 4. Forrest Gump The next film I found materialism in was Forrest Gump. While watching the film I started to think that this movie pretty much shows the opposite of materialism, but shows how materialism is not always such a great thing. In the film Forrest is a young man who grows up in the southern United States. He didn’t have all the nicest things growing up and often got picked on in school because he was mentally handicapped. Forrest eventually joined the Army and met his best friend Bubba. Together they joined to form the Bubba Gump shrimp company. Throughout all this Forrest was in love with his friend Jenny but never could tell her how he felt. He had to witness her grow up and hang out with the wrong group of people where she was getting into drugs and having sex with random guys. But none of this upset Forrest and he never had the sense of needing a lot of things to cope with the pain he felt from seeing what Jenny was doing. From watching Forrest Gump I got the sense that to him all that really mattered was living life to the fullest and seeing Jenny be happy. Later on in the film he goes to visit her and finds out that she had his kid but never told him. When he meets his kid for the first time he falls in love and it seems like he’s the happiest guy on earth because he now has his girl and a family. While this film did not fit in with the theme of materialism, I feel it did show that you can still be happy without being materialistic. You can still live life to the fullest and be happy even if you don’t make a lot of money. Forrest was happy throughout the movie just being himself and doing the things that made him feel good. Family Man The final film I viewed with some materialistic views was Family Man with Nicolas Cage. In this film the main character Jack is a wealthy business man who has never had a desire to have a family and is only concerned with his money and his possessions. This is a clear
  5. 5. example of materialism. People who solely live for having as much of something as they can (like money) sometimes don’t have the life they truly want. Jack meets a guy who claims to have a winning lotto ticket but the store clerk doesn’t believe him. So Jack says he’ll buy it from him to avoid any further actions by the guy with the ticket. After this happens Jack is sent to another time period where he decided to not pursue his goal of becoming an investment banker. He then has a life with a girl named Kate. In the real world they are both successful and single but in this new time they are together with low end jobs. So Jack struggles with the life of family man because all he knew before was being a rich successful single man. He was not used to doing things with the kids and having to go to a job where he actually had to do real work, instead of being behind a desk. When he goes back to his old life he realizes that this life of luxury might not be what he wanted after all. So the materialistic issue I found here was that while Jack has all these nice things and is rich, that not always the best way to live your life. Jack found out what was going to make him happy was to have a family. Just because your wealthy and can do anything without money holding you back, does not necessarily mean you are going to be happy. Character Traits When it comes to the characteristics of the characters in these films I feel there are some similarities and some differences within them. One trait they all share is the desire to be happy and live a fulfilling life. They all have their own way of achieving this goal. Like in Bruce Almighty he wants to gain a job promotion in order to have new and nicer things for him and his girlfriend. Adam also wants to gain a higher paying job in order to do all the things he promised his family they can do. I felt with Jack he already had a high paying job and he was totally content with his life until he went to that parallel universe and realized he really wants to have a family. Then there is Forrest who just seems to be happy with what ever gets thrown his way.
  6. 6. He’s out there just living his life, without all these nice and fancy things and he seems totally content with the way things are going. Some differences I saw in their materialistic ways first with Forrest. While they all want to live happier lives I felt Forrest was the only one who didn’t care about money or material goods. He just went about his everyday life trying to make the best of every situation he found himself in. When Forrest was fighting in the war during the movie and Lieutenant Dan found himself with no legs and no way to escape, Forrest found it in him to save Lieutenant Dan. Forrest knew he could also lose his life saving his friend but that did not matter to him. He wanted to make sure that his friend was going to survive. Later on Lieutenant Dan gets mad with Forrest and tells him he should have just let him die because now he won’t be able to get a job that pays him good enough to have nice things. This shows Lieutenant Dan was even more materialistic than Forrest since he’d rather be dead than be alive and not able to have nice things. As for the other three they had some differences in the way they went about solving their problems. Where Forrest was looking out for other people they were only looking out for themselves. In Click Adam did not want to go through anything that involved arguing or anything he did not find as fun. So he used his universal remote to fast forward though everything he did not want to live through. Well there was a catch with the remote, it figured out all the things he was fast forwarding and would just automatically fast forward through it. It got to the point where the remote was fast forwarding through years of his life. I found this to be materialistic because people who are obsessed with having all kinds of things are only worried about themselves and what they have. This can lead you to losing friends and family for the way you act.
  7. 7. Reflection on Society The final thing I’m going to talk about is how the reflection of our materialistic society is engraved in these films. For three of the films I watched they were all created after the year 2000 so I’m going to focus on these three films in this section. First with Bruce Almighty, during the film Bruce has and average job and lives in a town house. But his desire for more is what pushes him to the breaking point. He blames God for all his misfortunes in life. To average people his problems would not seem so bad, but his need for nicer and better things makes him think that way. Once God give Bruce his powers he tells him to make sure he helps other people with his new powers. Well the first thing Bruce does is find a way to get back at Evan, the guy who got the promotion he wanted. He goes out and gets himself all these new things. This shows that the materialistic views of Bruce lead him to being self-centered and only doing things for him. The next film is Click; Adam Sandler’s character is focused on making his life better. He goes to the store to buy a new remote for the T.V. but when he finds this universal remote he wants to know more. The guy says with this remote you can fast forward, pause or doing anything to real time that you want. Adam thinks this would be a good way to get the things he’s always wanted. His self-centered, materialistic ways lead him to over using the remote and ends up ruining the life he had already built. The final film I analyzed was Family Man. The materialistic ways of Jack have always kept him from having a family. He has always been obsessed with making as much money as he could and having the nicest things. When he gets thrown into this parallel universe is does not know how to act. He has a low end job and a family something he has never had. At first when he tries to be a dad he finds it hard and does not really know what to do. I feel it is because he has always prided himself on his job and his money that having a family never
  8. 8. seemed important to him. Looking at these three films and the materialism engraved within them shows me now why our society is so obsessed with having a lot of nice and expensive things. Academic Articles Now that I have shared with you my analysis of my four films I would like to share with you some scholarly articles written on my topic of materialism. The first article I found talked about how the high materialism personalities had negative characteristics. As stated by Reeves (2012) “higher levels, of materialism and compulsive buying tendencies are assumed to reflect empty self-characteristics” (pg. 675). Here they are trying to say that even though you go out and buy nice things does not always mean you are going to be a happier person. By empty self- characteristics I feel like they were talking about how even though you have all these things how is this making you a better person, or how some people have all this money but they are still sad and depressed. In their research they found that there was a relation between high levels of materialism and celebrity worship. This means that people look up to all these celebrities who have cars and houses, so they think to be like them they have to go out and buy new stuff all the time. This is not the right way to live your life. Like I showed in my own analysis the characters who had these materialistic didn’t end up being very happy in the end. The next article I read talked about how materialistic women have a sense of body surveillance. This means that the women who were more materialistic felt like they need to pay more attention to what their body looks like. In the study they found a correlation between high levels of materialism and body surveillance. They said that the media and want to look like celebrities led to more body dissatisfaction. While doing my research I found I saw a sense of the characters wanting to be accepted by others. I felt like this was the reason they wanted to buy all these things. Felix says (2012) “These extrinsic goals are based on obtaining external approval and rewards, as opposed
  9. 9. to intrinsic goals such as self-acceptance and community feeling”(pg. 981). I felt like this shows what I mean by want acceptance. The reason most people want to buy new and expensive things is to gain acceptance of a higher class group. Mainly celebrities are what people are always trying to be like. I read another article on materialism and how it causes people to go into debit. In this study they found informants would spend mass amount of money on things to improve their self- image. The people felt like spending all this money on things would make them feel better about themselves. They said whether the transformation was a short term or long term thing, the common theme in response was improving self-image was meaningful and important. I felt there was this same common theme in the films I reviewed. Like in Bruce Almighty, Bruce went out and bought all these new things and started to feel better about himself. Richins (2011) quotes Wickham saying “people often buy things in hopes of transforming their lives” (pg. 141). Here she is saying what I found in my analysis. The characters in the films went out to buy things in order to improve their lives. A good example of this was in Click when Adam Sandler buys the universal remote in hope that it will improve his life. The final article I read they wanted to study the relationship between materialism and individual values. They found no new information from studies done in the past. They found that there was no correlation between in-come and materialism. I found this to be interesting because I feel for a person to be materialistic they have to have a somewhat high in-come. Without a decent in-come you would only put yourself into debit and you wouldn’t be able to come out of it. One common theme I found in all four articles was summed up by Kilbourne (2010) when he said “measures of life satisfaction are negatively related to materialism” (pg. 783). I found that they all talked about how this sense of buying a lot of things would lead to happiness is false. You can’t just make your life better by buying things.
  10. 10. If I was to keep researching on this topic I would try to find ways to help people from having this sense of materialism. I feel materialism is more of a disease then something people can control. It’s kind of like alcoholism, where if you can’t admit you have a problem then there might be a way to help fix it. So if I had to suggest where to go next in this study it would be to find out if there are ways to battle materialism and help people who feel they need things to feel good about themselves. I have provided you with analysis of four films as well as shared some scholarly articles written on the same topic. This leads me back to that day I wanted to buy the new PlayStation. I wanted it so bad so I could brag to all my friends that I had the newest, coolest gaming system on the market. Looking back on that now I guess I was kind of materialistic. I didn’t want the PlayStation because I loved to play videogames; I wanted to feel better about myself in that I had something none of my friends had. Now I look at all these celebrities and their houses and cars thinking why do you need all that stuff? Does that really make you feel better about yourself, and then again I’m remind of my own experience and realize that having stuff does crazy things to people and how they perceive themselves. Materialism is something deeply entrenched in our society and it has cost many people the quality of life we all strive for, because they had to buy all these expensive things. Take it from the three examples I provided you of what materialism can do to you and try to live life without the need of all the expensive things around us.
  11. 11. References Felix, R., & Garza, M. R. (2012). Rethinking worldly possessions: The relationship between materialism and body appearance for female consumers in an emerging economy. Psychology & Marketing, 29(12), 980-994. doi:10.1002/mar.20579 Kilbourne, W. E., & LaForge, M. C. (2010). Materialism and its relationship to individual values. Psychology & Marketing, 27(8), 780-798. Reeves, R. A., Baker, G. A., & Truluek, C. S. (2012). Celebrity worship, materialism, compulsive buying, and the empty self. Psychology & Marketing, 29(9), 674-679. doi:10.1002/mar.20553 Richins, M. (2011). Materialism, transformation expectations, and spending: Implications for credit use. Journal Of Public Policy & Marketing, 30(2), 141-156. doi:10.1509/jppm.30.2.141