John Q is a movie about a desperate father who finds himself in an impossible situation when his son, Michael, collapses during a baseball game and turns out to be in need of a heart transplant. John Q. Archibald discovers that his health insurance does not cover such an expensive procedure, and unable to raise the 75,000 dollar deposit needed to place his son in the donor list, John resorts to taking the staff and patients of the hospital’s emergency room hostage and held at gunpoint. The hospital administrator then decides to place Michael in the donor list and Michael is soon given a new heart.
John, as described by his wife Rebecca, “is a sweet kind man”. His personality does not pinpoint to violent tendencies, and yet the radical decision to seize part of the hospital and take the people in it as hostage are not indicative of a meek and pleasant individual. It is therefore worth remembering that genes can influence the behavior only in people who live in some kind of environment. Without an environment there would be no behavior at all, regardless of what genes were present. And the reverse is true about the environment: without a person built by genes to affect, no behavior can occur, no matter what the environment.
In the determination of personality, genes and the environment interact (Funder). Thus, John with his genetic instinct to love and protect those that he loves combined with the injustice of his circumstances induced him to go against his sweet nature as an attempt to remedy the situation in any way he can. One theme of the movie is self-sacrifice, this is apparent when John decides to give his own heart to his son when he finds no other options available, fortunately he is stopped before he pulls the trigger when a heart arrives for his son.
John’s complete devotion and his willingness to do everything for his son can be partly explained by the evolution theory. A theory that endeavors to illuminate how patterns of behavior that characterize all humans originate from the survival value these characteristics provide over the history of the species. Specific to this theory, is the tendency to aid close relatives to ensure the survival of ones own genes into succeeding generations, an outcome called inclusive fitness (Funder, 2002).
Evolutionary theory has also been used to explain why self esteem is so important for human beings. Our feelings of self-esteem evolved to monitor the degree to which we are accepted by others, a principle most exemplified by Gus Monroe, the Chicago Chief of Police, as he basks in apparent joy by the adulation of the media and the crowd. The hospital director Rebecca Payne is most notable in the rationalizations that she uses to distance herself from the unfairness of the situation. Rationalization is the usage of contrived explanations to conceal unworthy motives for ones behavior.
Ms Payne deftly suggests that John accept his son’s impending death and strive to make Michael’s remaining days a happy time. She stands by the financial rules of the hospital and claims that her hands are tied by the fact that the family is unable to come up with the amount of money needed for their son’s surgery. But when Denise Archibald expresses her dislike for Rebecca, the hospital director changes her mind and announces that Michael will be placed at the top of the donor list.
When we detect signs of not being adequately valued or respected, our self-esteem goes down, motivating us to do things that will cause others to think better of us so we can think better of ourselves (Funder) A subplot in the movie is the relationship between two hostages, Julie, who needs treatment for a broken arm and her boyfriend Mitch, who has no wounds aside from scratches in his arm. Mitch claims that a car crash had caused it, but due to a number of dubious elements in their narrative, John and another hostage named Lester is able to conclude that the two are lying and that Mitch had in fact beat Julie up.
The fact that Julie lied and helped Mitch in covering up the event indicate signs of a battered woman in the stage of denial, where the woman refuses to admit, perhaps even to herself that there is a problem in her relationship, she calls it an accident and may believe that it will never happen again. However, during the course of the movie, when Julie sees Mitch helpless on the ground she seizes the opportunity to douse his eyes with a caustic agent, and as Mitch screams in pain Julie announces that what she did was revenge for the physical hurt he caused her. This is a tacit admission that she will no longer submit to Mitch’s violent ways.
On the other hand, Mitch’s personality demonstrates arrogance, an overblown ego and a tendency for stress and hostility as shown by his attempted attack on John. Mitch’s controlling tendency is revealed when Julie screams she will “no longer be his Barbie doll” and rips of her blonde wig as an indication that he wants specific physical attributes for his girlfriend. The movie also touches on the subject of death and loss when a patient adjacent to Michael’s hospital room dies and her family is shown grieving and inconsolable. Depression that follows a social emptiness such as the death of a loved one is characterized by pain and crying.
Weeping is a useful way of seeking social support and fatigue and pessimism can prevent one from wasting energy and resources on fruitless endeavors. (Funder) This is further discussed by claims of psychologists Matthew Keller and Randolph Nesse that in the same way that blocking fever may prolong infection, blocking normal depressive symptoms could increase the risk of negative life situations. When John Archibald is faced with the actual possibility of his son’s death, he engages in the ego-defense mechanism called denial of reality, wherein the individual protects the self from an unpleasant reality by refusing to perceive or face it.
In this case however, John’s belief that his son will not die is compounded by his extreme actions and the decision to offer his own life, if need be, for his sons survival. The movie also involves the occurrence of Stockholm syndrome, a phenomenon wherein positive feelings are developed by hostages towards their captors that appear strange in light of the danger or risk endured. This happened when John showed kindness towards the hostages and when they understood the circumstances that forced him to take drastic measures.
A psychological perspective towards an existential movie like John Q offers a unique understanding of the film, revealing philosophic and scientific dimensions that enrich a person’s comprehension of the world. This enables one to engage in analytic thinking and to apply classroom theories to real-world situations. Works Cited Funder, David C. The personality puzzle, fourth edition. W. W. Norton & Company, 2007. John Q. Screenplay by James Kearne, Dir. Nick Cassavetas. , Perf. Denzel Washington, Kimberly Elise and Daniel Smith. New Line Cinema, 2002.
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