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Representation and Discourses of the American Dream in Film (Essay Sample)


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Representation and Discourses of the American Dream in Film


An individual’s achievement is dependent on the society, and how favorable his or her environment is to offer the much-needed support. Of course, success requires a particular breeding ground for it to materialize, without which it will be difficult for those who pursue it to have its taste. Fundamentally, achievement of the American dream is not by chance but, rather, through hard work, independence, courage, determination, creativity and diligence. It does not come by sudden flight, but by a deliberate decision to beat all odds to achieve one’s endeavors.

The American Dream is a phrase first coined in 1931 by James Truslow Adams, in his bestseller, ‘The Epic of America’. The American dream is “that dream of a land in which life should be better, richer, and fuller for everyone, providing an opportunity for each, according to ability or achievement”(Truslow). People have varying opinions on what they believe is an achievement of the American dream. Certain individuals believe that becoming rich is an achievement whereas others believe in equality and fairness in the society. Regardless, these versions depend on the qualities stated to accomplish the American dream. This paper aims at conferring the American Dream by analyzing films which portray the accomplishment of the dream as well as the factors that make it difficult for individuals to achieve their version of the American Dream. It also seeks to discourse whether the stars pursued their American dreams and whether they succeeded or failed.

Overview of the American Dream

The American dream can be considered to be a notion which describes the ability of every individual, regardless of their social class or race, to be successful in a society that supports their success. The American Dream is “the faith that an individual can attain success and virtue through strenuous effort” (Hochschild, 1995). It can be deliberated as a concept for every individual to achieve success and virtue through persistent determination. The American dream is also highly dependent on the government, since it has the responsibility to enforce laws which support a society with equal opportunities, fairness and liberty. This means that apart from having the qualities of an individual who can achieve the American Dream, the government should also ensure that its people have economic and political freedom together with laws that protect their rights equally. “Is the American Dream a reality only questioned by those unwilling or unable to achieve it? What is the good life and how is it particularly American?” (Bush & Bush, 2015). The American Dream addresses the applicability of the U.S. nation and empire considering the origins and development based on the instituting doctrines of belonging and chauvinism, and their subsisted certainty.

Analysis of Movies that Portray the American Dream

The Pursuit of Happyness

The film, The Pursuit of Happyness, by Chris Gardner dwells around his life story as a homeless single father struggling to raise his son in San Francisco. Gardner goes through multiple hardships starting from having never gone to college, being homeless, divorce with his first wife Sherry, the loss of all his investments in medical equipment, unemployment, eviction, and, eventually, homelessness. Despite his hardships, Gardner manages to get a job at a brokerage firm, and ultimately starts his own company. He struggles to hold back his tears and waits to embrace his son knowing that everything was going to be alright. Regardless of the challenges that Gardner faced, hard work and determination enabled the single father to achieve his goals, that is, pursue the American Dream.


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