Thepurpose of this paper is to analyze “A Beautiful Mind” and "TheHunger Games” in the wake of psychoanalytic theory. These two filmswere selected because they contain themes that are present in manypsychoanalytic studies. Both A Beautiful Mind and The Hunger Gamesdeal with fantasies, which are comparable to dreams inpsychoanalysis. Hence, they qualify as symptoms of the unconscious.For people to function in their everyday lives, they activelysuppress their fears, desires, fantasies and memories. Therefore,beneath human conscious, in everyday social interactions, there areactive desires which are inaccessible to the human rational logic.
Psychoanalytic theory has a unique relationship with cinema (films) before being selected as one of the approaches of analysis.
Freud Sigmund invented psychoanalysis at the time when filmmakers were creating films. Critics of films were quick to note that cinema possessed a special dreamlike quality.
In his work, “The Interpretation of Dreams’ Sigmund put forth some ideas about the relationship between dreams, desires, and latency. He believed that dreams or fantasies are a kind of virtual fulfillment, affording the person an opportunity to enjoy fantasies deprived of them in early life.
A Beautiful Mind is about an incredible journey into a person’s reality. The film is based on a real story of John Nash, a 20th-century great mathematician who overcame his mental illness to win a Nobel Prize for his Game Theory.
John Nash is a mathematician genius who won a Noble Prize for his computational theory. He devoted his whole life to education and employed by various mathematical institutions, such as Princeton University. However, he suffered from mental illness for most parts of his adult life that stood in the way of his success (Myers 52).
Paranoidschizophrenia is a brain disorder in which victims have difficultydistinguishing reality from imaginary experiences. Paranoia causesdisordered thought patterns, delusions, and hallucinations. In hisdefinition of schizophrenia, Spotnitz writes:
Itis "an organized mental situation, an intricately structured butpsychologically unsuccessful defense against the destructivebehavior. Both aggressive and libidinal impulses figure in thisorganized situation … Obliteration of the object field of the mindand fragmentation of the ego are among the secondary consequences ofthe defense,”(68).
Freud’s treatise “The unconscious” analyses dementia praecox (schizophrenia), with the aim of discovering a more understandable conception of the unconscious. Cathexis (cure) in schizophrenia involves the ego (Myer 52). Nash’s mental disorder reveals a lot about unconscious and conscious systems. Nash is socially inept and socially withdrawn for fear that some people are out after him.
Nash is a narcissistic, uncomfortable socially-inept math student at Princeton University who devotes his entire time trying to discover computational equations in math. Soon than rather the audience can discover that most of the situations and places that occur in the movie are mere illusions within the beautiful mind of Nash.
Nash married a beautiful and intelligent woman called Alicia. As a loving wife, Alicia stayed with Nash for many years of marriage despite the challenges of living with an individual with severe mental disorders.
Nash’s reality is a mere imagination, and it presents a threat to his career, marriage, and social life.
Nash develops paranoia and begins to decode encrypted nonexistent communism spy texts from newspaper advertisements and books.
He only speaks to persons at parties he attends with. He uses mathematics terms whenever she attempts to have a crush on women. Nash has problems in social situations in that he does not interact well with his peers.
Nash is excessively self-conscious and overwhelmingly anxious in everyday social situations.
Nash believes some people are out to harm him. He has persistent and intense fear of being watched or followed by some secret spies. His fear is severe that he feels uncomfortable in the social situation like school, work.
Nash hallucinates that individuals like his niece Marcee and his roommate Charles
Even as Nash took drugs to suppress schizophrenic symptoms, he is shown getting back to normal life via becoming self-aware.
The movie presents visually psychological symptoms that effectively expose the obstacles to discerning subconscious trends in the mind.
Nash’s illness impacted him in many ways. He refused to accept the condition he is in. He also believes he can apply his mathematical genius to solve his mental illness.
To some extent, he succeeded in using his genius to overcome his problem. By refocusing on reality and ignoring hallucinations, he is able to recover.
Defense mechanism involves delusion, lying and negative emotions. They happen very quickly, so imperceptibly and so habitually, that a person cannot make a note of them. Invalidation, refusal, and suppression of imaginary experiences are used to avoid facing reality.
Ego defense mechanism is used as the first line of defense and it operates at the unconscious echelon to address anxiety and safeguard the self. While defense mechanism may be adaptive devices, they turn into maladaptive in case reality is distorted. Nash uses his roommate, Charles, as the delusional adaptive tool of denial: he avoids displeasing realities by behaving as Charles (Stuart 23)
Nash also employs reaction formation to conceal his anxiety-producing emotions. Nash’s sense of fear and self-doubt erupts after being defeated in the game of Go. He also uses rationalization as a defense mechanism to present his inappropriate emotions in a socially acceptable manner. As his mental illness becomes serious, Nash unconsciously establishes an extensive fantasy concerning his spy mission with the government to hide his preoccupations with encoding secret messages (Doll, Wear, and Whitaker 7).
Id,Ego, and Superego
Personality is seen as structures that constitute three elements: id, ego, and superego.
Nash epitomizes the ego. Nash is viewed as a great mathematician of his contemporaries. He is devoted to coming up with a genius idea in the game theory, one which is beyond the assumptions of his lesser classmates and his friend Charles. Due to this, Nash worked hard to the extent that he became socially withdrawn.
Id is the unconscious part. For delusional Nash, Alicia becomes his authority figure (parents)
Charles, Parcher and Marcee are merely imaginary friends-they serve a child within Nash’s mind.
People with personality disorders have delicate self-esteem, compelling them to seek constantly for admiration, praise, and appreciation. However, problems often emerge when individuals do not receive the recognition they feel they deserve (Stuart 23).
Nash felt like his self-esteem has been injured when he shared a prize with Hansen. He felt his treatise is mundane to share a prize with someone else.
When the government hired Nash to decode Soviet codes, he felt like doing something worthwhile. Thus he creates the hallucination in order to use his talent as a code breaker
Inhis biography, Nasar describes an incident where a colleaguequestions Nash in a reasonable movement how he came to believe thataliens are sending him messages. Nash believed that the aliens havehired his services to save the world from enemies. In his response,Nasar writes (11): “because the ideas I had about supernaturalbeings came to me in the same way that my mathematical ideas did. Itook them seriously.” Nash’s response shows how unconscious mindsunderlying psychotic and creative phenomena can result in a loss ofthe ability to distinguish between creative reality and psychoticexperiences.
Aliciais surprised when discovers that Nash study wall is covered withNash`s press cutting. She realizes that Nash has been persuading hispreoccupations in secrecy. After noticing Nash`s strange behavior,she calls Doctor Rosen. Now Nash is compelled to confront hishallucinations and delusions and starts taking medication.
Nash’sparanoid schizophrenia and personality disorders affect manyoccupational and social aspects. They impaired his interpersonalrelationship as he has no close friends (Stuart 7). The movie’simaginative explanation of Nash’s dream-like psychosis ispsychoanalytically sophisticated. Ron Howard creates an imagerycomrade, Charles, who initially gives Nash positive encouragement,but finally incites him with the unbelievable seductive power toomnipotent thinking and thus undermines Nash’s sense of reality.Howard also creates hallucinatory CIA supervisor William Parker whothreatens the safety of Nash’s wife and baby if Nash gets away fromthe CIA organization. Nash eventually struggles to flee the CIAgang’s threatening influence (Williams 107). Such subject mattersof being protected and then strongly forced by coercing delusions arewell-documented in psychoanalytic research of psychosis.
TheHunger Games is an action movie by Gary Ross. Katniss Everdeen is thelead character in the movie. As a punishment, the Capital demandsthat the 14 districts pick up a girl and a boy between the ages of12-18 from each district to participate the deadly contest in theHunger Games. When Prim, Everdeen’s younger sister is selectedalong with another boy, Everdeen offers to take her place in thebattle. This paper will take the character Katniss for analysis.
According to the psychoanalytic approach to the elements of personality, levels of awareness, psychosexual stages and defense mechanisms all this are covered in the film.
The levels of awareness, conscious, preconscious and unconscious awareness are all exhibited in Katniss.
Conscious is defined as the working memory that is easily accessible at any time.
In scene two, Katniss goes hunting in the forest to provide for her family. Katniss does this not once but repeatedly. This suggests that she is aware of her actions.
The preconscious awareness includes knowledge, thoughts, feelings and memories that people are currently unaware but can be easily accessed when the need arise.
When Prim is picked to participate in the Hunger Games, Katniss volunteers to take her sister’s place. She volunteers because she understands the dangers involved and does not want anything bad to happen to her sister. To save Prim, she volunteered to take her place.
The unconscious involves contents that are out of reach of the conscious mind. Unconscious is generally the assumptions in the human mind.
When the girls and boys gather to select the participants for the Hunger Games, Katniss gives Prim as a lucky charm. Katniss believed the pin served as a charm that nothing bad would befall her. Unfortunately, this assumption cannot be accessed in the mind and turned into action. It is merely an assumption.
In the battle, players maneuver various tactics in order to survive, such as betraying each other, stealing, partnering, and hiding. These behaviors contain elements of personality, including id, ego, and superego.
Id constitutes unconscious psychic energy which serves to meet psychological needs and is grounded on the Pleasure Principle. While the game is going on, Katniss climbs and hides in a tree to avoid being killed. Desiring to avoid getting hurt or killed, Katniss takes her pleasure for safety by hiding. She does so because she has Ego. Ego operates based on the Reality Principles in which individuals work in realistic ways to meet their needs. Ego is neither right nor wrong as long as it attains its end of satisfying. When some players team up against Katniss, she survives by throwing a beehive at them. At the end, she got satisfied for what she did.
The superego part stands for values and morals. Katniss repeatedly rescued d his partner and together they survived. She became both a survival and savior for her district.
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Myers,David.Psychology Eighth Edition in Modules.New York: Worth Publishers. 2007. 52
Nasar,Sylvia.A Beautiful Mind: The Life of Mathematical Genius and Nobel LaureateJohn Nash.New York: Simon & Schuster, 1998.
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