It is widely known that public view of business is not always favorable. Rather, people treat business companies as ready for everything for the sake of profit. Therefore, society tends to approach businesses and industry with cynicism and mistrust. Media contributes a lot to that view. Most often, different movies depict such negative business aspects as preoccupation with gain, severe competition, and acceptance of unethical practices.
The movie “The Pursuit of Happyness” is not an exception. It presents a business world as a competitive and quite an unfair environment.
The first encounter of the protagonist of the movie with the business world reveals a fussy nature of the local business. It appears as if everybody is obsessed with his or her work. The employees seemingly have no rest. The reason is that money is the main value, and no one wants to waste it. It is clear that the employees compete with each other, and the fittest survives in business. In addition, the viewers find out more about the nature of business as the plot uncovers. When Chris decides to apply for a probation period, the viewers learn about the real essence of brokers’ company. First, the competitive motive appears during the probation period. Only one of twenty probationers can become a broker. It urges the potential workers to compete. The next competitive moment is noticeable, as well. From his manager, Chris learns that the probationers should do everything to win the clients. It means that the company welcomes all sorts of manipulations to gain profit. It looks as if the theory of utilitarianism is in action as “utilitarianism […] states that actions are not good or bad in themselves, but only in so far as what they are good or bad for” (Somerville and Wood, 2008).
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It may be appropriate from a business perspective, but it is morally wrong. After all, the clients deserve respect not a treatment as objects of manipulation. The businesses should encourage fair cooperation among the employees and the consumers.
On the other hand, the company dehumanizes its potential workers. The manager tells them that only one of competitors will become “Person.” In the business language, it means that being a person equals being a successful commercial agent. Thus, it shows an approach that only results are important. However, it is unethical to measure a value of a person in money. People should gain recognition for their good work and dedication. Money cannot buy many immaterial things. It can buy loyalty and devotion, and it does not always buy motivation.
Apart from living from hand to mouth, Chris Gardner constantly feels himself inferior and underestimated. It is only he, who has to serve the manager for some reasons. The manager treats him as an errand boy. He is the one to buy coffee and doughnuts. These are the activities that some assisting personnel, like a secretary, would do. It leaves an impression that the company exploits its employees. What is more, Chris Gardner is not even an employee yet. He is just a probationer, and his direct duties are studying and acquiring first job skills.
All these nuances contribute to the unethical presentation of the business world. This movie depicts businesses and market as rather unethical. This world seems to be preoccupied with gain, full of severe competition, and tolerant to unethical practices. I think this is quite an accurate depiction of business. Still, it does not show the objective picture of the business world. After all, each company has its ethical standards. Only when the personnel maintains an ethical image, they will increase their client base. Besides, organizations have to conduct their business ethically since they are role models for society at large.
When the government seizes money from Gardner’s bank account for overdue taxes, it raises a controversial issue. Both government body and the character consider themselves right. In fact, they are both right from two different perspectives. On the one hand, the government is right because it acts legally. According to the laws regarding taxes, each taxpayer needs to pay his or her taxes on time. More than that, all citizens are equal before the law. Chris Gardner is no different from other taxpayers. It is clear from the letter they sent him. It looks like a standard blank with a standard text in it. Law institutions do not care if a person is able to pay taxes or not. They oblige citizens to pay them based on the local enforcements.
Technically, the protagonist of the movie has to pay taxes as he has a job according to the official documentation. After all, he had signed a contract with the company manufacturing portable bone-density scanners. Therefore, even if selling these scanners is not always profitable, he has to pay taxes every month. In addition, the citizens have easy access to all the information about paying taxes. Thus, everyone knows the time limits of paying taxes and the consequences of delay. It means that Chris Gardner could also know that he was under risk of seizure. As a consequence, he is guilty in the eye of justice. At the same time, governmental approach stays in line with the theory of deontology. In terms of the idea of this phenomenon, “deontological ethics is about following universal norms that prescribe what people ought to do, how they should behave, and what is right or wrong” (Van Staveren, 2007). As a result, as long as taxpayers pay the taxes, they are considered to be good.
On the other hand, the protagonist of the movie is right, as well. From the ethical point of view, the government breaks the rules of ethical laws. First, it violates the principles of justice. It is inhumane and unfair to take the last money from the person. After all, “over and above mere human law there is an objective moral order, the ‘natural law’, which sets limits to the power of rulers” (Somerville and Wood, 2008). By seizure, the government leaves Chris with no means to exist. Thus, it looks like the government acts as a thief of someone’s money. To add even more, bank account information is private data. Private information is protected from violation under the law. Chris Gardner is the only person who can claim access to his personal bank account. Therefore, if internal revenue service takes his money, it acts unethically. Third, this governmental body does not obtain his informed consent to the seizure. It looks as if they act behind his back. From the ethical perspective, they should have warned Chris about the seizure in case he would further delay the payment. What is more, Chris Gardner learns that there is nothing he can do. It means that he has no choice anymore, and so he goes bankrupt.
This film is about the pursuit of happiness, not money. I can judge it from the way Chris Gardner behaves. He does not seem to be one of those mercantile people. He does not quit his job because it does not bring him profit. Besides, he does not manipulate his potential customers forcing them to buy something. The point is his unlucky career does not affect his mood at large. Even when Chris lives on the verge of poverty, it does not make him miserable. He still can see good things in life, and he is able of joking. In all his acts, the signs of care ethics are visible. His main desire is to provide for his family. His actions support, maintain, and further existing relationships, involve nurturing other people, and are reflective of empathy to those vulnerable. He recognizes that “all situations, particularly those where action must be taken, have ethical characteristics” and that “the relationship is the core values” (Hawk, 2011).
That understanding motivates him to move further, not for himself, but for others. Furthermore, the character does not fall into despair as most of people would do being in his place. Above all that, he spends a lot of time with his son and teaches him not to give up using his own example. All these facts suggest that his happiness does not consist in money. His happiness is about his mindset, about his beliefs and his hope. Without the positive thinking and hope, he would truly be a miserable man. Apart from that, Chris is constantly thinking about the words of Jefferson. He dwells on the innate rights of every human being. The search of happiness is one of the basic rights, which means it does not depend on someone’s wealth. It is an inherent part of human nature. Therefore, the hero does not relate his happiness to the money he has.
Meanwhile, one cannot say that happiness and money are unrelated things. Based on the plot of the film, money determines the environment in which people live. At first, the family of Gardner lives in a fine house. They have a relatively nice interior and comfort living. This environment has an influence on the emotional setting of the family. As their financial condition worsens, the number of conflicts increases. Finally, Chris’s wife Linda leaves him as she cannot stand living in debts anymore. Besides, she sees no possibilities to improve their financial position. Then, as the plot uncovers, Chris and the boy have to move to another place. Still, the money runs out. Next, they have to live in a motel, and they end up on the street. After the bankruptcy, the father and the son lose a place of living. It is clear that it disappoints the little boy, but he still believes his father is “cool.” Therefore, even when the pursuit of happiness and the pursuit of money are not the same, they are interrelated. Money can influence happiness but not determine its quality in general.
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I think the word ‘happyness’ is misspelled in the title on purpose. The author of the movie draws the viewers’ attention to the misspelled word from the beginning. The location of the word is very important. It is painted on the wall near the kindergarten in the Chinatown. It means that Chris’s happiness is located in that kindergarten. To him, happiness is to be with his son. The only thing he wants in return is trust. He constantly asks little Christopher if he trusts him. Trust stands for love to him. Even when his wife leaves, he insists on keeping the boy. In addition, one can see how important little Christopher is to the father from an episode in Church. There, the viewers may see that the father hugs the son and cries while the choir is singing about the hardships. Therefore, misspelling a word can have a hidden meaning that one may not realize at first. It encourages the viewers to reconsider their own views of happiness. Money can never buy trust, love, and happiness.