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What Women Want, Review

Updated on April 10, 2012

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A Movie I Cannot Forget


Helen Hunt plays Darcy Maguire, an advertising executive with an unwholesome reputation, who gets hired as the new Creative Director, a position that Nicholas Marshall (Mel Gibson) was eyeing landing at. She viewed women as influential beings with their beauty and charm as the weapons. Although she has the competency, she used her femininity to land at coveted positions. This was shown in the movie when she, unexpectedly, was hired as Creative Director in an office where she was totally alien. On the beginning of the movie, she viewed men as objects of her influence. She demonstrates dominance over her staff, a classical behavioral example of a boss, when she immediately set her staff to come up with new ad ideas for women products. She insisted to do things her way and thought that she was the best person in her field.

Towards the end of the movie, when Marshall has been stealing her ideas through his mind-reading ability, Darcy was forced to admit that Marshall was “better” than her when it comes to the advertising world. Her of men changed from that of mere objects to that of esteemed competitors. This was dramatically shown when she relinquished her position to Marshall at the end of the movie. On this score, her view of women also changed from that of influential beings to that of co-equals of men.

The specific behaviors of Darcy Maguire shown in the movie were not so numerous because the movie mainly centered on Nicholas Marshall. However, Maguire’s quitting the job because of depression and self-pity that her staff has done better than her, is a classical example of a behavioral pattern which certainly exists nowadays. This behavior is described as rationalization, a defense mechanism that involves explaining an unacceptable response or action in a rational or logical manner, avoiding the true explanation for the behavior. She justifies her resignation as a logical course of action as a result of her failure to meet the expectations of her as a Creative Director, and not because she finds it difficult to work with Marshall.

Mel Gibson plays Nick Marshall, a Chicago ad man brimming in the stereotypical world of a man’s man. Used to ogling at women, living luxuriously, and being a major player is his life, he has unending self-confidence, thinks on his feet and moves like a movie star.

At the beginning of the movie, Nick Marshall was not just a sexist, but a perfect male chauvinist pig calling women “babe” and treating them idiotically. His treatment of women is caused by his unconscious gender-stereotyping. He viewed women as unequal to him, him always the superior creation. Although he did not order women around, he was not receptive and open to their ideas and opinions. He insulted women, told shocking chauvinistic jokes and deliberately offended the opposite sex. He was completely insensitive and ignorant to the issues of women not just in his work place, but everywhere. This behavior of Marshall toward women was revealed in the movie in his efforts to thwart and outwit his female boss, Darcy Maguire (Helen Hunt). It is a classical illustration of a psychological behavior involving gender issue where a male employee refuses to submit to a female superior.

On the onset of the film, Marshall (Gibson) naturally viewed men as gifts sent by heaven to women. This was shown several times in the movie through the goofy treatment he bestowed on women characters. But this view dramatically changed as the movie nears the end. Marshall experienced an electrocution which did not kill him but eventually killed the male chauvinist pig in him. It caused him to hear exactly what women were thinking and made him realize that what women mostly say are the opposite of what they think. As a result, his perspective of women became favorable and his treatment of them became humane. This was shown in the movie by him reaching out to his daughter and making a personal connection. He also ceased taking his women officemates for granted. He discovered that love and monogamy are for real. He became conscious of women’s feelings, opinions and skills. This transformation in the character of Marshall is a cognitive acceptance to conditions that are formerly unacceptable to him.

The following are social psychology concepts illustrated in the movie:

Gender stereotyping refers to methodized images of males and females exemplified in the movie by the initial views of Marshall and Maguire towards the opposite sex. Viewing the opposite sex as lesser mortals is gender stereotyping. Their warped view of the opposite sex is a stereotype they create to protect their egos.

Conformity is the process by which an individual's attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors are influenced by other people. This influence occurs in both small groups and society as a whole, and it may be the result of subtle unconscious influences, or direct and overtsocial pressure. People often conform from a desire to achieve a sense of security within a group—typically a group that is of a similar age, culture, religion, or educational status. This was shown in the movie in the character of Marshall: acting like a movie star, chasing girls and living luxuriously. It was also touched in the movie in Marshall’s daughter trying her best to look good in her prom and desiring her first sex experience in order to be “in”.

Informational social influence occurs when one turns to the members of one's group to obtain accurate information. A person is most likely to use informational social influence in three situations: When a situation is ambiguous, people become uncertain about what to do. They are more likely to depend on others for the answer. During a crisis when immediate action is necessary, in spite of panic. Looking to other people can help ease fears, but unfortunately they are not always right. The more knowledgeable a person is, the more valuable they are as a resource. This psychological concept was touched in the movie when Maguire tasked her staff to discover every possible idea about women’s beauty products.

Normative social influence is one form of conformity. It is "the influence of other people that leads us to conform in order to be liked and accepted by them." This often leads to public compliance - but not necessarily private acceptance - of the group's socialnorms. Marshall’s character is a classic example of this concept. He was socially accepted, in fact looked up to, by his male colleagues, but not by women in general.

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