Positive Relationships “Win.” Achievement Loses.
Argo will inspire you, but it’s not what you think.
Posted Oct 30, 2012
But then I reflected more deeply: What really matters most in terms of this story as it unfolds before me? What I found surprised me.
My hopes went beyond the escape of the hostages…and beyond seeing a masterful plan well-executed to success. What mattered most to me was what will happen to these hostages and the main protagonist after the escape? I found myself longing to see Mendez return home so he could make another attempt to re-connect with his wife whom he had separated from. I wanted him to see his young son again and have more positive experiences with him. I wanted the hostages to celebrate their escape with one another and reintegrate back into everyday life.
Said another way: I wanted to see the exhibition of positive relationship factors, not just the grand achievement of a safe escape.
It turns out, research on movies has found support for my experience of Argo. Hollywood producer, Lindsay Doran, has studied and made successful films for decades and has recently examined what audiences are looking for most. She found that it’s the positive resolution of relationships – not the character winning – that is most satisfying. She cites beloved films like Dirty Dancing, The King’s Speech, and The Karate Kid, all which have great accomplishments in the end – however, it’s the celebration and the sharing of that achievement that audiences care about most. This occurs in each of these films.
In Argo, there is celebration, relief, gratitude, compassion, hope, serenity, and utter joy that occur after the achievement. Positive relationships occupy the last several minutes of the film leaving the viewer with what he or she wants. The viewer is left to vicariously feel these positive emotions and perhaps one more feeling: elevation.
The next time you go to the movies, consider this: As you watch the film unfold, what are you really hoping for in order to be satisfied with the film? Do positive relationships trump achievement?
Algoe, S. B., & Haidt, J. (2009). Witnessing excellence in action: The 'other-praising' emotions of elevation, gratitude, and admiration. Journal of Positive Psychology, 4, 105-127.
Aquino, K., McFerran, B., & Laven, M. (2011). Moral identity and the experience of moral elevation in response to acts of uncommon goodness. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 100(4), 703-718
Niemiec, R. M. (2012). Cinematic elevation and cinematic admiration: Can watching movies positively impact you? Amplifier, a publication of Division 46 (Media).
Niemiec, R. M., & Wedding, D. (2013). Positive psychology at the movies: Using films to build virtues and character strengths. Cambridge, MA: Hogrefe.
Peterson, C., & Seligman, M. E. P. (2004). Character strengths and virtues: A handbook and classification. New York: Oxford University Press, and Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
Schnall, S., Roper, J., & Fessler, D. M. T. (2010). Elevation leads to altruism, above and beyond general positive affect. Psychological Science, 21, 315-320.
Schnall, S., & Roper, J. (2011). Elevation puts moral values into action. Social Psychological and Personality Science.
Learn more about strengths:
To measure your character strengths and discover your signature strengths, go to www.viame.org
To apply character strengths in your practice and life, go to www.viapros.org