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Allegory for Change? Research Paper Example

Pages: 2

Words: 542

Research Paper

Allegory for Change?  The Meaning of Sacrifice in John Q

John Q was released in 2002 to largely negative reviews.  In spite of Denzel Washington’s strong performance in the starring role, most reviewers seemed to agree that the film “missed” from an aesthetic standpoint.  However, it raised an interesting question as to where the line between social/political commentary and entertainment is to be found, and where it should be drawn.

Do films with strong social messages to convey have a journalistic responsibility to be accurate and believablein the way they state their case?  This film’s intention was so explicit that major health insurance carriers began public relations “spin” campaigns in the weeks prior to the film’s release.  Clearly, Hollywood’s ability to affect social change is recognized in the corporate world.

Watching John Q, one wonders ifa film, acting as “delivery system” for the message, is poorly crafted or is simply unrealistic in terms of storyline, does it hamper the credibility of thesocial and/or political movementthe film purports to advance?  If such is the case, one could conclude that large-budget Hollywood movies are not necessarily the ideal medium for promoting social change.John Q, though emotionally affecting, might not have been the most appropriate vehicle for social change.

Nevertheless, in spite of its typically Hollywood use of melodrama and highly improbable action, John Q did elicit strong responses and drew attention to a socially and politically polarizing issue.  In addition to the health insurance industry’s pre-emptive actions, the Kaiser Family Foundation commissioned research and held a conference to explore the relationship between movies and policy debates.

In John Q, a nightmare scenario unfolds, one that frightens millions of Americans amid the worst economic environment in more than 70 years.  John Archibald’s son, who requires a heart transplant, is removed from the hospital’s donor list because his family can’t afford the $75,000 needed to keep him there.  Of course, the major wrench in the works is John’s HMO health insurance, which won’t cover the procedure.

At his wit’s end, John decides he has to act and holds hostages at gunpoint to prevent the hospital from releasing his son, which would effectively sign his death warrant.  A complex weave of human drama unfolds between John and the hostages, some of whom are sympathetic to his plight.

In light of the unlikely chain of events that play out, it seems reasonable and worthwhile to entertain the notion ofJohn Q as an allegory for radical change, for “ripping the band aid” off of the nation’s health care wound.  The film does an admirable job of expressing frustration and desperation, sentiments that are familiar to the average citizen trying to make ends meet, and to lawmakers seeking to bring about change within the political arena.  (One’s thoughts are drawn to Barack Obama’s attempt to bring about health care reform in the teeth of fierce establishment resistance.)

In the end, John succeeds ingiving his son a chance to survive, though his sacrifice will lead to prison time.  Sacrifice seems an important part of the message.  We’re left wondering what sacrifices we would be willing to make if faced with a similar situation and reflecting on   what sacrifices we as a nation are willing to make to fixa health care system that sacrifices human lives to rules and restrictions.

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