Propaganda Awareness: Pay It Forward.

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The movie I chose was Pay It Forward. Pay it Forward is about a boy who is given an assignment that creates a movement, where he helps 3 people with something they cannot do themselves. The recipient cannot return the favor and must “pay it forward” by helping 3 other people. Scott describes it as a chain letter “a game whose essentially coercive nature -- you've typically threatened with bad luck or at least bad karma if you break it -- is camouflaged in the mystical language of the community” (Scott 2000). I believe it is a movie everyone should watch at least once in their lifetime. It is socially insightful in a way that it shows us that not everything is cut black and white, and situations are sticky and stressful.

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For instance, not everyone chooses their fate. Some people cannot help being homeless, or poor, etc. I would not say that this movie is completely biased. It does not contain stereotypes. It just shows the harsh reality that one may go through. One reviewer says, “Justice to one person can have an impact on not only the individual but on the world in ways unimaginable. It is the chain reaction of treating others with dignity and love” (Minow). Since the movie is based on a true story, there was only one agenda, which was accomplished, to make the world a better place.

Some argue that this should not be considered a family movie or that children should not watch it at all. I can see why they would say this because of the violence, and the language, etc. But, what they do not realize is that children are exposed to these things daily, whether it be on tv or even at school. I know that, when I was a child, I learned sex-ed just by riding the bus home every day. There were also fights at the bus stops, even in the lunchrooms. I believe it was my 7th-grade year-possibly 8th- and we had a kid arrested during lunch because he had brought a gun to school. It was just a BB Gun, but it could still injure someone and was considered a weapon. We had to talk about the reason he brought the BB Gun was that there were adults that would bully him at his bus stop, and he wanted to scare them. They had to reassure us that he could have easily gotten mad at one of the students or teachers and shot them during school. We were told it was a matter of our safety. That we should communicate about what is going on and tell a teacher if you were bullied.

During my sophomore year in high school, one of my best friends in middle school was shot and killed. The worst thing about it, it could have all been avoided. But there were drugs involved and that could have influenced them from making the right decisions. I knew both the shooter and the victim. To this day, both shooter and witness, are still waiting for sentencing four years after the incident.

When they look at me, at only 19 years old, they do not see what I have witnessed or what I have been through. At 15, I found out that one of my old classmates, a great person, had been killed. This movie requires us to focus on the good in the world. For example, even though Trevor witnessed the violence, he still tried to find the good in others. He still put in an effort to change the world. If kids were required to watch this, they could start by making the world a better place, one kind act at a time. Obviously, I would not suggest someone younger than 9 watches Pay It Forward, as there is a shooting, and someone commits suicide. But, I believe definitely around the age of 12, they should watch this movie because it encourages what kindness a simple kid their age could do that would slowly change the world.

Annotated Bibliography

  • Minow, Nell. “Pay It Forward Movie Review.” Common Sense Media: Ratings, Reviews, and Advice, Common Sense Media, 8 May 2003, www.commonsensemedia.org/movie-reviews/pay-it-forward. Minow comments that the parents should be aware of the amount of violence in the film and the main idea of the story. Minow thinks that it has three of the finest actors ever put on film. That Helen Hunt is heartbreaking during her role as Arlene. Also, Kevin Spacey is breathtaking even though it is not the typical character he often plays. Minow says Trevor is wise and sensitive beyond his years because of what he has had to face but it is still completely believable even though he is only 11. Minow says if you think the idea of paying it forward as syrupy then you might not enjoy it. This helped me get a sense of the audience the movie is for. As well as the reasoning to why some do not want their children watching the film.
  • Scott, A. O. “FILM REVIEW; What Goes Around Comes Around? Doing Good Deeds in a Bad World.” New York Times, 20 Oct. 2000, www.nytimes.com/movie/review?res=9B05EED6123EF933A15753C1A9669C8B63.Scott compares the pay it forward movement to the internet version of a chain letter. Scott agrees that the success of the movie is due to the actors. He believes the actors look realistic and as they should for the roles they play. The actors do not look like Hollywood actors which makes their role more believable. Also, the movie is an assault on your tear ducts. This article helped me connect the importance of the movie and the lesson behind the film to the violence in the world today.
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