Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Hancock: PR Man vs Realism

Before jumping in to a character like Mary, let's actually give a bit more space to the philosophical stances represented by Ray.

As in the last post, Ray the PR man is all about appearances. He wants his little heart logo to unite the world to abandon capitalism (or at least the worst symptoms of it.) He obsesses over Youtube and designing Hancock's costumes (which gives him a lot of similarity to Glenn in Worm.)

His best understanding of these dynamics is when he's trying to explain to Hancock how to arrive, how to introduce himself, etc.

RAY: Your landing is your first impression it's your supre-hero handshake Dont come in so hot ok? Dont come in too drunk 

RAY: So you've used the door. The building is still intact. People are happy that you've arrived. They feel safe now. There's an officer there and he’s done a good job. So you might want to tell him he’s done a good job.
HANCOCK: What the hell did I have to come for Ray, if he’s done a good job?

Let me hear you say it. Let me hear you say good job.  
Goo... od
Go...d j...
Go...od Jo....
Go...od jooooob
Good job

So Hancock raises an obvious objection here. Why do we tell people they did a good job if they did not?

For one, it's a matter of perspective. The officer can't stop bullets and fly through a terrorist bunker, so what counts as them doing a "good job" is much more limited. Depending on your perspective, the meanings of socially important terms change (much like the term "asshole".)

But that's not Ray's primary reason is it. Hancock needs to tell people they did a good job, so they will like and trust him. He needs to give them validation. Even though Hancock is the social outcast, people care immensely what he thinks of them. If Hancock assures people he values them, they will feel more comfortable, and then not believe he is an asshole.

To the naive realists out there, this is disgusting. To them, someone's performance should be judged on how successful it was. If you tell someone "good job" it is because you believe it is an accurate summary, not being you cynically want to get them to like you. (Similarly, you call someone an asshole because their behavior is assholish.)

But the social structuralists know this is wrong. Social labels are not just descriptors of reality, they create social conditions through performative efficacy. Tell someone they did a good job, and they will start doing the good job you need them to do.

The reason you don't call people assholes is not because you're factually wrong, but because it's a dehumanizing tactic that becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. We see this each time Hancock says "Call me an asshole. One more time.:

Ray, the PR man trying to be good, understands this. So his efforts aren't focused on the "heart beneath the tough exterior" of Hancock, but changing that very exterior to make a better world.


And note, that at the end, when the movie would exalt Ray as if he were a white savior, the exact line Hancock says is " You’re gonna change the world. Good job Ray."

1 comment:

  1. Yaaay! I like this post. Good job.