Good Will Hunting is a movie written by Matt Damon and Ben Affleck. This movie came out in 1997, was produced by Lawrence Bender and directed by Gus Van Sant. Will Hunting is the main character in the movie and he is played by Matt Damon. This movie was very well received and had more than 10 nominations at the Academy Awards and at the Golden Globe Awards. In this text, I will make a thorough resume of the movie and I will talk about the place of meritocracy in the movie.
Will Hunting is a twenty-year-old man that works as a janitor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Even though he loves to learn new things by himself, he does not have a lot of ambition of his own. He spends a lot of time drinking, and getting himself into trouble with his friends such as Chuck Sullivan played by Ben Affleck.
One day, Professor Gerald Lambeau, played by Stellan Skarsgard, wrote an extremely difficult math problem on one of the blackboards in the corridor of the University. When the problem was solved, Professor Lambeau wanted to know who was the genius that solved it. However, nobody came forward to claim that they had solved the problem. Thus, a second problem was written on the board and Will was caught trying to solve it. Professor Lambeau's first reaction was to send Will away, but then the professor realised his mistake.
The next day, Will skipped work because he felt insulted and got in a fight against a guy that bullied him when he was younger, which resulted in his facing jail time. That is when Professor Lambeau intervened and arranged for Will not to go to jail if he agreed to study mathematics with him and to see a therapist. Will took the deal and met a few therapists before meeting Professor Lambeau's old college roommate, Dr. Sean Maguire, played by Robin Williams. With Dr. Maguire, Will really started to open up and they have a friendly relationship.
When Will met Skylar Stenstein, played by Minnie Driver, he was at a bar trying to defend his good friend Chuck and to prove to cocky students that they were not better than them because they attended school. He made quite an impression on Skylar and she gave him her number. They went on dates and liked each other a lot. However, when Skylar asked Will to come to California with her, he panicked and told her that he did not love her and that he did not want anything to do with her.
When he met with Dr. Maguire after having his fight with Skylar, Will also argued with his doctor. Dr. Maguire made Will realise that he anticipated future failure and that he prevented himself from anything bad happening to him by pushing away everybody or everything. Indeed, he blew every job interview that Professor Lambeau got him, on purpose.
Finally, it is a conversation with his friend Chuck that made him realise all his potential. Chuck tells him that he does not want to see Will finish his life as a construction worker because he is a genius. Then, Will meets with his therapist and after accepting that being an orphan and being abused by his foster father was not his fault, Will finally decides to stop wasting his potential in manual jobs such as construction worker or janitor and accepts a job offer that Professor Lambeau found him.
The movie ends with Will driving his car to California to go and be with Skylar. (Good Will Hunting, IMBD, 2016)
As for meritocracy, it is a belief
system in which the talented are chosen
and moved ahead on the basis of their achievement (Merriam Webster, 2016). In
other words, according to those who support business and capitalism, it is a
governance by elites who deserve to wield power because they possess merit instead
of by those who merely possess wealth or belong to privileged classes. Such a
system, in theory, forms the basis of an equal opportunity society.
(Business dictionary, 2016). Therefore, the ideal of meritocracy is to give power
to people that deserve it, not those who can buy it. However, in practice
meritocracy can also introduce a winner-loser discourse and make people think that
the best people are all those who succeed in life and that those at the bottom of
the pyramid are all losers because they lack merit.
If we look at Good Will Hunting from the point of view of meritocracy, Will would deserve to have great power in his life because he is extremely intelligent. However, he was an orphan and he was abused so he did not think of himself as worthy of something greater that what he was. Even though he would have greatly deserve to attend university, he did not and educated himself instead. In other words, even though he would have deserved an education and that he was more intelligent than all of the MIT students, he was not in position of power. On the contrary, he was only a janitor.
Furthermore, as for Professor Lambeau, his first reaction when he saw Will trying to solve the problem on the board was to scream at him and tell him that people at the Institute were actually trying to work. He did have a meritocratic point of view because he was lowering Will's worth because he was a janitor. He instinctively thought that a janitor could not be having such intellectual thoughts. However, when Will proved that he was really intelligent and that he was an exceptional mathematician, Professor Lambeau took him under his wing and tried to make him a real mathematician without regard to whether or not he was rich, if he had had an education or not, and so on.
Nevertheless, here are the characters that did not have a meritocratic point of view. Firstly, Skyler never cared about Will's job and still saw him as the great mind that he was. Secondly, Will's good friend Chuck also saw him as a brilliant man regardless of his educational status. Thirdly, his therapist also held Will in high regard. Indeed, Dr. Maguire too was abused when he was young so he knows and understand how Will feels and that does not change the fact that he thinks that Will is a genius. Those three characters even helped Will fight his inner demons and helped him to see himself as what he was really worth.
To conclude, I do believe that Good Will Hunting is a movie that portrays a lot more that a meritocratic point of view. Indeed, even though at the beginning of the movie, he was depreciated by students and by Professor Lambeau because he was not educated, wealthy, or did not come from an influential family, he still gets to have a great future worthy of his great mind.
Good Will Hunting, 1997, IMBD, http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0119217/synopsis?ref_=ttpl_pl_syn, Web. 22nd March, 2016.
Meritocracy, Merriam-Webster Since 1828, http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/meritocracy, Web. 22nd March, 2016.
Meritocracy, Business Dictionary, http://www.businessdictionary.com/definition/meritocracy.html, Web. 22nd March, 2016.