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So I finally buckled down and watched Good Will Hunting last night. I had been planning to watch it for a good while. In fact, I believe it was around the latter half of 2014 that I was just about to do so. Then Robin Williams died. As was the case with many of his fans, I found myself a little too sad to watch any of his movies before the sting softened a tad. Too soon, as they say.

But sifting through that fog of the usual “Netflix indecision” it almost poetically showed up on the recommended list. I thought “No time like the present, eh?”. What a piece it was! I was, for the most part, impressed.

Now I will say that Roger Ebert had a point when he said that the movie was rather predictable; the main characters, including Will, are little better than stock personas. Will Hunting and Sean McGuire have both been badly hurt by their pasts: from lost love to receiving no love at all. They’re consequently afraid of what may come from opening themselves back up to the very world that kicked them into the mud and buried them.

Ahh, yes, that’s never been done before in film right? Right? Furthermore, the film’s portrayal of the young, working class men in Southie (South Boston) was borderline laughable. In fact, it was a little insulting to blue collar city dwellers in the Northeast. Ben Affleck’s line “I thought there would equations and shit on the wall” in reference to having seen a “Harvard bar” in Cambridge is particularly cringe worthy. These type of scenes almost make working class youth out to be utter fools in addition to being disadvantaged when Gus Van Sant seems to be, innocently enough, trying to make the case that lack of opportunity is their primary downfall, not lack of innate intelligence.

And yet the film, as discussed in this essay, highlights the ways in which the meritocracy the United States is presumed by the Anglophone classes to have falls dramatically short of its propagated ideal. In fact, Jeffrey Herlihy-Mera touches up on this, brilliantly:

 

“The stunted social mobility of the South Boston Irish is shown most directly through the images of Hunting and Maguire, and their similarities are clear throughout the film—the elder is presented as an older version of the younger. [23] Maguire’s intellec-tual brilliance, though, which might exceed even that of Hunting,never comes precisely into focus. Nevertheless, it is clear that even the most talented individuals, if they are from Southie (or another such demographic) are destined to be mired in mediocrity. At the same time, those with seemingly ordinary talents from landed classes, like Skylar, Clark, and Lambeau, are able to succeed with-out restraint. The film itself underscores Howard Zinn’s assertions that success in America is often pre-determined, and presents a narrative questioning the American myths of success through talentand labor. “(Herlihy-Mera 11)
 —
Reading Herlihy-Mera is a nice bonus to watching the film; it demonstrates how it is not only a story concerning that of unrecognized intelligence and the determination needed  to receive due credit for it, but how the American class structure, which so many in the United States continue to deny exists to begin with, proves one such obstacle that often necessitates extraordinary motivation.
The next few posts will discuss what I mean by this, and how the movie deals with this Bostonian social stratification.
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