What has struck me about the film is just how marginalized Gardner's life is all the while he is pursuing his dream. Merriam-Webster defines the verb as "to relegate to an unimportant or powerless position within a society or group." I have always appreciated this metaphoric verb because it demonstrates to me how easy it is for some members of our society to be kept on the edges of life or ever pushed over the edge.
In the course of the film, Gardner has to deal with homelessness, unemployment, or to be more accurate underemployment, unpaid taxes, eviction, and single parenthood. His ability to overcome these problems and succeed is a testament to his goal driven determination. Some would see him as a classic American success story right out of an Horatio Alger story.
Yet I feel the unanswered question is how many have pursued happiness without ever approaching it? How many other Chris Gardner's are out there who found themselves still marginalized despite their hard work and determination? Who is telling their story?
|In the film, Chris interviews with Dean Whitter Reynolds|
Now, all the forces working against Chris are working within the systems we have in place in our world. The landlord has to collect his rents. The police are just doing their job according to the law. The IRS is enforcing the laws of the state. Dean Whitter has the right to choose whom they wish to invite into their firm and who they won't. However, for someone like Gardner, the odds are all stacked against him. True, he overcomes those long odds, but for one Chris Gardner who succeeds, what happens to the many thousands who don't.
We see the results of those who don't or just can't in our statistics on poverty, drug abuse, crime, imprisonment, school drop-out rates, child abuse, homelessness, divorce, and violence in American society.
While I celebrate the Gardner's of the world who manage to step away from the margins, I mourn the thousands who still find themselves on the margins fighting not to be pushed over the edge.