Three Traits of a Naive Person: The Brides of Dracula (1960)

the_brides_of_dracula_12A naive person is “deficient in worldly wisdom or informed judgment”1, “too willing to believe that someone is telling the truth,” and “that people’s intentions in general are good.”2 In Leo McCarey’s The Brides of Dracula (1960), Marianne (Yvonne Monlaur) is naive. She lacks knowledge of threats to her safety, trusts everyone she meets, and presumes that people are good until she is convinced otherwise.

Marianne’s lack of knowledge is ironic given that she is a French teacher who has an education. She has moved to Transylvania, yet has never heard of the “cult of the undead”. Her lack of knowledge of vampires puts her in grave danger when Baroness Meinster (Martita Hunt) offers her a place to stay. The Baroness brings young women to her home so her vampire son can feed on them.

Marianne is quick to trust and believe strangers. No one has to earn her trust; they are given it freely. Upon meeting the Baroness, she immediately accepts her offer of hospitality. She tells Van Helsing (Peter Cushing) that the Baroness “seemed so kind.” However, when Marianne meets her son the Baron (David Peel), who is bound by a chain, she believes he has been mistreated by his mother. Believing him to be good, she helps the Baron escape.

Marianne believes people are good based on mere appearances. She believes the Baron is a good person because he is handsome and soft spoken, but she is deceived. He is a vampire, and after releasing him from his chains, he turns his mother into a vampire. However, when Greta (Freda Jackson) shows Marianne the dead body of the Baroness, Marianne does not believe the Baron killed her. Marianne is in denial because she loves the Baron. She believes that the way he acts outwardly is a reflection of who he is inwardly. She does not realize that appearances can be deceiving.

Marianne presumes that people are good until she has evidence they are bad. When Van Helsing tells her that the Baron has turned three women into vampires, she says, “No; I won’t listen to you.” It is not until she sees the Baron’s fangs that she accepts he is a vampire. Marianne’s error in reasoning is presumption, believing something is true until it is proven false. We shouldn’t judge anyone as evil without evidence, but neither should we presume that everyone is good.

A naive person fails to recognize bad people who will take advantage of them. Marianne’s lack of knowledge and experience makes her naive, and because of that, she misjudges people, believing both the Baron and the Baroness to be good. Before moving to Transylvania, she never faced any real threat or danger. If she had, she would have exercised greater caution when meeting strangers.

Notes

  1. Merriam Webster, s.v. “Naive,” accessed April 26, 2017, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/naive
  2. Cambridge Dictionaries, s.v. “Naive,” accessed April 26, 2017, http://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/naive

Shunning Someone You Disagree With

ExclusionTo shun is to “persistently avoid, ignore, or reject (someone or something) through antipathy or caution.”1 Shunning is a demonstration of intolerance toward another person, often because of something they said or did. While shunning may be necessary to safeguard one’s physical or mental health, it is usually not justified. Shunning is a way to punish someone you disagree with, can be a sign of hatred and contempt, and leads to contradictory behavior.

Shunning is common behavior among celebrities. On January 24, 2017, Ewan McGregor refused to do an television interview with Piers Morgan because of his comments about the women’s marches against Donald Trump.2 Instead of speaking directly to Morgan, McGregor tweeted, “Won’t go on with him…”3

When a celebrity shuns someone, they may rationalize it as a form of protest. However, if a celebrity wants to “protest” someone’s words or actions, all they have to do is exercise their right to free speech. Shunning is not required.

In reality, shunning is not about protest. It is a form of punishment. Its purpose is two-fold: First, to make the person feel the pain of rejection and social isolation. When you shun someone, you want them to pay a price: to become a social outcast for their words or actions.

The second purpose of shunning is to deter people from similar behavior. If a celebrity shuns another celebrity for their words or actions, it serves as a warning to society: If you speak or act this way, you deserve to be a social outcast too. Thus, shunning is a strategy to control people’s speech and behavior. It puts social pressure on an individual to change and conform.

The problem with shunning someone because of their words or actions is it often results in contradictory behavior. If you shun a person you disagree with, then you become obligated (by your own moral standard) to reject anyone whose words and actions are equally (or more) offensive.

As a case in point, consider Ewan McGregor. He refused to be interviewed by Piers Morgan, yet he made the film The Ghost Writer with Roman Polanski, a director who drugged and raped a 13-year-old girl,4 was found guilty of “unlawful sex”, and fled the U.S. to avoid going to prison.5 In shunning Morgan for his words, but not Polanski for his actions, McGregor is guilty of a double standard: “a rule or principle which is unfairly applied in different ways to different people.”6

Although shunning is usually not a virtue, there are situations where it may be justified. For instance, if a person has threatened you, or physically assaulted you, then you should stay away from them, and if necessary, get a restraining order against them.

It may also be necessary to shun someone who is verbally abusive. No one should have to tolerate a person who continually insults them. Shunning is justified when it is for your own safety: to protect your physical or mental health.

The dark side of shunning is it can be a demonstration of hatred and contempt for another human being. If you shun someone, you may view them as inferior to you, morally or intellectually. In such cases, shunning is evidence of pride and self-righteousness.

When you shun someone you disagree with, you are unable to separate that person from their words or actions. The alternative to shunning is to love people unconditionally, to treat them as you would want to be treated, even if you disagree with what they say or do.

You don’t have to be close friends with a person whose actions or words you find objectionable. But if that person is no danger to you, and is not rude to you, then there is no reason to shun them. Instead, be brave enough to tell them the truth about their behavior. If you speak the right words, you could impact their life.

Notes

  1. Oxford Dictionaries, s.v. “shun,” accessed January 28, 2017, https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/shun
  2. Alex Ritman, “Ewan McGregor Cancels Appearance on Piers Morgan’s U.K. TV Show After Women’s March,” Hollywood Reporter, January 24, 2017, http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/ewan-mcgregor-cancels-appearance-piers-morgans-uk-tv-show-womens-march-comments-967925
  3. Ibid.
  4. Andy Lewis, “Roman Polanski Rape Victim Unveils Startling, Disturbing Photo for Book Cover,” Hollywood Reporter, July 24, 2013, http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/roman-polanski-rape-victim-unveils-591015
  5. “The Slow Burning Polanski Sage,” BBC News, September 28, 2009, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/entertainment/8278256.stm
  6. Oxford Dictionaries, s.v. “double standard,” accessed January 28, 2017, https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/double_standard

How Trust is Restored: The Awful Truth (1937)

awful-truth-posterTrust is a “firm belief in the reliability, truth, or ability of someone.”1 We often trust people because of their past behavior, and are less likely to trust a stranger. Trust is a choice to believe in someone, and the stronger the belief, the greater the feeling of trust.

In Leo McCarey’s The Awful Truth (1937), Jerry Warriner (Cary Grant) no longer trusts his wife Lucy (Irene Dunne) after learning that she stayed at an Inn with Armand Duvalle (Alexander D’Arcy). Jerry’s trust is restored when he takes a risk: He believes Lucy’s denial of infidelity.

The two most common ways to respond to a trust violation are “apology and denial.”2 Lucy denies cheating on Jerry, but he doesn’t believe her. While it is possible that Lucy slept with Armand, he has no proof that she is guilty. Jerry no longer trusts her because of circumstantial evidence: “evidence not drawn from direct observation.”3 Instead of trusting her, he becomes suspicious, which causes their marriage to implode.

During their separation, Jerry and Lucy realize how much they love each other. Love is demonstrated when a person does something good to another person, in particular a selfless act. When Mrs. Leeson (Esther Dale) shares a rumor that Lucy had an affair, Jerry comes to his wife’s defense, saying that he was unfaithful, not Lucy. Jerry does this to protect Lucy’s public reputation, which is unexpected, given that he believes she cheated on him. Jerry’s selfless act (making himself the bad guy) is a demonstration of his love for her, and Lucy’s love for him is re-awakened.

When two people love each other, they need to trust each other, or their relationship will not last. Lucy says, “You can’t have a happy married life if you’re always going to be suspicious of each other.” Without trust, there can be no intimacy, and without intimacy, there can be no happy marriage.

Because trust is a belief which can never be 100% certain, it always involves taking a risk. The reward of risking to trust someone is intimacy. In the end, Jerry decides to let go of his suspicion that Lucy had an affair. Realizing that he still loves her, and having no evidence that she did anything wrong, he chooses to trust her again, and their marriage is restored.

Notes

  1. Oxford Dictionaries, s.v. “Trust,” accessed January 21, 2017, https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/trust
  2. Peter H. Kim et al., “Removing the Shadow of Suspicion: The Effects of Apology Versus Denial for Repairing Competence Versus Integrity-Based Trust Violations,” Journal of Applied Psychology 89, no. 1 (Feb. 2004): 105.
  3. Encyclopedia Britannica, s.v. “Circumstantial Evidence,” accessed January 21, 2017, https://www.britannica.com/topic/circumstantial-evidence

The Root Cause of Contempt: The Gift (2015)

the giftAgneta Fischer defines contempt as “the feeling when one judges another person as an inferior human being, and is typically expressed through social exclusion.”1 In Joel Edgerton’s The Gift (2015), Simon (Jason Bateman) treats Gordo (Joel Edgerton) with contempt. Contempt arises for two main reasons: a feeling of superiority combined with a negative judgment of a person’s actions and behavior.

Simon’s contempt for Gordo is revealed in how he talks about him. Although he tells his wife Robyn (Rebecca Hall), “I feel kind of bad for him”, he has no compassion for his former classmate. He looks down on him, calling him a “creepy little f—ker”, “disgusting and weird”, and writes on his fridge, “Gordo the weirdo.” When you feel contempt for someone, you devalue and diminish them as a person.

Simon’s contempt for Gordo is not without cause. One reason Simon has contempt for Gordo is because of his actions and behavior. Gordo acts inappropriately, telling Simon that he has a “beautiful wife”, then twice visiting Robyn when Simon is at work. Simon tells Robyn, “He’d like to be married to you.” Simon has contempt for Gordo because he violates social norms toward a married woman.

Another reason for Simon’s contempt is pride: his feeling of superiority. He tells Robyn, “This world is about winners and losers.” Simon is a winner, and he doesn’t associate with losers. All of his friends are upper middle class like him. He asks Gordo, “What is it that you do?” For Simon, a man is measured by his career success.

Simon’s contempt begins with harsh words and ends in social exclusion. After Gordo is caught in a lie, Simon tells him, “Don’t visit us anymore.” He can no longer tolerate Gordo because he considers him an inferior human being.

When a person is treated with contempt, they are likely to feel hurt and angry. Gordo, who believes in “an eye for an eye”, tried to forgive Simon for past wrongs, but when he is rejected, he seeks revenge. Simon’s contempt turns a potential friend into an enemy.

Ironically, in the end, Simon the winner becomes a loser. He is fired from his job, and Robyn no longer wants to be married to him. The film reveals how people who do things that are considered immoral or unethical are often treated with contempt. Simon’s unethical behavior at work, and his mistreatment of Gordo causes Robyn to feel contempt for him, and she rejects him.

Notes

  1. Radek Trnka, Karel Balcar and Martin Kuška, eds., Re-Constructing Emotional Spaces: From Experience to Regulation (Prague College of Psychosocial Studies Press, 2011), 77. http://www.pvsps.cz/data/document/20110715/5_Contempt.pdf?id=683