SleepingNegative Expectations and the film While You Were Sleeping
Everyday people feel the effects of others and society imposed ways to act or perform in daily actives. These imposed way are called expectations. Expectations can help people live up to there potential, act politely, finish projects, spend more time with family, and many other things that yield a positive outcome. Unfortunately, expectations are not always positive. Often these imposed expectations lead individuals into unhealthy stereotypes, sexism, sudden career choices, nonproductive relationships, little self-esteem and many other adverse results.
The film While You Were Sleeping displays how one self, traditions, societies and others expectations can all intertwine and become a maze of lies, false hope, self-fulfilling prophecies and confusion.The film takes place in Chicago during the early nineties. Lucy Eleanor Moderatz is a lonely, single, Thirty year old orphan who works at the el-train taking fares. Everyday she sits in a booth like a veal (While You Were Sleeping) and watches the commuters come and go. She soon falls in love with a commuter that she has never talked to. Peter Callaghan is a stereotypically arrogant businessman who everyone loves. On Christmas day, Lucy finds herself witnessing Peter being mugged, and then thrown onto the train tracks of a quickly approaching train. Lucy saves Peter from the train and he is taken to the hospital in a coma. When Lucy checks up on Peter in the hospital a nurse assumes Lucy is his fiance and introduces the family to her under that pretense. Peters family has heard of Peters fiance, but has never talked to or been introduced to her, so they welcome her fully into the family unaware that the two have never met. Lucy is swept away by the idea and the acceptance of the family and does not reveal that she is not the real fiance, who happiness to be away in Paris on business.
Soon Saul, Peters Godfather, finds out the truth but encourages Lucy to play along to keep the family moral up. This is all taking place while Jack Callaghan, Peters blue-collar brother and Lucy fall in love with each other. By the end of the movie, all is figured out and Jack and Lucy are married but not before some unhealthy expectations, awkward situations and conclusions are discovered.
Negative self-expectations are when a person has an ideal or predetermined way imposed on them that is not rational or probably. (Bentley 257). Negative self-exceptions often occur when one does not think ahead, but acts suddenly, leading to generalizations and stereotyping. In addition, these expectations give the person an unreal image of themselves. People are lead to believe that they are inadequate in comparison to others because they do not measure up to a self-imposed standard. The standard is so stringent that no one can fully live up to it. Strict self-expectations cause anxiety, which can lead to panic attacks, and even hart attracts (Talbot 339). As well, these expectations are also unjust and thought of without proper justification (Bentley 260).
Lucy Moderatz has negative self-expectations of herself, which lead her to be shy, and rarely out going. She seas Peter Callaghan everyday and watches his every move but she never approaches him. Lucy is a good example of the negative half of the success-begets-success idea.
If an individual get off to a successful start in life, they will tend to continue to be successful; if they start off as a failure, they will tend to be one again and again (Stotland 66).
Lucy feels that she has struck out with men before and she will again. This expectation of failure leads her not to attempt an encounter with Peter. Success and failure in one area often shows up in other areas. The success-begets-success idea articulates that soon Lucy will not reach out to any new people whether she wants to procure a romantic relationship with them or not due to her past rejections (66).
Success-begets-success is closely related to self-fulfilling prophecies. A self-fulfilling prophecy transpires when a false definition of the situation evokes a new behavior which makes the originally false conception come true (Merton 426). Once an expectation is held, an individual tends to act in ways that would agree with that belief. Over time, this expectation would turn into a reality. Lucy believes that she will never marry. She has had this thought for so long that it becomes a reality and she does not expect to get any better offers then Joe Jr., the man that owns Lucys apartment and hounds her for a date.
Expectations are also placed on people by the traditions and rituals that they, there family, and friends abide by. Traditions are so firmly held by people because they give order and an air of familiarity (Cameron 58). Traditions allow for routine, which give satisfaction, but when intended meaning is lost, traditions can become hollow and eventually evolve to the point where they become harmful.
As a Christmas tradition the Callaghan family would attend Mass, a time to reflect upon the birth of Jesus. Regrettably, for the Callaghans this is not the case. The Priest is giving the sermon when Elsie, the grandmother, says to her husband I like mass better in Latin. Its nicer when you dont know what theyre saying (While You Were Sleeping). This statement shows her lack of interest. Also Ox, the father, is sleeping. Mass is a serious thing, it is a time to praise and reflect on God, but when little meaning and effort is put into worshiping God, it becomes a harmful thing. If people are not at the least attentive in mass/church, they are not able to grow in their understanding of God and his ways. The Callaghan family may believe that church is something that is unimportant. Perhaps they feel that they are doing their duty by going on the major holidays. However, the Bible teaches the need for church and the necessity of fellowshipping with other Christians. The family needs to realize this and then make a decision to be regular goers or not.
Society plays a part in the expectations put upon people as well. Through television, newspapers, magazines and movies people are simplified and reduced to a few traits. When people think of a certain type of person they imply the traits seen in society and base there judgments accordingly (Cooper 17). Men are seen as hard working, unemotional, savage and dominating. While the stereotypical woman is emotional, refined, detailed and submissive. In school,
young women are often limited to domestic training while men study in the areas of math and science. This perpetuates gender roles and stereotypes rather than allowing young people to explore new opportunities (Youth Sourcebook 1).
Sexism, gender roles and stereotypes are all reactions to negative social expectations.
In the film, Lucy plays to several stereotypes; her relationship with her cat illustrates the stereotype that single females turn to pets for companionship. In addition, Lucy plays the gender role of being the helpless girl that cannot make decisions for her. Throughout the movie, she asks her co-workers for help. Further, she is told what to do by Sam, regarding the proper time and way of telling the truth to the family.
The impact of societys expectations expands into different areas other then gender. A social statute is also an area where society has expectations. Certain occupations receive praise and are envied, while others that are least equal are looked down upon. Society would not function without garbage workers, tollbooth operators, sub-way attendants and many other jobs. Theses jobs are long, boring and require hard work and skill. Yet, they receive little praise and respect.
In a scene from While You Were Sleeping, Lucy buys a hot dog everyday from the same vender. The vender, however, never remembers the she condiments she gets, he also forgets the small talk that they share. Nevertheless, when her boss, Jerry, asks for a usual hot dog the vender knows exactly what he gets. Society holds Jerry up because he is in charge of more people and has greater responsibility then Lucy even though Jerry works comfortable hours, has holidays off and is paid better. While both jobs are needed, it is an unfair and negative expectation that implies that bosses deserve greater respect and acknowledgement then common workers.
Perhaps the greatest and most common negative expectations are the ones that are given by our peers. The expectations from others can be from one person or from a group. People can form expectations that are to demanding or not demanding enough, that help both, parities or that are selfish. Expectations become negative when the person invoking the expectations forces the idea on the unwilling person (Bently 76). When a person expects someone to live up to a certain standard instead of accepting him or her for who they are is wrong, and can become detrimental to the person being imposed upon.
In the film, Sam expects people to carry out a task for him so that things can run smoothly. Sam is closely attached to the Callaghan family so he does not want to see them hurt. When he finds out that Lucy is not really Peters fiance, he tells Lucy to play along. His reasoning is that the family would be hurt severely by the truth so Lucy must not tell anyone what really happened. By doing this he is asking Lucy to give up her life and be deceitful by pretending to be something she is not. All this so a family can feel better for a brief time before the truth is eventually found out. Sams expectation of Lucy is negative because he is only concerned with himself and his familys current wants, not for Lucys.
Later in the film, once Peter wakes up form his coma, Sam talks to him about his expectation for him and Lucy. Sam tells Peter that she is the best thing for him and even calls him a putz if he does not marry her right away. After hearing this talk Peter proposes to Lucy and they plan a wedding even though neither of them truly want to. Sams expectations of others caused lies and hardship and could have yielded a marriage between to people that never knew or even loved each other.
The expectations of the Callaghan family on Lucy also proved to be strenuous. Lucy is given a guilt trip to show up at family events. When she explains the situation to her boss. Her boss says You dont join them (a family) like you do the Marines (While You Were Sleeping). But this is what they wanted. They expected Lucy to become a part of their family and were intent on making this expectation a reality. The Callaghan family also rushes the marriage, they do not wait for Lucy and Peter to chose a date but they decide on having the wedding as soon as possible.
Negative expectations enclose us everyday. They drive us to react and believe in things we would normally not. The film While You Were Sleeping displays these expectations in the story of Lucy Moderatz. Negative expectations are in our traditions, society, our peers and ourselves.
Bently, Joseph C. The Counselors Role. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1968.
Cameron, John. An American Tradition. Newsweek 21 Mar. 1992: 57-58.
Cooper, Harris M. and Thomas L. Good. Pygmalion Grows Up: Studies in the Expectation Communication Process. New York: Longman, 1983.
Merton, R. K. The Self-fulfilling Prophecy. Antioch Review. 8 (1948) 193-210.
Stotland, Ezra. The Psychology of Hope. San Francisco, 1969.
Talbot, Edward and Robert White. Some Aspects of Self-conception and Role Demand in a Therapeutic Community. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology. 63.2 (1994) 338-345.
While You Were Sleeping. Dir. Jon Turteltaub. With Sandra Bullock, Bill Pullman, Peter Gallagher and Peter Boyle. Caravan Pictures, 1995. 103 minutes.
Youth Sourcebook on Sustainable Development. Winnipeg: IISD, 1995. Online. Internet. http://iisd.ca/youth/ysbk058.htm.