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Joe the King: Theory Identification and Analysis

Free «Joe the King: Theory Identification and Analysis» Essay Sample

Introduction: Movie Summary

The movie “Joe the King” by Frank Whaley is a semi-autobiographical film, and the pain in the movie can be felt behind Joe’s gloomy home whose constant bad luck never seems to go away. This 1999 movie was made by 4 different producers – Jennifer Dewis, Scott Macaulay, Lindsay Marx, and Robin O’Hara (Alter, 2004). There is also a sense of self-pity, and the film is based on resentment that cannot be pulled back allowing the audience to see the boy independent of the misery he was undergoing (Ebert, 1999). The film is set in the mid-70s, and Joe is depicted as a loner who works at a local diner after school and has an alcoholic father, a bitter mother, and an older brother who does not seem to succeed (Ebert, 1999). Joe is depicted as a kid who is bullied which is worsened by the fact that the father is a janitor at his school. Joe tries to hide his father’s job but it was revealed by another student. Joe also has a sadistic teacher who watches him. At one point, the teacher calls him in front of the class and smacks his bare bottom (Ebert, 1999). The mother is overworked and unappreciated and together with the son is abused by her husband. This makes her loveless and uncompassionate towards the sons (Alter, 2004). Joe has one friend who also comes from a dysfunctional family but keeps taking acre of the family to the point of becoming a thief, and this lands him in prison (Alter, 2004). Joe’s parents appear to have some personal regrets and disappointments that make them unhappy; thus, Joe is unknowingly the center of the family.


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Youth Issues & Theory

Freud’s Psychodynamic Theory

The life of Joe as depicted in the movie can be best explained using the psychodynamic theory. Freud’s theory indicates that all individuals have a unique personality that is determined by mental processes that occur unconsciously out of childhood experiences (Nevid, 2016). He further highlights that an individual’s personality comprises of three elements that include the Id, Ego, and Superego; these three elements establish how an individual perceives life based on his/her childhood experiences.

The Id refers to the unconscious drives, which are the basic biological needs with a focus on instant gratification regardless of the impact that meeting this need might have on others (pleasure principle). Id is a key element in determining criminal behavior (Flanagan, 2014). The ego works to control/compensate the demands of the Id by ensuring that the actions undertaken to satisfy the Id are within the societal norms (reality principle) (Nevid, 2016). Finally, the superego develops once a person becomes aware of the moral standards and values of the society and makes them part of him/herself (morality principle). The theory is universal; hence, there is no need for establishing elements of cultural competence.

This theory is evident in the movie in numerous instances as it is indicated within the theory that issues which individuals undergo as children affect their personality and behavior later in their youth (Vito & Maahs, 2015). For example, Joe lacked love and attention, and he never felt as if he belonged to the family due to the mistreatment he faced even after attempting to protect his father’s career and the image of the family. This feeling is part of individuals’ basic needs as indicated above. Therefore, to feel needed and perceived as important and belonging to his family, Joe get into a life of crime. This way, he could provide for the family so that his parents accept him. However, he ends up being imprisoned.

Vito et al. (2015) indicate that as per the psychodynamic theory criminal offenders had a frustrating and aggravating childhood due to their experiences and these feelings persist to adulthood. Such feelings are an outcome of negligence, anger, misery, and frustration linked with lovelessness in childhood (Flanagan, 2014). Consequently, the individual lacks a well-developed ego and may act in ways that provide instant gratification (Vito et al., 2015). According to Cuadra, Jaffe, Thomas, & DiLillo (2014) individuals that experienced neglect and abuse as children have a greater likelihood of developing criminal thinking or engaging in crime. This, therefore, provides an explanation as to why Joe continuously engaged in criminal activities. In other words, the neglect, abuse, and lack of love he expereinced as a child from the parents pushed him to engaing in crime because of recidivism of his childhood experiences.

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The psychodynamic theory has several advantages including the fact that it permits the reviving of an individual’s childhood memory, in this case, Joe’s memory (Flanagan, 2014). This allows exploring the possible causes and issues that may have affected an individual as a child and are revealed now. Understanding one’s history is among the key tasks of any social worker, and psychodynamic theory allows the social worker to explore Joe’s past. By understanding this past, one can provide a valid explanation to his present behavior and hence the development of the most appropriare interventions. Moreover, the theory is advantageous as it provides a logical explanation of human growth and development including the elements of mental functioning.

However, on the other hand, the theory has its disadvantages, for example, iy is fully based on assumptions. This implies that the parameters discussed cannot be measured to obtain quantitive data; it means that it cannot be measured beyond a resonable doubt (Shoesmith, 2014). Furthermore, the interpretation of these childhood memories and their impact on the individual are based on the therapist’s knowledge and skills, but there are no standardized ways of making these interpretations (Shoesmith, 2014). Therefore, the interpretations are subjective hence biased, which may lead to different intepretations and intervetions and, as a result, varying outcomes. Finally, the theory is diadvantageous as it ignores the genetic component since numerous studies indicate that criminal activity can be inherited (Dugdale, 2016). This is a plausible explanation given the behavior of Joe’s father. However, it is ignored within the theory.


The psyschodynamic approach highlighted above is applicable in explaing the behavior of Joe as an adult, and it is based on the theory’s notion that childhood experiences affect an individual’s behavior in adulthood. Under this theory, the key task of the social worker is to get the background history of the individual and identify underlying issues that may have led to an inividual’s behavior. Once these underlying issues have been identified, the therapist should develop intervention approaches. The theory does not vary according to the culture as the interpretations are considered to be universal and would generate appropriate outcomes as long as the therapist in any culture is aware of the methods and therapetic techniques. This theory, therefore, provides an appropriate knowledge that would guide social workers to identify and deal with youth issues.

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