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Rachel Marin


Multimedia Writing and Rhetoric

7 March 2017

Does More Wealth = More Happiness

The film Happy is a documentary about what makes people happy and how to live a

happier life style. This film was released in 2011 and is comprised of interviews of a variety of

different people from different places to find out what happiness means to them and what it can

tell us about happiness overall. Looking into these people's lives lead to new discoveries about a

new field of psychology known as positive psychology. The aim of positive psychology is to

help people have a positive outlook on their experiences and life in other words it simply looks at

happiness. This film is targeted toward anyone who is looking to live a happier life or people

who believe they cant find happiness. The specific audience of this film are middle class to

upper class Americans who are unhappy or just tired of their mundane lives. This film address

many common misconceptions about happiness such as the more wealth we have the happier we

will be. Rhetoric is important because it is the intentional presentation of information to

effectively present an idea. The film, Happy, supports the idea that material wealth does not buy

happiness by using rhetoric that assists advocacy and rhetorical devices such as framing and

emotional appeal.

In the film Happy the idea that wealth or material goods does not bring happiness is an

integral part of the film and can be seen in almost every scene. In the film they interview a
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variety of positive psychologist who present the claim that once all our basic needs, such as food,

shelter, water, and clothing, are met wealth beyond doesnt increase happiness. Once we attain

basic needs we are stuck on a hedonic treadmill. This idea is that once we reach a certain level of

wealth we will just want more and more. To support this claim they use rhetoric that assists

advocacy. In Herricks, The Overview of Rhetoric, he describes assisting to advocacy as, [it] is

the method by which we advocate ideas we believe to be important (17-18). In other words this

is when people effectively support a certain claim or idea. In the film they use positive

psychologist to explain the idea that we just need our basic needs to be met in order to be happy.

Positive psychologist spend most of their time researching happiness and optimism, which

makes them a perfect example of people who support something they believe to be important.

They also use psychologist to present us with information about what causes us to be happy and

how our experiences affect our happiness. They do this by having people who look very

intelligent and who have large credential to make us believe it is true. The people telling us this

information also look a certain way and dress a certain way. Every time they interview these

psychologist they are sitting in front of a shelf full of book to make us believe how smart they

are. For example, in the film they interview Sonja Lyubomirsky who is a professor of

psychology at UC Riverside. When she is speaking her credentials appear on the bottom left

hand side of the screen. She is also wearing professional clothes while sitting in front of large

bookshelves filled with a variety of books. She speaks very properly and the parts of the movies

where we see these people are very serious as compared to when they view other people in their

personal setting. She also presents us with statistics about happiness using a pie graph, which

shows that 50% of our happiness comes from genetics and only 10% of our life circumstances
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such as wealth, age, and social status actually contribute to our overall happiness (6:10 - 6:35).

The way Sonja Lyubomirsky and other positive psychologist present their information about

positive psychology, persuades us that in fact more wealth does not make you happier.

Another way the film Happy supports the idea that wealth doesnt bring happiness is in

the first personal story. They begin by bringing us to a slum in Kolkata, India where a man and

his family live. Manoj Singh and his family live in a small house made out of tarps with only one

window. He wakes up at five in the morning everyday to do some chores around the farm and

then works long hard days transporting people in his rickshaw. While at work he is often

mistreated and abused by his customers, but he never fights back because he doesnt want to be

without work. He endures these hard conditions in order to be able to provide for his family.

Everyday when he gets to go back home he is filled with an overwhelming feeling of happiness

because he can see his family. He says, When I see my childs face I feel very happy. I feel that

I am not poor, but I am the richest person (3:37 - 3:40). He finds his happiness through

meaningful relationships like the one he has with his son and daughter. He acknowledges the fact

that sometimes life is tough but it doesnt matter because he is filled with happiness because of

his family and neighbors. In Lancionis text she emphasizes the importance of framing and how

it can change a scene. Lancioni states, the slow camera movement also gives viewers time to

contemplate the image and to question its significance (Lancioni, 110). For example they zoom

in on the wheel of the trolley he pulls people in and the image become blurry until we can no

longer see it. This evokes the feeling that his days are never ending and it also emphasizes the

dirty work conditions. We are forced to stare at the overwhelming dirt on the ground as they

slowly pan on the wheel of the trolley. The emotions this scene evokes causes us to initially
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believe he is unhappy and struggles to make ends meet until he explains how he gets his

happiness. The use of rhetoric in this claim is very essential because it emphasizes how poor this

man is to then show that although he is poor he is still happy. Another example in this scene they

use framing to emphasize the conditions the man has to work through. He talks about how he has

to work during monsoon season and in the summer heat. During the scene when he talks about

preferring monsoon season the movie slowly zooms in on a puddle that Manoj walks through

while working. This scene is gloomy and washed out of almost all color to emphasize the

conditions he has to work through and make the viewer think about what he endures on a daily

basis, yet he is still very happy. This makes us question the significance of this scene in the

movie. This scene effectively displays the horrible working conditions this man must endure to

be able to provide for his family which would give us reason to believe he is unhappy. Then the

film flips this to show that although he does go through this he still lives a happy life with his

family and community.

Lastly they supported the idea that more wealth does not make you happier using the

rhetorical device of emotional appeal. In the film they interviewed the Blanchard family from

New Orleans which personally appeals to me because I am from New Orleans. They mainly

focus on Roy Blanchard who finds happiness in nature and spending time with family. They

have family get together where they come together and eat crabs that they catch. When they get

together they dont spend any money because they live off the land. This scene emphasizes the

idea that they do not need to spend any money in order for them to have a good time. He says,

[Nature] is good medicine. This is my medicine (8:57 - 9:17). When he is speaking about this

we are shown a beautiful sunset which is something mostly everyone his seen in their lifetime.
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This also causes an emotional appeal because we have experienced what he experiences

everytime he goes out on his boat and watches the sun set. Blanchard family has very little

material wealth but is one of the happiest families. To support this claim they use many

rhetorical devices such as appeals. Appeals, as defined by Herrick in The Overview of Rhetoric,

[are] symbolic strategies that aim either to elicit an emotion or to engage the audience's loyalties

or commitments (Herrick, 13). This scene engages the audiences loyalties because almost

everyone has a time when their family gets together to spend time together. By showing the

Blanchard family together it creates a positive emotion of togetherness and happiness. When

watching the scene for the first time it elicited a certain emotion by the use of imagery and

music. The imagery and music in this scene is added to evoke a sense of happiness. They include

beautiful images of nature and scenes of the Blanchard family laughing and smiling. The music

included in this scene is very upbeat and also adds to the overall sense of happiness. Personally,

this scene reminded me of home and I felt more connected to his story. I found what he was

saying to be more relatable and true because I felt an emotional connection to this person. They

use many personal experiences to appeal to different people and make viewers feel more

committed to certain stories throughout the film. This helps support the claim that wealth doesnt

buy happiness.

Some viewers may argue that more wealth does bring more happiness, because they have

everything they need. At times there seems to be a bit of a disconnect when they talk about

people finding a job that makes them happy. Some people find high paying jobs enjoyable and

that is what will make them happy. If this is the case, then are these people destined to be less

happy than those who would rather a lower paying job. Although this may seem to be true the
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film presents a wide array of examples to support their claim that wealth does not bring more

happiness. They may also argue that people who are wealthier dont stress and are less likely to

become stressed, but this film gives many clear examples of how this isnt true. For example, the

film says that Manoj who live in a slum in India is just as happy as the average American (2:28 -

2:38). Another example in the movie Happy tells us that economic wealth has increased over the

last fifty years,but overall happiness has remained about the same (24:24 - 24:45). The movie

also mentions that there is a significant jump in happiness between those who have basic needs

met and those who dont. Once we have basic need such as food, water, and shelter there is no

difference in happiness (24:45 - 25:20). This shows how money doesnt buy happiness, because

if it did there would be a significant difference between people who are wealthy and have their

basic needs met. The reason some viewers may think that more wealth will bring them more

happiness is because we as humans are designed in a way that we just want more and more.

Once we get what we want we find something else that we want and work until we achieve that.

This is known as the hedonic treadmill and can be a big factor in unhappiness and why viewers

believe more wealth correlated to more happiness (25:20 - 25:36). Another way the support the

theme that more wealth doesnt cause us to be happier is by looking at people who became

paralyzed after an accident and people who won the lottery. By looking at these groups of people

they found that after three years neither of the two groups was happier than the other. These

examples clearly support the idea that more wealth doesnt cause us to be happier. The only

thing more wealth does is cause us to want more things and can even make us unhappy.

In conclusion, this film uses rhetorical devices in a way that it supports his claims about

happiness and positive psychology. This is important as more and more people are finding way
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to become happier people. In the film he takes advantage of rhetoric to support his idea that

money doesnt buy happiness. Although some viewers may argue that more wealth does bring

happiness it is topic that is very important especially in America as more and more people are

trying to find the answer to happiness. Happiness is also something that affects everyone

worldwide and that many people believe defines a good life. After viewing the film Happy we

are given plenty of evidence from psychologist to philosophers to support the idea that more

wealth does not cause more happiness. This idea can be beneficial to our overall happiness and

our outlook on the world. Viewers should view this theme and try to apply it to their own lives to

become happier people. As seen throughout the film we are given many examples of people who

dont have material wealth but still find happiness in other ways or areas of their life.
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Works Cited

Happy. Dir. Roko Belic. 2011.

Herrick, James A. The History and Theory of Rhetoric: An Introduction. London: Routledge,

Taylor & Francis Group, 2016. 1-30. Print.

Lancioni, Judith. "The Rhetoric of the Frame Revisioning Archival Photographs In The Civil

War." Western Journal of Communication 60.4 (1996): 105-17. Web.