The Depiction of American Dream in Cinderella Man by Ron Howard

The Cinderella man is a 2005 drama film, nominated for American Academy Award, titled after the Cinderella nickname and inspired by the true and real life story of a former heavy weight champion, James J. Braddock. Although the Cinderella Man (2005) became popular because it featured an infamous boxing champion and a classic folk tale myth element, the actual reason the movie received plaudits was because of its depiction of American Dream for men: sheer grit, wholesome family values, individual freedom, hope and hard work.

            In a professional boxing career that spanned over twelve years (1926-38), James J. Braddock (referred to as Russell Crowe in the film) participated in eighty-four fights, getting fifty-two wins, losing twenty-one times, drawing on three occasions, six no-decisions and two no-contests. According to (Niemi, 2006) the first year of Braddock’s professional boxing career saw him win thirteen of his first fifteen fights. After that, his fortunes in boxing fluctuated so rapidly. Over a three month in the spring of 1927, he was knocked out twice, having a seven winless streak in a period of three months, doing better for some time and then suffering another slump in form in the spring of 1928.

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            Fighting in a better shape in the later of the 1928 and the second half of the following year, he won a light heavyweight against Loughran Tommy, but lost narrowly in that fifteen-round bout, a feat that led to another decline in his fighting career. Between 1931 and 1932, Braddock managed to win only two out of eleven fights that he participated (Niemi, 2006). In 1933 fight with Abe Feldman, he broke his right hand, leading to revocation of his boxing license. The 1929 stock market crash had already led to his loss of all of his investments. He found himself in a debt, an injury and having a wife and three young children that he needed to feed and take care of.

            The Great Depression destroyed dreams of millions and cast doubt on whether the traditional American values could survive. The Great Depression affected many businesses and hurt many laborers in the country. It caused great trauma among men and women of the 1930s, exercising a profound influence on the generation that was able to live through it (Niemi, 2006). Braddock was able to live through the depression owing the American dream of sheer determination and a land of freedom. He was able to survive throughout the depression, taking care of his family, by relying on menial jobs and government handouts.

            The element of sheer grit and determination is further evidence in Braddock’s efforts to provide for his family even when he was injured. In a country where freedom is highly exercised with unlimited opportunities, he found himself short of work in the New Jersey docks (French, 2005). Having lost his boxing license, the only opportunity to provide for his family was for Braddock to look for jobs in the neighborhood. However, the jobs were few and they were assigned arbitrarily. He was threatened by her wife that she would surrender his starving children to more prosperous relatives. Braddock did not get deterred by the struggles that came with the Great Depression but his believe in the American Dream led to him getting another fighting opportunity, where he defeated Boer, becoming a world boxing champion.

            The Cinderella Man is am movie that is motivated by the love of the family, which depicts the developed American family system as outlined in the American Dream. Although Braddock suffered a great deal of loss in his investments owing to the Great Depression, his determination and the need to keep his family together kept him moving even during the tough times that he could not provide for his family (French, 2005). Braddock had broken his hand, which even offered more reason to employers not to hire him. This showed that through family value system, the American Dream is attainable.

 However, as the electricity bills became huge and he was almost cut off from electricity, he realized that his children would not survive the winter season. Braddock would later hide his broken arm and look for casual jobs so that he could pay the bills and keep his family together. Such was a great determination from the once boxing great who would become a victim of Great Depression. Inspired by the strong family values, Braddock was inspired by the American Dream into fighting to keep his family together even with broken arm and the adverse effects of the economic meltdown.

Moreover, despite his early success and having the record of having not been knocked out in the boxing ring, Braddock’s hand injury resulted in poor performances and led to his loss of the boxing license just as the stock markets crashed in 1929. He was unable to earn a living as a boxer in New Jersey and he decided to join the hundreds of unemployed Americans in the struggle to provide for Mae (his wife) and their three children.  Braddock did this by looking for menial jobs, standing in breadlines and grudgingly accepting government handouts. The boxer even decided to sell his boxing equipment and asked for help in paying of his bills from old associates of his.

Boxing is a hand-hand combat that is often shown in the Hollywood. The same way as wushu defines the Chinese spirit, boxing defines the American Spirit. It is a controversial sport, where heroes are created amid great human drama as well as pummeling the bodies and minds of the fighters into pulp in form of gladiatorial spectacle that is fueled by great money fortunes. The fact that the sport raises huge sums of money shows how the sport serves to promote the American Dream. The majority of the Cinderella man film focuses more on the outside life and struggles of Braddock, with most of the showing serving to reinforce his character.

The movie epitomes hope for man, that in the event of struggles, the American Dream is alive with hope and progress. The title of the film was dubbed the Cinderella Man because of his rise from poverty to a world champion. According to (Black, 2014) the American Dream is an epitome of a land where life is better and richer, and fuller for everyone, offering each individual and opportunity according to their abilities. Braddock does not only struggle but his life was that of a poor young man, whose hope was to have a better life through harnessing of his abilities, knowing that America offered plenty ways of making the ends meet. In his early life, Braddock raises through boxing career, which is shortly ended through his hand injury, the loss of boxing license and subsequent market slump that lead to the collapse of his entire investments.

However, it is through his hope that Braddock manages to overcome all his adversities into becoming a world champion and leading a good life. The American Dream is evident in the film as the rise and fall of Braddock does not spell an end to him living a good life. He decides to work on menial jobs and reliance on government handouts and assistance from associates but while holding onto hope for good life. Indeed his dream would eventually come through albeit after a long spell outside the boxing ring. Braddock would later sign for boxing contests winning in most of them and eventually becoming the world champion. This altered his life and that of his family, where they went on to live in their dream, leading good life.

Furthermore, his heroics, undying hope and determined grit to succeed inspired many people during his generation. He made it known to the world coming out of the great depression that with hope and determination the American Dream for man would be achieved and that an underdog (having been priced at 2 in 1 and 6 in 1 to win) can come through and wins. The depression had rendered many placed into shanties and many people were hopeless, however, his success at the back of the challenges was an inspiration to many people of the American Dream of hope and sheer determination (Conner, 2006). The movie creates strong motivation to the American poor people that the American Dream is indeed attainable.

One of the major reasons that attracted immigrants to the United States is the set of value system in the country. The system left by the early settlers created a democratic space that left most of the decisions at individual levels with no interference from the government, churches or the ruling class. The value system has been termed as individualism but is better termed as individual freedom and self reliance. In the film Cinderella Man, the American Dream of individual freedom and choice are well depicted through the liberty at which Braddock has in determining his destiny (Conner, 2006).  Braddock raises his family and works on professional boxing with no interference by the government or the ruling class. This presents an American Dream to Braddock as he is able to exercise autonomy in his family and career choice owing to the traditional American value system.

The individual freedom and choice means the Americans are not only free to make their own choice but can also solve their own problems, take care of themselves and possibly “stand on their own two feet”. This is clearly depicted in the movie where Braddock is able to marry and have a family with the freedom to find his own ways to solve his family’s problems. Upon the plunge in the stock market and loss of his boxing license, Braddock faces numerous challenges but he lives to his American Dream and finds ways to solve his problems of rising bills and food for the family. He resorts to working in New Jersey docks as casual laborer and sometimes he would seek for donations from his associates. This signifies the power that lies with individual freedom and the ability to make one’s own decisions as outlined in the American traditional value system.

The other major way in which the Cinderella Man depicts the American Dream is the price of hard work. The traditional American culture cultivated material possession instead of nobility as a way of measuring wealth (Williams, 2005). Despite the presence of many resources in the American country, they need to be converted into material possessions through hard work to allow for comfortable life among its citizens. This is well projected in the film, Cinderella Man where Braddock has to work hard to attain the material possessions that he gained.

The film shows Braddock grudgingly receives handouts from the government, showing believe from the boxer that Americans have cultivated that people ought to work hard to attain the comfortable living standards. During the great depression, many people lost jobs and this coincided with the hand injury that Braddock suffered limiting his abilities to provide for his family. However, this did not deter him from working extra hard and his grit was evidence when he hid the injury in order to get casual jobs to help him provide for his wife and kids. In fact, when life became unbearable, Braddock listed himself for government handouts as he looked for casual jobs, but he did not receive the payments with happiness but did so grudgingly. This showed the determination and the long held traditional value of believe that it is only through handwork that one could attain sufficient material possession.

Also, the fact that he fought against all odds winning many bouts shows Braddock love for hard work. Soon after Great Depression, Braddock would embark on his boxing career and would fight against boxing champions winning against the expected odds. The boxing sport is not won easily but through practice and tactics. To win against reigning champions demands even greater determination and hard work in training. Braddock in the film manages to achieve this feat, which highlights the levels of hard work that is informed by the American Dream for a better life. The fact that he could come back from injury and win major bouts against champions shows determination and a lot of hard, which earned him international boxing champion accolade.

The other way in which the American Dream is depicted in the Cinderella Man is the value of ambition and initiative. One of the most important attributes of the American value system is the presence of ambition and initiatives among its people. The American Dream is that of dream land with abundant opportunities depending on individual achievement or abilities. The Cinderella Man perfectly outlines the American Dream for men through Braddock’s initiatives and ambitions. The attributes asserts that waiting for people to make things to happen, then the real world will pass by one (Williams, 2005). This is evident from the film, as Braddock does not stay and waits for government or associates assistance but works his way out into making living despite the fact that he had hand injuries and had lost all his investments through the Great Depression.

The numerous circumstances under which Braddock underwent and the ultimate success he attained shows that the American Dream is indeed attainable. The combination of the American value system, hard work, determination, hope and sheer grit are important in the fulfillment of the American Dream. The Great Depression offered a perfect test on the possibility of attainment of the American Dream. However, we can see Braddock through the film overcome all the obstacles through determination, hard work, hope, initiative and ambition. The presence of strong family value systems and individual freedom further creates good environment in which people can attain the American Dream.

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