Happiness is a feeling that is often present among individuals. In most cases, issues that make one happy often come after one has gone through a great deal of trouble. As evident in Morgan Spurlock documentary ‘Minimum Wage’, people will often go to certain extremes, in order to attain some degree of happiness. Morgan Spurlock was born in November, 1970 and is a recognized film writer, director, as well as a producer in the American film industry. In this episode ‘Minimum Wage’, Morgan Spurlock decides to live 30 days on minimum wage, so as to experience what these people go through. The struggle for happiness is also vivid in ‘Immigration’ episode by Morgan Spurlock where Armida who despite being an honors student fails to get an admission in the Princeton University which is he university of her choice by virtue of being an illegal immigrant. Financial constraints also make it difficult for her to pursue her happiness as she fails to join Santa Clara University where she is given an admission. The father is reduced to a day laborer and the mother is working in the recycling firms due to their illegal status. In this paper, both episodes, that is, ‘The Minimum Wage’ and ‘Immigrants’ will be discussed in details in order to demonstrate how characters in the film are determined and work very hard in pursuit of happiness as well as a better life.
In the Minimum Wage episode, Morgan Spurlock clearly outlines the issues that the wage earners are faced with in their endeavors to make their lives better, such as health issues (not given health insurance) and difficulties in paying up the house rent, among other issues. In the story, Morgan and his girlfriend Alex decide to lock up all the savings that they have, including their credit cards. He asserts in the movie that “millions of people who live in America do a full time job but are still living below the line of poverty”. They then moved to Columbus, Ohio as it has some of the poorest cities in America (Gdmateer 2010). He laments that “Ohio is a reflection of the condition of the affairs in the US”. Renting an apartment for the couple is a nightmare, since most apartments required proof of payment, which the couple did not have. Morgan was left with no other option than to look out for other places in the town where they could afford. They then settled on a house which was equivalent to a den and had been renovated but which they paid only $325 a month. The landlords of the house tell them that the person who had previously occupied the house was a “Street person”.
Morgan and the girlfriend struggle to find employment, and also shift jobs in a pursuit of a better paid one. At one point, while working at a construction site, Morgan breaks his wrist and lacks the money necessary to cater for his medical fees. His girlfriend also falls ill and two medical bills total to their three months’ salary. Since they have no health insurance, they have to attend one of the free clinics in America. At the clinic, they are forced to make long queue and here, they meet a couple who are suffering from diabetes and who explains to them why they are not in a position to get a health insurance. Spurlock asks them, “What would happen if such free clinics didn’t exist?” The couple answers “I would maybe kill myself if they did not exist” (Jackson 2005). They also decide to live with their niece and nephew, whom they struggle to buy gifts and candies, due to lack of finances. At the end of thirty days, the couple has a debt of $1000; though, they are able to pay for their electricity bills, their water and rent. He sums up the video by saying, “we rarely see that the people around us suffer, I have personally experienced the struggle, I have done it for one month only but there are people who experience it in their whole lives”. It becomes evident how hard it is to live on a minimum wage for a month, live alone for years like most families.
In another episode of “30 days on immigration”, Morgan Spurlock together with a minuteman and another person called Frank George decide to live in the house of illegal immigrants for 30 days, so as to have a firsthand experience of what they go through, and how it would be like, if they were to become ones. In this film, Frank decides to live with one of the Mexican families in Los Angeles, comprising of seven members who squeeze themselves in a small apartment of approximately 500 square feet.
Frank experiences their style of living (Armida and the parents who were illegal immigrants from Mexico ), as he devoted himself to work as a day laborer with the father of that family, and earned about $ 30-40 a day (IDB 2006). He also worked with the family in recycling where he earned $5 a day and also with the eldest child. Armida was an honor student and an excellent golfer. Armida, despite the fact that she was an excellent golfer she was not able to use the skill to translate her life from the ghetto kid due to her illegal status. She was often rejected in Princeton University, which was the University of her Choice and that would translate her life from “ghetto kid to a student in the university”, but easily got a chance in Santa Clara University. Due to the lack of money, she was unable to attend Santa Clara University, but instead attended a local university with the hope that she would attend the University of her Choice some day.
Both groups depict the one that is struggling to have the minimum wage increased, and the other that is trying to fight against the discrimination of immigrants, since they may not always move away from their country out of free will. In the first episode of “30 days on minimum wage”, it is clear that people who live on minimum wage find it difficult to make both ends meet, yet most people take living a normal life for granted. Those people in the society who ear more money should pay for the health insurance of those who earn less (minimum wage earners). The government has a duty of passing the necessary legislation that will raise the minimum wage of every employee so that all people in the society are in a position to cater for their basic needs.
In the second episode, “30 days on immigration” illegal immigrants find settling in a foreign country extremely difficult as they face the rejection. In this documentary, Armida is a perfect example of an immigrant student trying to make her life better in another country. Financial constraints make it difficult to attend the Santa Clara University. The employers in the US are using the illegal immigrants’ policies for their own selfish gains, as they underpay them after working for them, as they cannot access any legal avenues to voice their disappointments. Illegal immigrants should be given a chance to access certain amenities such as education, as they may be evading uncontrollable situations, such as fights in their own country that make such amenities impossible to assess.
Every person in the society works hard to make his or her life and the life of his or her children. Parents will exhaust all their capabilities including shifting their jobs and doing a cost benefit analysis for a happier tomorrow. From both films, it is evident that both groups, namely, the minimum wage earners and the illegal immigrants, are working hard to make their lives better.
Living a happy life is an overall responsibility for everyone in the American society. This is because, for example, if the minimum wage earners and the illegal immigrants are not happy, then the society cannot be happy either, as they will be sympathizing, as well as receiving complaints from the unhappy lot. As individuals pursue happiness, therefore, it should be an integrated effort, where none of them pursue happiness at the expense.