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Achieving The American Dream In Quiz Show

1514 words - 6 pages

Attempting to achieve the “American Dream” is the constant strive for typical people to acquire a better, richer, and happier life. It provides people and their families with hope for a better standard of living and a positive thing to work towards everyday. But, achieving the American Dream does not always lead to happiness and a comfortable income. For some people obtaining an adequate surrounding in life is not enough. Those who try to overachieve something that they already have lead themselves towards a life of greed, corruption, and guilt. Robert Redford portrays the latter of achieving the American Dream through his 1994 film Quiz Show, based on the true story of the 1950s quiz show scandals. Quiz Show is a movie about an NBC television show “Twenty One” in which two contestants secretly cheat their way into earning large sums of money just because they have the access. The producers of the show provide the two contestants, Herbert Stempel and Charles Van Doren, with the answers to the twenty one questions asked, choosing the fate of the winners. This leads to questioning of the television show’s honesty and lawyer Dick Goodwin is assigned to investigate “Twenty One” in order to justify his suspicions once and for all. Quiz Show demonstrates how the lives of two different classes of men can be turned upside down due to greed and the fact of obtaining instant riches, common themes when discussing the American Dream.

Quiz Show begins with lawyer Dick Goodwin appreciating a brand new Chrysler and wondering if the pursuit of materialistic things and money is the true desire for all Americans in the 1950s. The scene then changes to a new episode of “Twenty One” where reigning champion Herbert Stempel is put on the spot once again to answer another twenty one questions for that week‘s show. Stempel is a boisterous and geeky Queens resident of a Jewish descent. Seeming as if he was under pressure, Stempel managed to win another episode accompanied by more money and he had no plans to stop. In the meantime the producers of the show, Dan Enright and Albert Freedman, were already looking for a contestant to beat out Stempel, someone who would be able to represent the All-American image they had been looking for. Herbert Stempel did not possess the correct image of a winner according to the show’s sponsor, Geritol. He did not have the right physical appearance, a successful family background or a successful career himself.

Soon enough, Stempel was told to present the wrong answer to a question on the show and he was beat out. This is when it was revealed that the producers of “Twenty One” were providing him with the correct answers prior to filming the show. Robert Redford portrays the American Dream in Quiz Show as achieving fame and instant fortune resulting in success and all around life happiness. But, also that those who have already achieved the American Dream take advantage of the situation, let greed take over and...

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