Released in 2018 in the U.S., A Star Is Born is a romantic drama telling the story of Jackson “Jack” Maine and Ally. The two meet in a drag bar, where Ally works as a singer and songwriter. Being a country singer himself, Jack is fascinated with Ally’s talent, and the two start a friendship that transforms into a romantic relationship. Together, they write unique and authentic music, yet Ally is soon approached by a producer, who offers her a lucrative contract and a more pop-music-geared repertoire. Ally chooses to pursue artistic success, which Jack supports, even though having visible disappointment with Ally’s loss of authenticity. Soon Jack spirals into substance abuse, nearly ruining Ally’s career and relationships with others. However, Ally decides to support Jack instead, understanding his struggle and willing to help him. During her final performance, she chooses to sing her and Jack’s songs as a tribute to her husband. In the meantime, Jack hangs himself in their home. After Ally learns about it and is stricken with grief, Jack’s older brother, Bobby, tells her that she should not blame herself.
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To analyze the problems that Jack is facing throughout the movie, the BPS+ model will be used. By definition, the BPS+ model represents an updated version of the BPS framework, which was built to “recognize the complex interactions between biological, psychological and social constructs of illness” (Wainwright & Low, 2020, p. 1). In turn, the BPS+ model allows targeting vulnerable groups and catering to their specific needs.
Due to the failure to adders a combined effect of biological (father’s alcoholism and the presence of tinnitus), psychological (inferiority complex and lack of self-fulfillment), and sociological (gender stereotypes and expectations), Jack fails to reconcile with his personal crisis, spiraling into depression, which results in suicide.
Analysis: Applying the BPS+ Model
Since the movie understandably focuses on the protagonists and tends to show rather than use a verbal narrative, very little is known about Jack’s family and parents. However, the movie still shows the snippets of Jack’s life with his father, indicating that the latter abused alcohol to a significant extent (Cooper, 2018). Jack’s addiction to substances, particularly his propensity to drinking, can be explained by his genetic disposition to the specified disorder.
Most importantly, the movie points to the presence of a much more significant factor that pushes Jack toward the abuse of alcohol and the use of drugs. Namely, as the movie plot unwraps, the audience realizes that Jack has been suffering from tinnitus: “’ Well, tinnitus can’t be fixed.’ ‘Right. Well, I just hear that tone, that’s all. You know, the tone, yeah. The ringing.’” (Cooper, 2018). While tinnitus is an undeniably unpleasant experience for an average patient, for a musician, it may ruin an entire life since it creates massive impediments to playing or composing music. Moreover, tinnitus is also likely to erase any enjoyment of playing music or listening to it as an individual, which, for a musician who is fully immersed in music, is a devastating experience.
In turn, the psychological issues that Jack, as one of the main characters in A Star Is Born, is facing are undeniably massive. Among these, guilt should be mentioned as the result of the failure to meet social expectations. Furthermore, Jack’s guilt is exacerbated by the presence of biological issues, namely, his substance dependency. The movie portrays Jack’s struggle in a frighteningly realistic and visceral way: “‘No, but I embarrassed you. I embarrassed you.’ ‘I’m not embarrassed by you.’ ‘But it was so wrong. And then your dad’” (Cooper, 2018). Thus, the audience develops a clear perspective of what his fears are and how his biological issues are connected to his psychological ones.
Moreover, the overwhelming sense of guilt that Jack experiences, as well as the fact that he fails to cope with it, indicates that he is facing severe psychological issues. For instance, in the same scene, in response to his apologies and self-deprecation, Ally keeps repeating, “It’s okay. It’s okay, it’s not your fault,” which is a crucial idea to convey to someone who is being consumed by guilt. However, Jack evidently ignores Ally’s coaxing response, instead of continuing to reproach himself for embarrassing her: “I’m sorry I did that”; “No, but I embarrassed you. I embarrassed you” (Cooper, 2018). Jack’s refusal to accept the mistake and advance to the next stage of discussing the issue, namely, the search for a solution, is truly glaring in the scene in question.
Finally, severe impediments in Jack’s social interactions are represented in the movie quite clearly. Being quite susceptible to the influence of his circle of friends due to his psychological issues, specifically, his low self-esteem, Jack becomes especially prone to accepting the use of substances as a solution. Namely, Jack mentions his year-long pilgrimage, during which he and his friends were engaged in binge drinking and led an entirely destructive lifestyle (Cooper, 2018). Therefore, the case at hand represents a situation in which the effects of social pressure led to the development of an addiction. The situation under analysis was aggravated by the fact that fearing further loneliness, Jack could not muster up the courage needed to refuse alcohol and confront his friends about the unhealthy lifestyle that they offered to him. Furthermore, Jack’s inability to communicate with others properly and function within a community appears to conceal more than his social awkwardness, which aggravates his sense of guilt and reinforces his decision to continue to abuse substances as a way of distancing himself from his problems.
Finally, considering the social factors that enhance Jack’s addiction, one should mention the impact of external ones, namely, those that are outside of Jack’s control. The impact of the social stigma that people with addiction must face deserves a more thorough discussion. Although the reproach that most people have for patients with drug misuse issues is an inevitable and quite healthy social response, it, nonetheless, has a devastatingly negative effect on people struggling with addiction (Chou et al., 2018). Dissecting the problem of the stigma that patients with alcohol and drug misuse receive will help to realize that taking the specified stance allows people to reinforce and enhance the social boundaries concerning acceptable behaviors. Namely, the specified type of response toward patients with addiction indicates that substance misuse is actively discouraged, which is vital for keeping the specified health concern from reaching the level of a public health issue.
Nevertheless, the stigma that patients with substance misuse face is quite real, and it has truly adverse consequences for their mental health, as well as their willingness to address the disorder. The stigma toward the specified disorder prevents people with substance misuse problems to seek professional help, as Jack’s case clearly indicates. Namely, he is portrayed as hesitating to explore the options of professional assistance (Cooper, 2018). The specified behavior is the direct outcome of the social stigma that surrounds the issue of substance abuse.
One could argue that the effect that the social stigma coupled with the social pressure of Jack’s friends eventually turned out to be weaker than his willingness to build and improve relationships with Ally. Namely, Jack’s intention to abandon his harmful behaviors and focus on improving his relationships with Ally is visibly strong as he clearly has an emotional attachment to her and has formed a powerful bond (Cooper, 2018). Thus, the effects of the socio-cultural factors on the development and the failure to handle the addiction can be considered manageable.
In turn, the impact of the psychological factors that define Jack’s behavior appears to be much more severe. Apart from taking a massive toll on his ability to make a decision, it stops abusing substances; psychological issues that he is fighting also drive his self-esteem down, making him dependable on Ally and aggravating his condition. Specifically, throughout the movie, Jack shows clear signs of depression.
The combination of the biological factors, particularly tinnitus, which causes Jack unceasing and unbearable discomfort, could also be regarded as one of the factors that cause the further development of depression and suicidal ideation. However, even though Jack’s tinnitus affects his ability to work and be creative, it still remains a manageable concern since the disorder in question is, in fact, treatable (Cooper, 2018). Anti-anxiety medications coupled with the removal of possible mechanical impediments to normal hearing, such as earwax, are usually regarded as fairly sufficient methods for handling tinnitus (Simoes et al., 2019). The treatment course may include therapy that will help a patient to develop an effective coping strategy for keeping his peace of mind when managing tinnitus (Chou et al., 2018). Still, throughout the movie, Jack remains remarkably resistant to the use of any treatment or seeking any medical health, in general. Thus, the inevitability of his further spiraling into a major depressive disorder becomes set.
By refusing to confront the biological, psychological, and social, Jack becomes incapable of addressing his personal crisis, which pushes him into depression, suicidal ideation, and, eventually, suicide. Jack’s case is truly tragic. Jack’s life journey portrays quite accurately the typical scenario that occurs with patients suffering from substance misuse. Although a case in point addresses specifically the challenges of a person with a drug misuse problem in the entertainment industry, there are multiple overlaps with the general issues faced by people with substance abuse problems.
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The application of the BPS+ model as the method of delving into the assessment of the major factors that have been causing the further development of Jack’s addiction. Similarly, it determines his inability to seek help and address it properly. Based on the analysis above, the factors that have defined Jack’s substance misuse tendencies, aggravated his depression, and finally led to suicidal ideations, one must bring up the psychological constituent. Specifically, given Jack’s portrayal, the sociocultural factors, while being admittedly strong and defining his harmful tendencies, were still defeated by his relationships with Ally. The observation above suggests that the psychological issues represented the foundational contributor to Jack’s addiction and his further depression. Thus, the movie illustrates the importance of identifying the threats to the emotional well-being of an individual affected by addiction. A Star Is Born encourages immediate action to counteract these factors and assist the individual in question with developing healthy behaviors and attitudes.
Chou, W. J., Chang, Y. P., & Yen, C. F. (2018). Boredom proneness and its correlation with Internet addiction and Internet activities in adolescents with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. The Kaohsiung Journal of Medical Sciences, 34(8), 467-474. Web.
Cooper, B. (2018). A star is born. MGM.
Simoes, J., Neff1, P., Schoisswohl, S., Bulla, J., Schecklmann, M., Harrison, S., Vesala, M., Langguth, B., & Schlee, W. (2019). Toward personalized tinnitus treatment: an exploratory study based on internet crowdsensing. Frontiers in Public Health, 7, 1-10. Web.
Wainwright, T. W., & Low, M. (2020). Why the biopsychosocial model needs to be the underpinning philosophy in rehabilitation pathways for patients recovering from COVID-19. Integrated Healthcare Journal, 2(1), 1-2. Web.