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“A Tribute to the 100 Families” in Gladwell’s Context Theory Essay


At first sight, one might presume that “A Tribute to the 100 Families” and Gladwell’s “Theory of Context” touch upon principally different problems. Meanwhile, a more careful analysis of the relevant sources makes one come to the conclusion that they use different approaches to enlighten a similar social phenomenon. Whereas Gladwell provides a detailed description of this problem, the mentioned TV program serves more like an evidence base.

The principle idea of Gladwell’s theory suggests that context plays the determinant role in the appearance of any social phenomenon as well as in its spreading. Thus, Gladwell states that “we are more than just sensitive to changes in context; we’re exquisitely sensitive to them” (140). In fact, the general activity that “Extreme Makeover Home Edition” shows is performed in accordance with Gladwell’s principle. One might assume that Ty’s team carries out considerable changes of the context by reconstructing family houses.

They literally create a new environment for the participants of their projects. In the meantime, whereas Gladwell supports his idea with the help of the negatively-colored examples such as “epidemics of violence”, “A Tribute to the 100 Families” focuses on the positive environmental changes (138). Nevertheless, both sources concentrate on the examination of one and the same phenomenon – the context and its transformation. Thus, Gladwell explains the roots of the problem and the fundamental mechanism, Ty’s team applies the described principle to practice.

Gladwell’s supposition that “a certain kind of behavior is not coming from a certain kind of person but from a feature of the environment” is fully shared by Ty’s team (142). It might be for this very reason that they make the alterations in “A Tribute to the 100 Families” even though the house is initially not in “bad shape” (“A Tribute to the 100 Families”). Therefore, it is evident that Ty tries to change the environment and create a principally new one that will determine the further behavior of the girls in a positive way. One might not know the outcome yet – so far it is only the application of Gladwell’s theory into practice.

The results of this application can be illustrated by several episodes where the former project’s participants share their experience and tell the audience how the renovation of their houses has resulted in the “renovation of their lives (“A Tribute to the 100 Families”). At this stage, one might conclude that the analysis of the two sources leads to principally new insights. Therefore, the comparison of the relevant sources has provided one with a complete picture of the context’s concept – one might follow the process from the theory of context to its application and, finally, to the results’ evaluation.

Another important aspect that Gladwell touches upon is the role of details in the general process of the context’s changing. Hence, the author presumes that every minor piece can turn out to be “symbolic of the collapse of the system” (142). This idea is also in the picture of “A Tribute to the 100 Families”. Indeed, Ty’s team is particularly careful about every aspect of the renovation whatever insignificant it might seem at first sight. For this reason, they do their best in order to analyze the problem from different points of view and determine the factors that prevent the girl from overcoming the tragedy. While working on the room, the team takes into account all the statements the girl made during the interview. They employ the proper colors and thematic to let her “just be a little girl again” (“A Tribute to the 100 Families”). Therefore, in this case, one comes across the two parallel examples of the details managing in context. Gladwell illustrates his point of view with the help of the graffiti case; the program shows the detail’s consideration in the process of a room’s renovation.

Finally, while analyzing the role of the context in a human’s behavior, Gladwell also touches upon the so-called “Stickiness Factor”. According to the author’s point of view, a behavior of a large number of people can be easily determined by a powerful public claim that contains emotionally strong implications (166). In other words, the idea of an appeal for action is likely to work particularly effectively on condition that it manages to “get stuck” in the audience’s mind (Gladwell, 167). On the one hand, the “Stickiness Factor” does not take place in “A Tribute to the 100 Families” – at least, one is unable to find a direct implication for it in the program.

Meanwhile, if one considers the roots of the active participation of the families from previous episodes, one might suggest that the second source provides an illustration for the “Stickiness Factor” as well. In this case, the powerful appeal is represented by the horrible video of the violence’s record. Although the record does not contain a direct call for urgent action, the impressive images “get stuck” in the viewers’ minds and prompt them to take part in the following projects. One might presume that due to the video, the families receive a transformed vision of the surrounding environment. Thus, they do not just help to renovate a house for a big family; they perform a considerable contribution to the common fight against home violence. Therefore, this episode serves as a proof basis for Gladwell’s speculations upon the large influence of an impressive factor on the behavior’s shaping.

Therefore, one might conclude that the key idea of Gladwell’s theory finds its reflection in the second source, the project “A Tribute to the 100 Families.” One should necessarily add that the former does not just illustrate the described principle but also shows their practical application. Hence, one might receive the full idea of the Theory of Context’s concept only in case the two texts are combined. The examples provided by Gladwell serve to help him explain the suggested theory, the examples one might see in the episode serve to show the actions performed on the basis of this theory. Therefore, whereas the first text is more of a theoretical character, the second source is practically-focused. One should also point out the difference in the intonations of the relevant sources. While Gladwell mainly focuses on the negative phenomenon and issues, the TV episode enlightens the positive side of the question. However, regardless of the rhetoric’s character, both the sources support Gladwell’s assumption that “Environmental Tipping Points are things that we can change: we can fix broken windows and clean up graffiti and change any signals” (167). Therefore, both the sources assure the audience that the insignificant changes in the habitual environment can lead to a considerable change of the entire life.

Works Cited

“A Tribute to the 100 Families.” Extreme Makeover Home Edition, ABC, Los Angeles, 2014. YouTube.

Gladwell, Malcolm. The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference, New York, New York: Little, Brown, 2006. Print.

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IvyPanda. (2020, August 17). “A Tribute to the 100 Families” in Gladwell's Context Theory. Retrieved from https://ivypanda.com/essays/a-tribute-to-the-100-families-in-gladwells-context-theory/

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"“A Tribute to the 100 Families” in Gladwell's Context Theory." IvyPanda, 17 Aug. 2020, ivypanda.com/essays/a-tribute-to-the-100-families-in-gladwells-context-theory/.

1. IvyPanda. "“A Tribute to the 100 Families” in Gladwell's Context Theory." August 17, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/a-tribute-to-the-100-families-in-gladwells-context-theory/.


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IvyPanda. "“A Tribute to the 100 Families” in Gladwell's Context Theory." August 17, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/a-tribute-to-the-100-families-in-gladwells-context-theory/.

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IvyPanda. 2020. "“A Tribute to the 100 Families” in Gladwell's Context Theory." August 17, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/a-tribute-to-the-100-families-in-gladwells-context-theory/.

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IvyPanda. (2020) '“A Tribute to the 100 Families” in Gladwell's Context Theory'. 17 August.

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